I was doing a recent photo shoot at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino a few weeks ago for a 2011 Calendar. While there may be nicer hotels in Las Vegas, I've found that the Bellagio is just one of those real gems for photographers as the property offers just so much public eye candy. You have everything from the beautiful fountain show out in front of the hotel to landmark glass ceiling in the lobby. One of the most interesting places inside the Bellagio though is the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens just past the main lobby. This beautiful area completely changes in decor every month with transformations in amazing landscaping, water features, suspended decor from the ceiling and awe-inspiring scenes throughout. With the large glass dome atop the area, you get fantastic light inside during the day and the area is provided with wonderful lighting for nighttime viewing as well.
Every month, you'll have a different theme from huge flower pots and fields of daisies during the spring to an amazing Asian theme during the Chinese New Year. Any time you are fortunate enough to stop by you will be astounded at the beauty and creativity of this unique Las Vegas attraction. Of all the months though, one of my most favorite times of year to visit the Conservatory is in December for when they have their Christmas display.
This 8 foot long train travels around the huge Christmas tree and is surrounded by hundreds of multi-colored Poinsettias. In one of the train cars, a digital camera faces forward and can see what the train sees as it travels around the track on a nearby television monitor!
So here I am, shooting inside the conservatory with all my camera gear when a tourist next to me starts to make chit-chat. I discover that he and his family are in Las Vegas from West Virginia and how he's never seen anything like this before. In the midst of our conversation he asked if I was a professional photographer and I told him I was. When he heard this, his eyes lit up like saucers. "Hey, I've got this great idea" he said. "If I can get the rest of my family together can you get a few photos of us near that amazing Christmas tree? I'm happy to pay you for the photos as I thought it would be fun to use one of them for our Holiday cards next year." We all chuckled, I snapped the shots and sent them off to him the following morning. Almost immediately I got a response saying that I'll be getting a Christmas card next year for sure…with one of the images we shot at the Bellagio on the front!
This got me to thinking though..for all the people who come to Las Vegas and for the tens of thousands who go to see the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens each month, what a brilliant idea it is to plan a little forward and get some great photographs there for your next year's holiday photos, whether you are in them or not. Being that it is somewhat of a controlled area indoors, away from the elements outside, it's the perfect setting for a Christmas card photo…
The reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh are all made of chestnuts…perfect for this time of year!
So if you are thinking of getting some awesome holiday photos at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Fountains here are a few tips for you to get the best possible photos:
- Plan on getting your photos very early in the morning or very late at night. The Conservatory is open 24 hours, 7-days a week but during peak hours there can literally be hundreds of people in this area all fighting for a snapshot. If you are planning to get your photos any time between 8 AM and Midnight, you'll never stand a chance to get a photo without a few dozen others in the background. Get there when less people are around and you'll have more time to get better shots so plan accordingly. Of course, weekdays are your best option as the weekends mean more visitors.
- Turn OFF the flash in your camera if you are using a point-and-shoot. Yes, you heard me correctly. All of the above photos were shot without a flash. Shooting with your camera flash on will cause your foreground to get exposed but since there are so many back lit objects or objects in different range from one another, a flash will never capture any of them. So if you are standing in front of the huge Christmas tree and someone photographs you with your flash on you will look great but the tree and everything behind you will look terrible. If you are using higher end gear with a flash on a bracket, etc., that's a bit different but generally, if you can, avoid the flash. The only downside is that because of the lighting you may get some odd shadows on faces and such to be aware of the area you are shooting in.
- If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, the camera lens is very small and it doesn't allow for a lot of photography in low light in addition to the camera sensor which will, inevitably, add a lot of grain and noise to your photo due to the long exposure needed to compensate for the lower light. As such, shooting a photo in here with your flash off will yield a very blurry photo without a tripod to stabilize the camera. Set your camera on a tripod and use the timer feature or have someone take the shot for you but you need to have the camera stable or it will look terrible. Just understand that a camera on a tripod in this area means it's a big object for some unsuspecting tourist who is not looking where they are going to trip over it. Now you have an injured person to deal with, not to mention a broken camera.
- Hire a professional. I shoot here frequently and I know from experience that without an excellent camera body and professional lenses, most photos just look like vacation snapshots. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but if you are wanting to have a truly professional looking family photo at one of the most unique locations in the world, you don't want to waste it. If you are interested in booking me for your next photo shoot when you are coming to Las Vegas or even if you are a local wanting some awesome images for your next Christmas cards, or even just for posterity sake, send me an EMAIL or call me direct at 702-204-1740. Mention this blog and get a very special bonus.
- Lastly, have fun! Las Vegas is the fun capital of the world. It's the ultimate place to bring your camera so be sure to have a great time and get some great photos!!!