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Convention Chaos – Funny Stories of Trade Show Photography

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.

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My photo of the DTS booth at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

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. 

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Lighting up at the Davidoff black-tie cocktail reception.

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!

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That’s one big fish! Infusion Brands CEO Bob DeCecco having fun with infomercial host Marc Gill and the famous Ronco Pocket Fisherman!

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.

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The first Transformers i approached.

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This Transformer said “Yes” to the gig and he worked out great. Say hello to Luis….er, I mean, “Bumble Bee”, who had a great costume that looked like it was well maintained, unlike many of the other street performers I found in similar costumes.

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).

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The wilder side of librarians at the American Library Association Annual Conference.

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Two of the hundreds of people I photographed posing with our awesome street performer!

 

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The entire team of ProQuest who were working their booth at the annual industry conference. Needless to say, the Transformer in their booth was a mega hit with attendees!

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 adam@shotbyadam.com or call today at 702-204-1740!

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Las Vegas Street Performers and Entertainers

Two years ago I wrote a blog about the street performers cropping up in Las Vegas in droves. That was two years ago, and a lot has changed since then and so I thought I would write a new blog with a more updated point of view. It’s gotten to the point now where you can’t walk down any block of Las Vegas Blvd (“The Strip”) south of The Wynn and not see at least a dozen or so different characters milling about. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see Spider Man having a conversation with the Cookie Monster or Chewbacca hanging out with Hello Kitty. Truly, a walk down the Las Vegas sidewalks allow you to witness quite the menagerie of characters, that’s for sure.

Las Vegas Street Performers of the Super Mario Brothers. They look great, but aren't quite the draw at night in Sin City.

Las Vegas Street Performers of the Super Mario Brothers. They look great, but aren’t quite the draw at night in Sin City.

But what is the real scoop with these people? Are they really as aggressive for tips as the media makes them out to be? Are these people really just homeless people in costume? I decided to hit the streets and find out once and for all for myself. Of course, in doing so, I had to bring my camera and I also decided to recruit one of the best street performers I knew, professional model, writer, and raconteur, Sarah Jane Woodall, to help me out. Sarah and I have a long history of working together on different photography projects and whenever I need a model for some off-the-wall shoot, she is the first person I call.

Every Photographic Cliche rolled into one photo. Here Sarah Jane Woodall poses topless with electrical tape pasties on railroad tracks while wearing a cowboy hat, mermaid outfit, angel wings, and a gas mask while holding a machine gun and American flag while posing with an electric guitar...the whole enchilada!

Every Photographic Cliche rolled into one photo. Here Sarah Jane Woodall poses topless with electrical tape pasties on railroad tracks while wearing a cowboy hat, mermaid outfit, angel wings, and a gas mask while holding a machine gun and American flag while posing with an electric guitar and draped with Caution tape…the whole enchilada!

To put Sarah’s life in perspective, she has an entire bedroom in her home just devoted to different wardrobe pieces she has assembled or made over the years ranging from go-go outfits to her pink Elvis costume. Sarah is one of the busiest models I have ever met where her repertoire of work involves everything from fetish modeling to wearing mascot costumes at any one of a variety of different conventions or events here in Las Vegas.

Sarah Jane Woodall’s day job…dressing as a mascot for a major Las Vegas trade show. Yes, a world famous fetish model is in there somewhere!

Sarah Jane Woodall’s day job…dressing as a mascot for a major Las Vegas trade show. Yes, a world famous fetish model is in there somewhere!

When Sarah is not modeling she’s a writer for CityLife Magazine here in Las Vegas and when she’s not doing that, she’s out on the Strip in one of the coolest showgirl outfits you’ll ever see! Sarah’s skills don’t just end at modeling, she’s also an extremely talented costume designer as well…

Sarah Jane Woodall - Las Vegas Street Performer and Showgirl Extraordinaire!

Sarah Jane Woodall – Las Vegas Street Performer and 420 Showgirl Extraordinaire!

While walking with Sarah one night on the Strip, I got a chance to ask her some questions about what it’s like to now be one of the many street performers in Las Vegas:

How long have you been doing this?

Not long. I just started a few weeks ago and I’m still learning the ropes a bit.

How did you get your start as a Las Vegas Street Performer?

My roommate started doing it and had quite a bit of success so he asked if I’d like to tag along one night and try it for myself. I certainly have no shortage of costumes so I figured I’d give it a shot. The worst case scenario is I’d go out on the Strip and act goofy for a night and have some fun. The best case scenario is I go out on the Strip, act goofy for a night, have some fun, and make some money, so here I am!

Street Performer with a tourist

Since you brought it up, do you mind answering how much money do you actually make doing this?

There is a lot of debate about how much the different performers out here earn. Usually most people out here will tell the general public they earn a bit more than they really do but most of the good ones will earn about $20/hour, give or take. That’s about what I earn too, on average.

A few single dollar bills in her costume tends to drop the hint that she works for tips.

A few single dollar bills in her costume tends to drop the hint that she works for tips.

So, define what are “The good ones”.

You can walk around and kind of tell for yourself. Some of the characters out here make sense. I can see why people would want to take photos next to a cute showgirl with a giant joint (wink, wink) here in Vegas, and there are a lot of great showgirls and Elvis’ out here too. I’m not so sure about the Disney characters though…they seem a bit out of place for Las Vegas so I wonder how many people really want to have their photos taken with them. Yet some of the characters are very openly friendly, do a little hustling but aren’t overly aggressive, and they seem to do well, as they should. The wandering bunch of Sesame Street Characters are great, and some of the costumes, while not very “Vegas-y” really are cool. Some of the Avengers characters look awesome! But you have to ham it up a little. Just standing around doing nothing will not make you any money regardless of how great your costume is. You have to be a personality out here and, well, that’s where I tend to excel.

The pot-smoking showgirl hangs out with Ernie, Bert, Elmo, and the Cookie Monster. This Sesame Street posse can be seen frequently walking together on Las Vegas Blvd. Because of their fun nature, they tend to have lots of picture requests.

The pot-smoking showgirl hangs out with Ernie, Bert, Elmo, and the Cookie Monster. This Sesame Street posse can be seen frequently walking together on Las Vegas Blvd. Because of their fun nature, they tend to have lots of picture requests.

Here, Woody stands alone, never approaches tourists, and looks a bit out of place for Sin City. I stood at this location for 10 minutes and never watched one person approach him.

Here, Woody stands alone, never approaches tourists, and looks a bit out of place for Sin City. I stood at this location for 10 minutes and never watched one person approach him. Here is proof that a good costume does not make for a successful street performer in Las Vegas.

Here, this street performer in a Transformers Bumble Bee costume looks amazing and is in a prime location near the Planet Hollywood/Bellagio crosswalk but he just stands there hoping to get work. Thousands of people will walk by him in any given hour but it's rare that I've seen anyone give him a second glance.

Here, this street performer in a Transformers Bumble Bee costume looks amazing and is in a prime location near the Planet Hollywood/Bellagio crosswalk but he just stands there hoping to get work. Thousands of people will walk by him in any given hour but it’s rare that I’ve seen anyone give him a second glance.

So is this really “work” for you then?

Absolutely, but I also have a lot of fun doing it too. I wouldn’t come out here on a night that I didn’t think I’d have a good time doing it. As soon as I burn out a bit, I just stop coming. I’m certainly not desperate for money but the money I make out here does help this starving artist out a bit, that’s for sure. So even in high-heels and a showgirl headpiece I still have a blast. I like to find an area to hang out that has music playing so I can dance a bit and have some fun. I think that’s why I do well, because I look like I’m a fun chick to hang out with and people want to have their photos taken with someone like that…wearing a showgirl outfit and a holding a huge reefer in public! Don’t be confused though, this is still work. I still have to be outgoing, deal with everyone from families to drunks and be outgoing to a point where people want to pay to have their photo taken with me and I have to do it on a street in stripper shoes. Physically, that gets a bit tiring after a while even if you are in really good shape.

What would a trip be to Las Vegas without getting a picture with a marijuana showgirl?

What would a trip be to Las Vegas without getting a picture with a marijuana showgirl?

This woman actually threw a crumpled $1 at Sarah so she could snap a photo from her car!

This woman actually threw a crumpled $1 at Sarah so she could snap a photo from her car!

Even getting your picture taken draws looks from others!

Even getting your picture taken draws looks from others!

 

Speaking of drunks, do you have to deal with many of them? How do you handle them?

I’m more comfortable with my body than most of the women out here. I think my background in nude modeling certainly helps with that. The later the evening goes, the more alcohol people have consumed so in the later hours of the night you tend to interact with more drunks. They are kind of like the zombies who come out after dark. It’s really quite funny. Some of them certainly can be a bit grabbier than others but I usually get tipped better by those guys so I guess it evens itself out. Some of the girls out here are a bit more prudish, and that’s fine. I’m used to dealing with drunken obnoxious guys though so I’m more in my element with them than most.

Here a drunken tourist wants a bit more for his dollar than just a photo.

Here a drunken tourist wants a bit more for his dollar than just a photo.

Walking down the Strip with Sarah for just one hour allowed me to witness, first-hand, everything we just finished talking about. I saw people in cars cruising the Strip shout at her to get her photo. I saw drunk guys get very touchy-feely on her a few times including one of the guys who hand out the porn cards for “escorts” on the strip. He actually tipped her $5 twice so he can…..uh, pose with her, and I even saw her pose with small children as well. An evening with Sarah yields a level of entertainment parallel to any Cirque show, that’s for sure.

Here, one of the "escort" card distributors on the Strip gets a little grabby with Sarah. At least he was a good tipper though!

Here, one of the “escort” card distributors on the Strip gets a little grabby with Sarah. At least he was a good tipper though!

The one thing about Sarah is that she knows she’s in mixed company as she is not the only showgirl walking on the Las Vegas Strip. I recently had the pleasure of doing a shoot with a more “conventional” showgirl/street performer, Kalliann Haas. Like many of the Las Vegas street performers, Kalliann has a more conservative job by day and at night, she transforms into a stunningly beautiful showgirl. Unlike Sarah Jane, who made her costume, Kalliann actually leases hers as I discovered in a conversation with her:

Your costume is absolutely amazing. Easily it’s comparable to one of the actual showgirl outfits in one of the major shows in town. Did  you make this yourself?

I wish I could take credit for it but no, it’s actually not mine. A costume like this would have cost a fortune to have made and it requires maintenance too. I actually pay a small fee to the costume designer who made it for me to use every night. At the end of the week, I drop off the costume to her so I can have it cleaned and touched up for me to use the next weekend. I’m happy to do it though as it’s really worth it to be able to wear such a beautiful outfit all the time.

Vegas Showgirl / Street Performer Kalliann Haas shows off her amazing costume at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign.

Vegas Showgirl / Street Performer Kalliann Haas shows off her amazing costume at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign.

The other major hang-out for street performers in Las Vegas is downtown on Fremont Street. Downtown does tend to be a magnet for more of a motley crew of people, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t mean that the quality of the street performers is any lower or dodgy in quality. Last night I ran into these guys performing on the east side of Fremont Street. I can assure you, in all my years of living in Las Vegas, I have heard much worse than these two in major casinos around town. As a two man act these guys had an amazing sound that my Samsung Galaxy S3 does not do justice. They got a fiver from me!

Some of the street performers do more than stand for photos. Some are musicians, jugglers, magicians, and this guy who makes very cool balloon animals and characters.

Some of the street performers do more than stand for photos. Some are musicians, jugglers, magicians, and this guy who makes very cool balloon animals and objects.

Because of the sheer volume of people around the performers on Fremont Street, they have had to get a little more aggressive in their requests for tips. I think the reason isn’t because they are rude, it’s because so many people want to have their photos taken with these folks for free. Now, of course, standing on a street in a costume means you are in a public place and anyone has the legal right to photograph you for free and without your permission. That’s part of the Fair Usage laws of photography. But I think it goes without saying that if you are going to employ someone’s time, talent, and services for your own photo, a $1 contribution (or more) for their effort is not asking for much. For some of these people, it’s not about just slapping on a wig and walking around, they actually put a considerable amount of time and energy into their costumes and makeup. “Before I walk out the door to come out here I spend almost an hour just getting my makeup perfect and my costume, it’s 100% authentic to the original…that’s not cheap” says a Gene Simmons look-alike. “People think it’s easy to come out here and do what we do but I can assure you, it’s not. Many of us put a lot of work into coming out here and this really is a type of performance doing what we do. None of us really just stand there for a picture, we really get into character. That’s what makes this a bit of fun but it’s also why people like to pose with us. Deep down, we are all entertainers out here!”

A Gene Simmons lookalike struck a great pose for me. His costume and makeup were really well done!

A Gene Simmons lookalike struck a great pose for me. His costume and makeup were really well done!

There have been several drummers for Kiss over the years from Peter Criss to Eric Singer. This street performer looks like he ate all of them! Still though, he's found his niche and looks great doing it!

There have been several drummers for Kiss over the years from Peter Criss to Eric Singer. This street performer looks like he ate all of them! Still though, he’s found his niche and looks great doing it!

As I was attempting to get some photos of a contortionist group performing, I was approached by a very pleasant Marilyn Monroe lookalike. The thing I loved about her was she didn’t just have a great look, but she had an ANGLE! “If you want to get a great photo with me, I can take you over to a spot by that casino entrance over there that has a huge air vent. The air blows my skirt up and it makes for an awesome Marilyn Monroe photo!” I was sold and I was happy to give her my last $4 in singles…that kind of thought and fun attitude just deserved more than a single dollar bill.

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Seana (AKA Marilyn Monroe)

I managed to have a brief conversation with Seana (AKA Marilyn Monroe) that was quite educational as to her line of work. I told her that I really liked her pleasant approach, which was very refreshing to see as opposed to some of the performers who sometimes just stand around waiting for people to approach them. “I figured out an angle that works well for me. I used to come out here as a playboy bunny but I didn’t like the kind of people I was attracting so I switched gears and today, I’m Marilyn!” Seana is a waitress in a famous restaurant in Las Vegas by day, and to earn a few extra bucks, she comes out as a Street Performer a few nights a week. I had a very interesting and brief conversation with her while walking up the Fremont Street Experience. Twice, we were interrupted by people wanting to take photos of her which was great!

Do you find this kind of work more or less difficult than your “day job”

It’s not really easier or harder, it’s just different. Sometimes the nights are a lot of fun, sometimes it’s hard work, especially when you have a bad night where everyone wants to take their photo with you but nobody wants to tip you. That can be a bit frustrating, but I never take it out on anyone and I’m always polite and I think that helps in the long run.

Who are the people out here who annoy you the most?

Sometimes the drunks who like to grab you too much but as “Marilyn”, I don’t run into that as much as I used to. The people who annoy me the most though are what us street performers call “Snipers”. Those are the people who sneak up behind you to grab a quick photo and run away. They think we don’t notice, but we all do. That’s kind of pathetic, but so be it. Generally speaking though, most people are nice and respectful and while this can be a bit tiring from time to time, overall it’s fun and I make a few extra bucks so I can’t complain.

As a Vegas native myself, I used to have mixed feelings about the street performers in Las Vegas. Sometimes I found them fun but I used to find them more annoying than anything else. Sarah’s perspective changed all of that for me though. “You keep forgetting Adam, we live in the craziest city in the world. We shouldn’t shoo these people away, we should celebrate the fact that they are here because they add flavor and fun to the city! The crazier the city becomes, the more fun it gets and that’s what brings the tourists here!” She has a point…a very good one in fact. While the media is quick to jump on these folks when someone gets a little out-of-hand, we have to remember the media motto, “If it bleeds, it leads.” So for every negative story about the street performers there are a million fun ones of tourists who enjoy their presence and I’m the first to admit that much of my past negative opinion on the street performers was based on what I read, not what I experienced. As a capitalistic society we have to remember that if people weren’t tipping these folks, their industry would have dried up a long time ago. They are here, because people want them here. Say whatever you want about the street performers in Las Vegas, but love them or hate them, they are here to stay. In time more regulations will probably be passed requiring them to have permits and such, and that’s fine. The serious ones will continue to come out and the weaker performers will fall by the waste side. Whatever the outcome is, you have to admit that having your photo taken with a dancing guy in a bikini, a 400 pound drummer for Kiss, a gaggle of super heroes, or even a pot-smoking showgirl is just plain fun!

Sarah finishes her long night as a Las Vegas showgirl and street performer. Now it's time to kick off the heels and count the singles.

Sarah finishes her long night as a Las Vegas showgirl and street performer. Now it’s time to kick off the heels and count the singles.

Special thanks to Sarah Jane Woodall for her contributions to this blog both in photos and editorial contributions. If you are ever looking to hire Sarah for any corporate event, she should be at the top of your list as her costumes and level of professionalism and entertainment value are second to none! Please be sure to read her blog at wonderhussy.com and for booking information email her direct at wonderhussy@gmail.com

*Please note that no Minnie Mouses, Pokemon, or Smurfs were hurt in the photography or writing of this blog. They were, however, all tipped at least $1 for their contributions.

If you are coming to Las Vegas and are interested in getting some amazing photos to remember your trip, I specialize in shooting on the Strip for bachelorette parties, engagement photos, family photos, girls and guys night out, and more! When you want to book a shoot please email me at adam@shotbyadam.com or call today to reserve a time to make some memories that will last a lifetime!

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Las Vegas Street Performers…What To Watch Out For!

There is a growing issue here in Las Vegas about the rampant rise of street performers working for tips on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown on the Fremont Street Experience. This is a relatively recent development that has started growing in popularity over the last year or two where people dress in costume in front of the numerous Las Vegas tourist landmarks and pose with you for tips. A few nights ago I was doing a shoot on Fremont Street with a newlywed couple and in less than an hour, we met the rock band Kiss, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a Star Wars stormtrooper, Homer Simpson, and a wide cast of other characters…some in better costumes than others. A recent news report stated that some of these street "performers" earn as much as $700-$800 a day standing around and posing for photos with tourists.


Batman & Spiderman off-duty over by the MGM Grand.

The main reason of the rapid increase of these performers is two fold. First, the money. Obviously if you can throw together a cheesy costume, you'll earn enough to pay the rent and then some. Wear something elaborate and you can be earning a solid six-figure income. Sure beats waiting tables at Denny's if you're an out-of-work real estate agent, right? Here's the other main reason you're seeing so many of them…you don't need a permit or business license to do it. This has started to cause a lot of controversy between these entertainers and the local vendors who have to pay for their location, be a licensed business, carry insurance, and and have a permit to sell on the Strip or in the Fremont Street Experience. These entertainers can get away with this because all they are doing is standing around in a costume and people pay them tips. It wouldn't even be a shock if these street performers didn't pay their fare share in taxes either, but that's a whole other issue.

With the rise of these entertainers, I'm starting to see a whole other crop of people working for tips who don't have quite the ambitions of a guy willing to paint his face like Gene Simmons. Back in October, I was doing a shoot for a bachelorette party on the Strip here in Las Vegas and we were getting some awesome photos out in front of the Bellagio fountains. While we were waiting for the show to start, I noticed that there was someone walking around asking tourists if he could take their photo in front of the hotel in exchange for a tip. While this is normally something passers-by do for one another all the time (and something I've happily done literally hundreds of times for others) here was someone doing it for tips. Now I'm all for entrepreneurialism and I firmly believe that self-employment is the path to riches and success for everyone. I was even recently quoted in Picture Business & Mobile Lifestyle Magazine about how much I believe in capitalism and a free market for all. Yet there is a whole underlying issue here which I think is worthy of some awareness.

So here I am out in front of the Bellagio with this couple. The actual way I came to the realization about this "photographer" is due to the argument that ensued over his actions. Four college guys wanted to get their photo taken with "Batman" who was also standing there and so this public service photographer offered to take their picture for a tip. They got into pose and as the photographer stepped back with their shiny new camera. Being that this was in the evening and light was at a minimum, their camera was having difficulty focusing. Shot after shot, this 1-dollar photographer tried and tried to get a photo that was either in-focus or not all black. He just couldn't do it bot because of the limitations of the camera but also because of his limitations in knowledge on how to shoot such a shot. No biggie really, any passer-by would have had the same difficulty. As I was standing around with the couple I was with, the bride said to the foursome, "Hey, how about you let our guy take your photo?" and I gladly volunteered my services to help. I walked over to the group and the street photographer, not wanting to lose his tip said, "I've got, I've got it!" and tried a few more times in vain. Frustrated, and rather concede to someone else, he tossed the camera back to the college students and said, "I give up, here you go!" Not thinking that anyone would do such a thing, one of the four friends attempted to catch the camera but was unsuccessful and it fell to the sidewalk and smashed in pieces. The photographer shrugged his shoulders and walked away. The four, astonished at what just happened, tried to confront the picture taker but he ran from the scene. With numerous witnesses, the police were called and a report was filed. If this person was ever caught remains unknown.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I joke with my wife all the time that my second home is the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign on south Las Vegas Boulevard. I was doing a shoot with a wonderful family of four here in Las Vegas on vacation. We were taking our time so as not to hog the area and be respectful of the others wanting to get their photos, we noticed another other professional photographers come and go with wedding couples now and then which is always fun to see.

After a short while, we noticed a "volunteer" photographer offering to take photos everyone out there…for a tip of course. Again, I have no problem with someone trying to earn a buck but more on this in a minute. As the five of us were out there getting our shots, we noticed this individual getting more and more pushy with the people out there as if he were an actual employee of the city hired to take photos for tourists, or something to that effect. He was really pushy and was herding everyone there as if he ran the location and it was obviously making people uncomfortable. So when I concluded the shoot with the family, they hopped into a taxi while I packed my gear and I noticed a wedding party in full Scottish ceremonial attire. The groom was in a full kilt and the bride was in a traditional Celtic dress. They looked awesome. While they were waiting in like to get some snapshots, I introduced myself as a professional photographer here in Las Vegas and gave them my business card. They told me they were here all the way from Scotland for their wedding and just wanted to get some photos of the sign on their wedding day. I told them that since they were so far from home and only have a tiny point-and-shoot camera with them that it would be my honor to shoot a few free shots for them and email it to them as a souvenir. Their eyes lit up and I shot a few pictures for them as a wedding gift. When we were done the groom gave me a firm handshake, the bride gave me a big hug, and they left with a big smile on their face.

As I began to pack my gear, our volunteer photographer stood right in front of me giving me an evil eye. Without getting into a long story as to our conversation, he told me how I was intruding on his "shift" (his exact words). He began to yell at me that I was stealing his customers and that it was his 'shift" to work out there. A bit confused, I explained that I didn't charge that couple anything and that the area was public property. Furthermore, I pointed out that other photographers along with their respective wedding parties and clients had shot there recently as well. He then began yelling at me some more and he kept insisting that I was intruding on his "shift". I then decided to raise my voice a little so as to be in earshot of the 20+ people next to us waiting to take their photos at the sign, "So, let me get this straight, are  you an employee of the City of Las Vegas?" I said. He gave no answer but began yelling about his shift again. I asked again, "Are you an employee or representative by the City of Las Vegas? If so, can I see your government ID please?" I knew the answer already but I wanted to make him squirm a bit. Now, I realize that strange people do strange things and this guy going berserk on me was a distinct possibility. With so many witnesses nearby though, I wasn't too concerned.

Generally speaking, the police in Las Vegas are not particularly fond of the street performers. Knowing this, I asked the next question: "So, if this is your 'shift', I am to assume you are an employee of the City and are a professional photographer. If not, you are out here harassing people like myself as if this were an elementary school-level turf war." Just as he was about to speak I continued, "So answer me this…Do you have a business license? Are you insured? Do you have a website? Simpler yet, do you have a business card? My bet is you don't have any of those things so I'll tell you what, let's call the police and let them sort out the issue of your 'shift". I picked up my phone and acted as if I were calling the Metro police. As soon as our photographer friend saw this he began to walk away yelling epithets at me at the top of his lungs. I chuckled a bit as did some of the others nearby. As soon as he was out of earshot and began to ride away on his bicycle, two families walked up to me and thanked me as they felt really uncomfortable around this person. It was an interesting scenario indeed.

So here's the bottom line. Many street entertainers in Las Vegas are really great people just working out a way to carve out a buck for themselves. For that entrepreneurial spirit I applaud them. The challenge is, the more of them that pop up, the older ones start to think of their area as a "turf" and start to get very defensive about where they work which, in turn, means they are going to get much more aggressive to find people to pose with for family vacation photos. The best advice is, be careful out there and use a little common sense. If you are approached by these people and are uncomfortable with it, just walk away. You are under no obligation to pay anyone for standing on a street in a costume. If someone approaches you wanting to take your camera for a photo understand that these people are usually not licensed, or insured. While they may pretend to be official area photographers, they are not. I've heard from two other photographers here in Las Vegas stories about people on The Strip having their cameras stolen by people claiming to be "professional" photographers. Understand that those are not thieves are probably not insured or covered in case they damage anything of yours.

If  you're looking to get some awesome vacation photos when you come to Las Vegas and don't want to settle on pictures out of your iPhone, contact a professional. One that's licensed and insured and is a real professional and if you want some stellar photos for your next trip to Vegas, be sure to contact me at adam@shotbyadam.com for availability and booking.

"A picture doesn't just say a thousand words, it captures a thousand memories." ~Adam Sternberg