When celebrities are down, the paparazzi's business goes way up.
Emerging Monday from her Hollywood home for the first time since troubles in her marriage became big news, Sandra Bullock was met by dozens of photographers. Wearing a floppy hat that covered her face as she passed through the gauntlet of paps gathered outside, Bullock quickly dived behind a blanket and under a black overcoat as she rode away in a chauffeured car.
The resulting photos were a complete 180 from the ones taken three weeks earlier of Bullock and husband Jesse James, who appeared the picture of a happy couple at the Oscars, where she won the best actress award for "The Blind Side."
"When you're at your most vulnerable or least tolerant, that's when the paparazzi come after you," Lt. Jeff Dunn, who runs an anti-stalking unit for the Los Angeles Police Department, told ABCNews.com.
The reason photographers swarm when celebrities are in the midst of a personal crisis comes down to one thing, veteran Hollywood publicist Michael Levine said. "Because that's where the money is," he said.
Ultimately, a photo of Bullock ducking under hats and blankets to dodge photographers may make her more endearing to a public that is already on her side.
"She was a very beloved figure prior to this," Levine said.
He had less kind words for James, whom he saw up close with Bullock at the Oscars. "He looked like her driver -- and not a particularly attractive driver," he said.
Levine said he would advise Bullock to keep her head up when facing the paparazzi. Covering her face just "engenders more attention," he said. "It's almost as if you give them one or two feedings and it will calm down a bit. I can't counsel people to give up their lives."
Despite California's recent passage of a law mandating a safety zone to keep photographers a respectable distance from celebrities, Dunn said there isn't much police can do to keep the paps away. If they are on a public street or sidewalk, then they haven't broken any laws.
Dunn suggests celebrities avoid responding to the paparazzi, especially during those times they try to bait celebrities into reacting. "I always say, 'They won't chase you if you don't run,'" he said. "A high-speed chase puts you at greater risk than to just subject yourself to the photograph."
Dunn said, "It's a camera, not a gun."
Many other celebrities have found themselves surrounded by photographers at some of the worst times in their lives.
Spears has had a love-hate relationship with the paparazzi. At times, the singer courted the attention. But as her life veered out of control, the paparazzi became the target of her ire, even as she became the target of their pictures.
Celebrity photographer Ben Evenstad snapped Spears in two now-famous photographs, without her panties on and shaving her head. Asked on "Larry King Live" how much money he made on the underwear-less photo, he replied, "A lot of money."
At her breaking point, Spears went after the paps. The resulting image of a bald Spears in shorts and sweatshirt ramming an umbrella against a photographer's truck became an instant classic.
Lohan, another troubled starlet, has also had her run-ins with the paparazzi.