Vegas Photo Tip #1: Look Up

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If you’ve ever had an unforgettable trip to Las Vegas, chances are you want photos of that experience to reminisce over for years to come. But what happens when your vacation photos don’t live up to the experience? I mean, Vegas is such a BIG experience–why do our photos sometimes seem so. . .small? What happens when they’re disappointingly bland?

This doesn’t happen to everyone, of course. Some of you may be expert photographers. (I hate you, by the way. Kidding, kidding. . .) But when I look back at my photos from my earliest trips to Las Vegas, I cringe at some of them. Part of the problem was the camera, part of it was the lack of photo editing software, but most of it was just “user error”. I did what many people do: I rushed through my checklist of sights to see, stopped long enough to snap a picture or two, and moved on. And unfortunately, my photos tended to be very plain and ordinary. Or even worse, blurry, grainy, and too dark, like this one:

Paris casino

Interior shot of Paris casino

I decided it was time to learn to take better photos. So I did. And now, I’d like to help you do the same. Look, I’m not a pro. I’m not even entirely comfortable with the manual settings of my camera. So if I can learn to take better vacation photos, pretty much anyone can. Wouldn’t you love to get home from your trip and see some photos that are so terrific you want to print them in a large format and hang them on your wall? With some practice, you can!

Starting with this post, I’d like to occasionally offer some very simple photography tips to enhance your Vegas vacation photos. Tips that anyone, with any camera (DSLR, point-and-shoot or cell phone camera) can practice. Because in my opinion, you don’t have to own a tripod or understand ISO, aperture and f-stops in order to start taking more creative vacation photos today. (And you also don’t need to run all your photos through Instagram to make them look halfway decent.)

Ready to give it a try? Here’s my first tip: Look up.

(Like I said, simple tips.)

Las Vegas is beautiful from many angles, but I find it most impressive when I look up at it. And the closer you are to it while looking up, the better. The close-up perspective of height enhances that sense of awe we feel when we’re walking around the streets of Las Vegas for the first time, our mouths gaping open from the sights.

Here are some of my favorite photos I’ve shot while just doing this one simple thing: Looking up.

New York, New York Casino

For me, this captures a bit of the excitement of the New York, New York casino

I get a kick out of this photo every time I look at it:


Look! It’s Mini-Me!

The shot below is one of my favorites of any trip I’ve ever taken. You’d never guess this was taken in Vegas (unless you know the Shark Reef really, really well).

Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Statue

Statue at Shark Reef, Mandalay Bay

The Eiffel Tower is so darned photogenic. I liked this unusual angle.

Eiffel Tower Las Vegas

The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas at night.

This photo gives you an idea of the massive size of the MGM lion. It would have been better if I hadn’t gotten just a slice of that golden statue on the right, but I still like it. I’ve never seen another photo of this lion taken from this angle.

MGM Lion

The MGM Lion

Below is one of my favorite shots of all time. I find the Cosmopolitan really lends itself, more than most casinos, to artsy shots, thanks to that gorgeous chandelier.

Cosmopolitan Chandelier

Cosmopolitan Chandelier

If this photo of the Fremont Street Experience Viva Vision Light Show doesn’t scream “Las Vegas,” I don’t know what does:

Fremont Street light show

The Fremont Street Experience Viva Vision light show

Who can resist the ceiling shot of Chihuly’s blown glass flowers on the ceiling of the Bellagio lobby?

Chihuly sculpture

Chihuly sculpture

You really get a sense of “old school Vegas” from the old neon signs Downtown:

Neon cowgirl

Neon cowgirl

And last, but not least, the ubiquitous resort tower shot. I always try to get some greenery in the foreground, like a palm tree or something so it’s not so sterile. It doesn’t hurt when the sky cooperates by being a vivid blue.

Mandalay Bay

Mandalay Bay

A few more suggestions:

  • Slow down and take your time with the shot.
  • Sometimes it makes the shot look better to include something in the foreground, whether it’s you (the ol’ arm-stretch shot!), a tree, an old-style lamppost, or something else.
  • Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground to shoot upward if that is going to make the picture even better. Who cares if you look funny? You’ll never see any of these people again.
  • Take several photos from the same angle. This is your insurance that at least one of them will turn out well.

If you haven’t ever tried this before, give it a try on your next trip and see how much more artistic you can make your vacation photos.

What do you think would make a great “look up” shot in Vegas? (Keep it clean, folks.) 😉


11 thoughts on “Vegas Photo Tip #1: Look Up

  1. Clarissa

    I like your idea alot and tried it on my last visit to vegas. My only struggel while traveling in vegas solo that actually made me mad is that it is hard to take pictures of yourself doing things. Thankfully, I made some friends when I went ziplining…but other times I hadn’t met anyone yet so i missed an oppertunity with me in the picture and sometimes the people you found on the street and asked were a little uh plastered so they wernt the greatest photographers 😛

    1. Gray

      I’m glad you brought that up, Clarissa. Getting photos of yourself on your Vegas vacation is the topic of an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned!

  2. Nate

    Great pictures! I’m always jealous of the photos you post – I’m, sadly, one of the living exceptions to “pretty much anyone”. Apparently I did something horrible to cameras in a past life, because whenever I try to take a picture they make the photo overexposed, unfocused, and crooked just out of spite. It’s gotten to the point where I have to turn down people who ask me to take pictures of them, because there’s a very good chance I’ll ruin their vacation photos.

    That being said, my favorite look-up photo was one I took of a person jumping off the Stratosphere (harnessed, of course). It was just late enough that the lights were on and the sky was the inky-blue of sunset, but it was still bright enough to silhouette the jumper perfectly. I thought it really captured the thrill of going to Vegas. Of course, everyone I showed it to thought it was a grainy, blurry mess, but a professional photographer could probably take an amazing shot of that.

    1. Gray

      Wow, Nate, I bet that would be an awesome photo! Of course, I’d probably have my heart in my throat watching someone jump (even in a harness).

  3. Marlys

    As I keep telling friends who insist on buying expensive cameras so they can take “nice pictures”, most times it’s what you shoot and the angle you shoot it that would make a great photo. And the help of some photo editing software, of course. 😉

    1. Gray

      I believe that, too, Marlys, for the most part. I mean, it’s true that my DSLR is a better camera that takes better pictures than my point and shoot most of the time. But there have been times when I’ve gotten great shots with the P&S, and lousy shots with the DSLR. And yes…God bless photo editing software. 🙂

  4. Dewey

    Thanks for the photos and the tips. Honestly, I don’t think I can do what you do. Those were amazing shots.

    1. Gray

      Oh, I bet you could, Dewey. It’s just a matter of slowing down and taking loads of photos from many different angles. Naturally, I still take lots of bad shots, but because I do this, I’m taking more good shots, too.

  5. Shawn

    I’m just thankful for the wonders of digital photography, where your only limitations are memory card size and battery life. Enough quantity, you’ll find some pics that have quality. My personal record is 2800 pictures in a 3 day trip.

  6. Pingback: Vegas Photo Tip #2: Look Down | The Vegas Solo

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