Las Vegas is no doubt the convention and trade-show capital of the world. We get some of the largest, and certainly most interesting conventions come into Las Vegas for industries most people never even think would have a national convention for. Sure, some of the obvious expos we get every year draw lots of attention such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which draws over 100,000 people each year, and next week wraps up the major convention season with NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, which I am very excited to be shooting for again this year. Of all the dozens of trade-shows I shoot for, NAB I always find to be the most interesting, after all, what other place can you go to shop for communications satellites?
Not only am I a photographer for many of the actual trade-shows themselves that come to Vegas, I am also frequently hired to shoot for trade-show booths while the expo is taking place. Many major companies want to have professional photos of their booth so they can use that presence in their marketing materials, corporate literature, or even as a reference for their future trade shows to see what they can improve upon. At CES this year, I shot booths for seven different companies but one of the more interesting ones was actually not so much for the booth itself, it was for the booth architect, Methodic Environments, who designed an amazing booth for the audio company DTS. If you’ve ever gone to a movie in the last 20 years you are probably very familiar with their amazing audio technology and they certainly were not afraid to have an incredible presence at this years’ show. Remember the incredible sound of the stomp of the dinosaur in Jurassic Park? Yep, that’s DTS.
While many of these major trade-shows make international news, it’s all the shows you never hear about that are the real bread and butter that keep the millions of square feet of convention space in Las Vegas busy. Trade shows such as the World of Concrete, the Car Wash Show, the Waste Expo, and who can forget the Management Concepts, Inc. – Budget Analyst’s Essential Guide to Formulation, Justification and Execution Expo 2015! More often than not, these are the conventions you’ll see me at, taking photos of everything from empty booth photos in the morning to corporate parties at night. I’ve learned so much from all these different companies I’ve had the pleasure working with and yet it’s often funny to see the leaders of their industry let their hair down a bit, even when they are in the midst of very serious business. Getting a behind-the-scenes look at these different conventions can be a real eye-opening experience and many of my fellow photographer friends that focus on studio photography or weddings often find funny. I frequently swap funny stories of our exploits in shooting in all these crazy corporate environments with my dear friend and very accomplished photographer, Adam Shane, and he was actually the inspiration for me writing this blog entry. More on that in a moment, but he did bring up to me once in a conversation just how he and I have such a unique perspective on seeing all these expos and there are so many funny things that we learn about that the general public never knows about.
Looking back at my past several years in corporate photography, he’s right. I’ve shot some very strange things for companies that never cease to amaze me. Everything from talking robots to presentations being given by one form of “Elvis” or another, and everything in between. Then there was the time when I was booked to shoot for a bizarre Chinese smart-watch company where nobody spoke English and one of their executives actually threw a tantrum in the booth over the fact that one of the other local vendors that was hired to translate for them was a woman…a WOMAN! Yes, that was a crazy few days. I remember several months ago shooting for the world famous cigar company Davidoff for their trade-show booth and also their black-tie event banquet and awards ceremony. The expo was the IPCPR (International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association) featuring everything you can imagine for pipe and cigar smokers such as tobacco, humidors, pipe cleaners, and everything else you can think of for heavy smokers. Consuming the entire convention center at the Venetian, the inside of the convention center looked like the smoggy Los Angeles skyline inside. It must have taken the Venetian a week just to fumigate the center after the event ended. Shooting the black tie event was quite interesting, as I and two of my photographers found out, as we surrounded by non-stop, chain cigar smokers the entire evening. The high-end Davidoffs were being given away like candy at Halloween to all the attendees and wow did they ever indulge. All during the evening we were whipping down our cameras and lenses to remove the cigar grime that permeated through the air. They were all wonderful people and yet the next day I felt like I needed a lung transplant.
Then there are my Ronco clients. Wow are these guys fun to work with. One of my other clients, Infusion Brands (Maker of the infomercial product the DualSaw) recently merged with infomercial giant Ronco. You have probably heard of Ronco, who’s famous founder Ron Popeil, invented such amazing products as the Mister Microphone, Veg-O-Matic, GLH (hair in a can) and many others. This past year I had the pleasure of working with all of their top executives and infomercial pitch man Marc Gill to shoot their expo booth and also shoot some of their corporate headshots. Leave it to the infomercial people to be some of the nicest and most outgoing corporate folks I’ve ever met. The hardest part I had while shooting for their company was getting them to be serious for photos! I truly believe that the secret to their success is their passion for what they do and their desire to have fun as well. A great group of people!
Of all the crazy corporate photography experiences I’ve had though, none has topped the time I had to shop for a “Transformer”. In June of last year I was approached by a company who makes research materials for libraries, Proquest, to shoot their booth at the American Library Association Annual Conference. Yes, there actually is a convention for librarians every year. The theme for last years’ expo was “Transforming Your Library” and so ProQuest wanted me to shoot attendees in their booth with a human “Transformer”. “Optimus Prime would be OK, but we really want a Bumble Bee if you can find one” they told me. So now I’m not only being commissioned to photograph this in their booth for a few hours, they also asked me to round up an entertainer with a nice Transformer costume. “Yeah, sure, no problem” I said…”I can totally handle that!” …or so I thought.
I had several weeks to find a good Transformer for this project so I started running casting calls at a variety of different places online and I got a very wide variety of responses, many of which were from people with less-than-quality costumes. One woman even said she could work the event in her homemade costume she made for Halloween two years’ prior. Uh, no thank you. After two weeks of searching I finally got a response from someone who was a street performer on the Strip and he has a pretty good looking costume. I emailed my client contact and he was approved. I sent him the schedule and the pay-rate for which he agreed to.
Fast forward four weeks and the expo is right around the corner. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to reach out to my Transformer friend just to confirm everything as I had a lot riding on this shoot going smoothly. “Oh, I totally forgot about that thing you needed me for” he said. “I needed some money real bad so I sold the costume to some dude last week. Sorry about that.” Ugh…two days before the start of the show and I don’t have a Transformer. Remembering the last time I ran the ads and how long it took to get a response, I figured that wasn’t going to be the best way to go about this. Then it hit me…let’s go shopping for one on the Strip! Transformers seem to be everywhere on the Strip so my thought was that I should just go shopping for one! Well, hit the streets I did. I started over at the Bellagio and started walking north. By the time I got to Caesars Palace I had already passed three people in Transformers costumes. Some were better than others, but most of those guys had dirty costumes held together with wire and duct tape. Eventually I met up with a fourth one in front of the Mirage who looked great, and was standing with a different Transformer, whom I didn’t recognize. I walked up and introduced myself as a photographer and that I wanted to offer him an easy gig that paid really well for the trade show shoot. “No English” he said. Lovely. His friend he was working with was able to translate for me and I told him that I wanted to hire him for a day and he should give me a call that night when he’s done working to talk about it (my wife speaks a little Spanish so she could translate for me, if needed). He nodded his head and I thought I was in good shape. Still though, I had a lot riding on this so while walking back to the Mirage I found yet another Transformer with a great Bumble Bee costume. Like the previous person, he too didn’t speak much English but he was at least able to have a small conversation. I gave him my card and hoped he would call me too. If neither of these guys would work out, I wasn’t sure what I would do.
That night, my phone never rang and I was starting to sweat a little. The next morning though, Transformer #2 called me…or at least his English-speaking wife did. I had a wonderful conversation with her and on behalf of her husband, she said he was excited to work the gig. He would even bring his English-speaking daughter along to help out, if needed. The next day we all met at the expo and for three hours, we were a huge hit. Never once did we not have a line around the booth of people wanting to have their picture taken with Bumble Bee. We posted the photos in a custom gallery for the client and they were ecstatic with the results. They were the hit of the convention and the source of all the buzz (no pun intended).
It just goes to show that even in the world of corporate or trade-show photography, it can actually be a roller-coaster of an experience in ways most people would never know. If you find these stories funny, you should definitely check out the awesome blog by my good friend Vicki Winters. You can check out her hilarious writings on her website, The Vicki Winters Show!
If you are exhibiting or hosting a trade-show, convention, or corporate event and are interested in getting some amazing photographic coverage, you should hire the best photographic team in Las Vegas and that’s Adam Sternberg Photography. For questions on how myself and my team of professional photographers can enhance your corporate presence or for booking inquiries please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call today at 702-204-1740!
When I was very young I remember my father setting up the slide projector in our living room and showing me all the photos from his time he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. A Private First Class, he was a radar operator in a counter-artillery unit very close to the front lines. He saw a lot of insane things during his tour there and even had to deal with his best friend being killed…a true tragedy of war. Amidst all of that though were the amazing photos he shot while he was there. My father, an amateur photographer, really showed some skills with a camera, even with only the small equipment he was able to take with him. Camera technology in 1952 was a lot different than the high-tech equipment us photographers use today, but the basic rules all still applied…composition, aperture, shutter speed, etc. Except back in those days cameras used this stuff called “film” in order to preserve a photo…something today’s younger generation is quite unfamiliar with. 🙂
While I personally have never served in the armed forces, most of my friends had at one point in time or another. James, one of my childhood friends, later went on to graduate from the prestigious National War College. In my 20’s, one of my closest friends, Rob, was an ex-Marine. When I went to UNLV, a good friend of mine used to take me up in private planes while he was logging solo flight hours for his admission into the U.S. Navy. He later went on to graduate Top Gun and is currently still an F/A-18 Pilot. Today, most of my friends are either veterans or retired U.S. Military, serving our nation in careers ranging from flight squadron commanders to my friend Dee, military police officer. I have always had the utmost respect for those who give so generously for the defense of our great nation.
This got me to thinking several months ago about doing something to support our troops. I was doing a photo shoot with my friend Samantha, who I wrote about in a previous blog about the photos we got published in MyVegas Magazine. Prior to our shoot with her breathing fire at the Downtown Container Park, she and I worked on a cool pin up photo shoot, which has since been published in Fashion Bombshell Magazine. I really enjoyed doing a classic pin up shoot a lot, and I spent a lot of time researching the many different styles of pin up art and photography that has spanned many decades and trends, and after that shoot I really wanted to explore doing more creative styles of work in this genre even more.
That’s when it hit me. Being that pin up art is very deeply rooted in military culture, from tattoos soldiers would get while stationed overseas to the images pilots would paint on the sides their bombers, why not do a pin up calendar for charity as a way to support our troops?! I contacted a number of different charities to get some opinions on how I could support them with this type of project and the answer I kept hearing was, “Once you have produced the calendar, we will have our legal teams review the photos and get back to you.” OK, so I had to make the calendar first and then figure out who I was going to help with it later. No problemo!
The first thing I did was run casting calls all over the Internet looking for pin up models. I started doing this over the past summer, figuring it was going to take some time to do the shoots, handle the retouching and design work, assemble the calendar, etc. Two photos I wanted to use were already shot though. A few years ago I did a shoot for a client, Sigrid, for her and her brother. I emailed her and asked if I could use one of the photos for this project and she happily agreed. Another photo I shot of my friend Mariah. Having moved to Denver over a year ago, her and her husband were some of my go-to models whenever I needed fun, creative types to work with. Robert, her husband, is an ex-marine, so I emailed the two of them and asked if I could use one of the photos I shot of Mariah and they loved the idea. (Mariah and Robert were my “Joker” and “Batgirl” as featured in a previous blog from 2011). Some models I wanted to use I already knew though, such as my friend Lisa, and of course she referred me to another model, Dahlia, who was just a HUGE help on this project. Not only is Dahlia a professional pin up model but she really does live the lifestyle. Her entire wardrobe is made of vintage, 1930s and 1940s style clothing. Sarah, a regular in my blog, was a given…nobody I’ve ever worked with puts in as much effort to making a shoot perfect as she does. With her unique creativity, I KNEW I had to get her involved. I had a few shoot ideas in mind but a lot of the concepts were created as we were shooting on set. Some were shot on location, others in studio.
One thing I truly did not expect were the emails and calls of support from people wanting to help out on this project once they heard what it was for. Bill, a local firefighter emailed me and asked if I would like to use his 1950 fire engine for the shoot. Once I saw the photos of this fully restored beauty I just knew I had to use it for something and it is now the background for our August photo with the awesome local model Kalliann Haas, who I wrote about in a previous blog where we shot all around Lake Mead. A car aficionado, I love to go to local car shows and there are some classic car collectors who do meet-and-greets in my neighborhood every Sunday. While perusing through these gorgeous automobiles of yesteryear, I fell in love with this one white car, a 1937 Ford coupe. WOW was this car beautiful. I spoke with the owner, a military veteran, and told him my desire to use the car for a photo shoot and he was thrilled. So thank you VERY much David for the use of your vehicle…it is now on the cover of our calendar and also featured for September!
After many months of photo shoots and hours and hours of retouching and graphic work, the calendar was now ready. Now the question came into my mind of who would be a great charity to work with on this. There really are many wonderful organizations out there and many were recommended to me but one stood out more than any other, and that is the USO. After all, who would be able to identify more with this kind of thing than the USO?! The USO (United Service Organizations) was founded in 1941 as a non-profit organization to provide morale and recreational service to members of the U.S. military. The USO is best known for their live performances for troops around the world by such notable entertainers as Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Robin Williams, Lucille Ball, Lewis Black, Marilyn Monroe, Mark Wahlberg, and many others. But more importantly, they provide over 160 different locations around the world for military personnel and their families to visit for recreational down-time. They also aid in the transportation of fallen soldiers and comfort for families in dealing with such losses. Their airport lounges provide books, televisions, free snacks, and even quiet, comfort areas for soldiers to take a nap and relax before their flights.
A USO fundraising video from 1946, as hosted by Bob Hope
When I contacted the USO, I was surprised to learn that donations made locally stayed locally. That really piqued my interest a lot as it made me happy to know that donated funds wouldn’t get lost in some national shuffle…they would go right to the source that needed it if you so desired. I spoke with several great staff members at the USO and I was even offered a private tour of their facility at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport location. I met with Tim Mullin, one of the two full-time staff members at the USO Las Vegas (everyone else works there strictly on a voluntary basis) and got to see first-hand some of the wonderful things they do for our soldiers passing through Las Vegas
After meeting with the staff of the USO and some of their amazing volunteers, I knew this was the right choice for this project.
So, effective November 25th, our 2015 calendar is complete and is now for sale! This is a large, 11X17” calendar printed on high-quality stock to showcase the awesome pin up beauties! You can get your copy for only $24.95 (plus shipping) and 100% of the profits will be donated to the USO Las Vegas. In 2013 the USO Las Vegas was awarded as being the top USO facility out of their 160 locations around the world and they hope to receive the same award for 2014, so you know that your contribution to this project is a great one.
Here are the photos that are included in the calendar:
MANY special thanks to the amazing models who donated their time, energy, and talents to making this project come together: Amy, Agatha, Dahlia, Kalliann, Lisa, Maria, Samantha, and Sigrid. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Special thanks to the rest of my team from our photo assistants, makup artists, and to our classic vehicle owners as well.
These 2015 calendars will be on sale only for a few more weeks so to get your calendar, especially in time for Christmas, please order now before they are all gone!