Why do filthy rich celebrities sell their newborn babies' photos to the tabloids? Do they really think that once they've done this, the paparazzi will leave them alone? Or are they just greedy?

By: Diana, Centre Hall, Pennsylvania

A.B. Replies: Some stars think they need to "protect" their children from obsessive paparazzi by distributing official photos taken in a safer environment. But last I heard, paparazzi cameras did not come with attachable bayonets or rocket launchers, so you have my permission to dismiss this thinking outright.

The real issue here is image control, or just control in general. Babies, as this B!tch has written before, are the most important project a celebrity will ever produce, and therefore, the marketing duties cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

Would you let a news photographer handle the ad campaign for Pirates of the Caribbean? Of course not. As such, control over who sees a Hollywood baby--and when--needs to be closely controlled.

"When a celebrity releases 'first peek' baby photos, they are doing so under their terms," David Caplan, an editor at Star, explains. "So, the public will see the child, and often the mother, how the celebrity wants her and the baby to be portrayed. Of course, they will be shot by a professional portrait photographer, the baby will look perfectly happy and adorable and the mother will have that 'I'm so happy to be a mom' look."

Before you call Brangelina shallow for going that route--selling a glam shot of Shiloh to People for a reported $4 million--remember, this is a newborn we're talking about. Without a decent lighting crew and at least one key grip, making a newborn look appealing is not an easy task. I would say most babies tend to look like small gray aliens when exposed in natural light, but that would get the mommy community all het up.

Anyway...if stars fail to release official photos, Caplan says, the results could be disastrous: "an unflattering, fuzzy paparazzi photo, which no celebrity wants. So, really, when celebrities release their own baby photos, they're essentially playing a game of, If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

And bankrupt 'em, while you're at it. Or at least take away a paparazzo's baseball-cap money. See, if a star releases the first baby pic before a photog can snap one, the value of any subsequent photos drops.

You also asked if celebrities are greedy. Of course they are, or they would all charge $90 an hour like a court reporter or a plumber. Caplan says most celebs who sell their baby photos pocket the cash, though Britney Spears and Julia Roberts reportedly donated their baby-photo take to charity. (Britney charged half a mil. Julia supplied an image of her twins for $150,000.) Brangelina also reportedly donated the money culled from their People magazine shoot.

According to Caplan, the real reason for charging for baby photos isn't a desire for a new Balenciaga bag but rather, again, that image-control thing.

"By charging magazines a whopping fee for the photos, the photos then not only carry monetary value but intrinsic value," Caplan says. "This is important, because like anything, when you get something for free, it's not perceived as anything special. A high cost implies exclusivity, that something is special about these photos. They are not ordinary but extraordinary."

Of course, babies are extraordinary when they're aliens from another planet.

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