Trump courtroom photographers describe what it’s like to cover hush money trial: ‘You are documenting history’

“He's not camera shy, I'll give him that,” a courtroom photographer tells Yahoo News.

Photographers take pictures of Donald Trump as he sits at a table in a courtroom.
Courtroom photographer Jeenah Moon stands directly in front of Donald Trump as he appears in court. (Curtis Means/Pool via Getty Images)

At 7 a.m. each day over the last month, a group of five photographers has assembled at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse to document former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

Among them are Jeenah Moon and Spencer Platt, seasoned photojournalists at Bloomberg and Getty Images, respectively, who’ve chronicled high-profile figures for years. Since witness testimony for the hush money trial began on April 22, their focus has been on Trump, a man they say knows the power of the camera all too well.

“He's not camera shy, I'll give him that,” Platt tells Yahoo News. When Trump arrives with his security team, he’ll often wave or give a thumbs-up to the press. “He has been behind the camera his whole adult life, so he knows what he’s doing.”

“He likes to pose for us,” adds Moon. “He used to be a TV personality on a reality show, so he knows how to play with the media.”

Donald Trump.
Trump, as pictured by courtroom photographer Spencer Platt. (Spencer Platt/Pool via Getty Images)

As the photographers tell Yahoo News, the gravity of their role in documenting this historical trial is not lost on them.

“It's a lot of pressure,” says Platt. “For the first couple weeks, the historic weight of the first presidential trial, really, in modern history weighs on you. Your editors are anxious, everyone's anxious and there's a lot of nervousness. You don't want to be the one to make stupid mistakes.”

Only five press pool photographers have been given access to cover the trial from inside the courtroom on behalf of news organizations. As soon as Trump enters, photographers are ushered in a few minutes later to grab the images they need.

It’s the only time of day photographers are given full access to Trump, and they have less than a minute to get the shots.

“You are documenting history,” says Platt, a 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner for breaking news photography. “It's kind of weird and awkward too, because the court gets really quiet. It’s just the sound of cameras and jostling photographers. You can hear a pin drop.”

Unlike other high-profile cases, pool photographers are allowed to take pictures of Trump only while inside the courtroom. The judge, prosecution and witnesses are off limits, and camera flashes are prohibited.

The photographers say the former president poses for them while sitting at the defense table.

“He goes from one camera to the next, to the next,” Platt says when describing Trump’s demeanor. “He gives everyone about a 10-second pose, with his eyes in a serious look.”

Spencer Platt.
Platt has photographed hundreds of images of Trump. Now he's one of five press pool photographers covering his highly publicized hush money trial. (Courtesy of Spencer Platt)

“He’ll smile, or wink, though he’s never winked at me yet,” adds Moon. “He’ll take a deep breath and then look at each photographer — sometimes I have to wait.”

At times, she confesses to seeing a different story behind the lens.

“He tries to look very intense, more strong,” Moon explains. “But as a photographer, even though you look great when you look stronger on the outside, I can see in his eyes that he looks tired.”

Once it’s over, officers escort the photographers into the hallway, where they upload the images on their computer systems so the press can access them in real time.

“It’s very hectic,” Moon says of the process. “The first day, I didn’t know what I was doing.” Yet, amid the chaos, there’s a camaraderie and a shared resilience among the pool photographers.

As a lifelong New Yorker who has photographed Trump for over a decade, Platt says Trump’s team is always “accommodating” to the needs of the press, despite their frequent attacks on the media.

“On any given day, usually we have three to four opportunities where he will come fairly close to us,” he explains. Sometimes, Trump will give statements or even take questions. “He's always been in front of our cameras and seems to enjoy the publicity and seems to enjoy people taking pictures of him and being in the news.”

During the court’s lunch break, Trump and his team often pass through the hallway, where pool photographers are allowed to take photos. The low lighting is a challenge, though, and makes every shot a test of skill and patience — but Trump has found ways around it.

Donald Trump and Todd Blanche.
Trump, left, and his attorney Todd Blanche arrive at Manhattan criminal court. (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“He knows the best spot for lighting,” says Moon. “When we’re in the hallway, he’s always standing there, under the light.”

No witnesses — including adult film star Stormy Daniels or Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who entered the courthouse through a guarded entrance — have been seen in the hallway, though Platt says Daniels was spotted from a distance.

In those cases, Moon says you have to think outside the box.

“You need to have street smarts,” she explains. “We have to be thinking, as the media, where is there a better spot they could be going inside the building?”

For his part, Platt staked himself outside Cohen’s New York apartment building on each morning that Trump’s former “fixer” was set to take the witness stand.

“Strangely, he lives in a Trump building,” he says of Cohen. “He seemed to enjoy the coverage. On his last day of testimony, he walked slowly out of his building, seemingly making sure we all had our shots.”

Platt, who recently returned from Gaza, where he was covering the Israel-Hamas conflict, says being a news photographer isn’t just a job. It’s an important duty.

“I don’t think there’s a better life out there,” he says. “When you're a news photographer, you have no idea what's ahead of you. You wake up in different states and motel rooms you never thought you’d be going to because there was a breaking news event you're covering.”