Living in Las Vegas, some of the most reoccurring questions I get are: how do you cosplay in that heat (you suffer for your art) and can you take photos on The Strip? Attending conventions take a lot of time, effort and money; so they often aren't the best place to get photos of your costume. This is especially true when you're busy seeing friends, visiting panels, and shopping artist alley- your costume often falls to the back burner even though you spent hours slaving over it.
Luckily, shooting outside of conventions is a common practice! You don't need to pay stacks of cash to get great photos that enhance your costume. I've seen plenty of friends go to local places where they don't charge for photoshoot permits, as well as friends who get creative and building their own sets right in their garages. But the Las Vegas Strip is a very special place where hotels have crazy themes, beautiful gardens, luxurious backgrounds, and a handful of other niche (and often weird) locations to choose from- all for free!
So how does one go about shooting on The Strip? It's actually pretty simple as long as you don't think like a stereotypical tourist.
1. Timing is key
The Strip receives a majority of its tourists Friday through Sunday, which means the crowds are terrible those days. If the crowds are terrible, chances are it's going to be very difficult for you to get a decent shot. I'm talking about the hordes of people in the background of every photo or the ones that will inevitably walk in front of your photographer. And because there are so many tourists on The Strip during these three days, security is also increased. The best times to take a photo anywhere on The Strip are Tuesdays or Wednesdays 6am to 8am. Most tourist will not be around and you have the bonus addition of being close to Golden Hour.
2. Don't block the walkways
I understand, Vegas is a lot to take in. Thus, people will walk slowly or stand in the middle of the walkway to take photos of the scenery- but don't be like this. You're already drawing attention to yourself being in a costume; so don't block or impede the massive river of moving people by posing in a high traffic area. Honestly, I would also suggest scouting your locations beforehand when you don't need to worry about a costume. This isn't only on the cosplayer either, photographers must also be mindful of being in the way. Unfortunately, this also means you absolutely should not use a tripod. Even in the times listed above, it's not recommended to have any kind of stand that could get in the way. Security is very strict on this.
3. Be Respectful
This should go without saying, but there are a lot of people who do stupid things on The Strip- don't be one of them. You will probably see people climbing on a statue or screaming or being, in general, an obnoxious drunk. Again, you're already in a crazy costume, you don't need any more unwanted attention your way. Be polite and courteous towards those around you, including security. Please do not climb or sit or touch anything you aren't supposed to. I can't tell you the amount of times I've seen people being scolded for touching an expensive car or statue that's on display. Just don't do it.
4. Be quick
Even though you are allowed to do noncommercial photoshoots it's better to be quick about it. Some places might prefer you to not photograph certain areas like the outside of restaurants or lobbies because it's off-putting towards their guests. They have every right to ask you to leave; so be prepared to do so when asked. For example, in the Cosmopolitan there is a beautiful bar called The Chandelier which, on the outside, looks like a giant chandelier. It makes for a gorgeous background but they also will ask you to leave after a few minutes of taking photos.
5. Be even quicker
So you have the most perfect costume from that gambling anime and it's your dream to take photos on the casino floor. Well, that's going to be rough. You are not allowed to do full photoshoots on the casino floors in most casinos without some sort of permit. You can, however, take one very fast and strategic photo. Slot machines are much easier to take photos with as you can kind of hide yourself away from security and workers. The tables, on the other hand, are usually a no go. If you must try to take a photo with a poker or blackjack table: know your pose and strike it immediately. Your photographer gets one chance to click the button and then you need to move on. Being around the tables can make it seem like you are trying to cheat, even when no one is around. And that is grounds for being removed from the casino.
6. Know your place
If you need to go to more than one hotel or walk the outside Strip area in costume, be very mindful. Tourist might think you are one of the mascots working for tips. Please do not accept money or ask for money if/when someone asks you for a photo. Being a mascot or showgirl on The Strip is an actual job here and those workers have turfs (yes there have been Minion turf wars). There are a lot of rules that go with these jobs as well- one of them being that they can't charge for photos. If someone asks for a photo you can politely accept or decline and move along. Please do not hover or start a line. Again, this is a job for many people; and while you might mean no harm, it will negatively affect a local.
7. Leave props at home
After the MGM shooting, The Strip has cracked down on many props and weapons. Do everyone a favor and leave them at home. I don't care if it's a Sailor Moon bubble wand; this is not an area up for debate- especially after the shooting.
8. Masks are a no-no
There is actually a very strict rule at all casinos that you cannot have anything covering your face to obscure your identity. Yes, there is a grey area for sun glasses, prosthetics, and even full face paint. However, domino masks and full face masks (ex: Deadpool) should not be worn in the casinos. You can wear these items outside of the casino floors but I would strongly recommend against it.
I realize most people come to Vegas on the weekend; so planning a shoot during the middle of the work week can be rough. However, most Vegas hotel prices change day-to-day and booking on a weekday during an off season time can save you a lot of money. If there's more interest in booking hotel suits for shoots, I'd be happy to write a follow up article on that. Until then, hopefully this list helps with the basics of shooting in some awesome Vegas locations. Have fun and happy shooting!
Photo taken by Q at The Venetian.
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