Just days before he moved from covering the news in Britney Spears' life to making news, Los Angeles paparazzo Adnan Ghalib had a few thoughts about her to share.
"I think, God's honest truth, I think she's a great person. I really do," Ghalib told "20/20" late last year. "She's young. … She's never made the best choices in friends, even her relationships."
When it comes to Spears and her relationships, Ghalib has some expertise. He's been a frequent chronicler of her antics, and recently Ghalib was photographed holding Spears' hand and disappearing with her inside a hotel for an hour or two. Ghalib said they were just having lunch — lunch at 4 a.m. after a typically chaotic night on the Brit beat. (Ghalib and Spears are now reportedly dating; for more go to http://www.finalpixxceleb.com.)
"It's unfortunate that she is the way she is because of the people she surrounds herself with," said Ghalib, when interviewed for "20/20." "She's easily influenced, and that's where her bad choices come from."
To those unfamiliar with the netherworld of caught-on-video celebrity misadventure, the brief clip repeated everywhere of Spears stealing a lighter from a gas station might not seem like all that much. To the man who shot it, though, it was all in a hard day's work … and it was a gold mine.
"We'd been out driving for about six hours and I just stuck with her the whole time," Ghalib said. "She had paid for some cigarettes, went back in, picked up a lighter and said 'I stole a lighter,' and just walked out. And it was like — I couldn't believe it."
"Ball park, that 40-second clip could run about $40,000," said Ghalib. "Not bad."
For the last few months, Ghalib and dozens of his paparazzi competitors have been staked out around the clock, just outside the gated community where Spears lives. He says Spears is a paparazzi favorite because unlike other stars with regular and mundane daily routines, she is forever unpredictable, and her photos never fail to surprise.
"She'll get in a car, you think she's going to get coffee, she'll drive to Vegas," Ghalib said. "Or … she'll go to the airport, she'll fly to Cabo for two days. So, she is lucrative in that sense."
In recent weeks, startling images of Spears have been plentiful enough to earn an expert shooter like Ghalib close to $200,000, a potential payoff that creates traffic jams whenever the pop tart departs from her home. Ghalib said there would be "at least 30" cars following her wherever she goes. "That's going to cause problems."
Snapped at their lowest points, there were problems for Hollywood's goddesses of bad behavior in 2007.
Janice Min, the editor of Us Weekly, says her readers enjoyed seeing these young women brought to heel. "I think it was incredibly satisfying to see authorities step in, especially in the case of Paris Hilton. She's the O.J. of celebrities. She's gotten away with murder her entire career, if you can call it that."
Hilton was captured sobbing in the back seat of a sheriff's car while being returned to a jail cell for repeatedly driving with a suspended license. But as Holly Millea of Elle Magazine points out, even more telling than the photograph was the identity of the photographer, Nick Ut.