Photographing the Las Vegas Strip at Night


(All images can be clicked to viewed large)

Note:  This post is part two of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:

Whenever I visit a city I am always looking for a trophy shot, a beautiful city skyline photograph that I’d love to print large and put on the wall (remember, a photograph needs to be real).  I knew during my recent  business trip to Las Vegas that I’d have two or three nights available to shoot, and I wanted to make the most of them.

One of the first things I do when I am researching these trophy shots is to find the best place to shot from.  Many cities have elevated viewing platforms (e.g. the Top of the Rock in New York City, the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, the Vancouver Lookout, etc), and if they do I always spend an evening at the top shooting.  A little research goes a long way here:  Usually you have to pay to go up to these viewing platforms, sometimes you need to make reservations, you want to be there at least 30 minutes before sunset, they may or may not allow tripods, etc.

The photo above is a view of the Las Vegas Strip looking north, shot from the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience.   This photograph is a 3 image stitched panorama shot with the Fuji X100t.  Shooting stitched panoramas allows you to travel light, but still take beautiful scenic photographs.

Looking south from the same platform, this was the view:


Give yourself time to shoot these images.  The light changes fast in the hour that starts 30 minutes before sunset, and ends 30 minutes after sunset.  As the sky darkens the colours saturate, and there is that beautiful sweet spot between the rich sky and the city lights that only lasts for a few minutes.

Tripods are not allowed at the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience, so having strong camera handling skills is of critical importance to ensure you get a sharp image when it is darker out.  Here’s a few tips:

  1. Increase your ISO.  Yes, you may get a slightly more grainy image, but you will get a faster shutter speed which will help keep your image sharp.  Today’s technology helps a lot here… I know with my Fuji cameras I can get clean files up to ISO 1600, and even 3200 is fine if I need to go that high.
  2. Brace against whatever you can.
  3. Use your timer to trip the shutter.  This eliminates any motion caused by pushing down on the shutter.
  4. Have good “trigger control”.  Control your breathing while the slow shutter is open.
  5. Take lots of photographs.  The slower shutter speeds required to get these images means you are going to get some blurry ones when you handhold.  You can always delete the extra photographs from you hard drive later.

Let’s get back to our evening…

Once the sky is black, I usually switch to black and white.  The Paris Hotel and Eiffel Tower Experience is directly across the street from the Bellagio Hotel, with its famous fountains:


And just a few minutes away from there is Caesar’s Palace:


These images, with the bright lights against the dark sky, work well as high contrast black and white photographs.

The longer shutter speeds required at night also provide an excellent opportunity to shoot motion blur:


The strip is busy.  Hectic.  Chaotic.  A little crazy.  Pictures like this remind me of what it was like to actually be there.   Las Vegas has elevated pedestrian walkways over the strip, which give you an excellent point of view to shoot the traffic below.

On the second night I set up to shoot the Paris Hotel, framed with the fountains from the Bellagio.  Sunsets in Las Vegas have a magenta glow to them, which I loved:


Shortly after this photograph was taken I moved south by a block or two, and shot back toward the Paris Hotel from one of the elevated walkways:


Notice the difference in the sky.  These two photographs are taken less than 30 minutes apart, but the change is dramatic.  The sky has darkened and lost much of its colour, but the lights have come on beautifully!

This photograph is shot through the glass that is used to wall in the walkways.  Shooting through glass can be difficult due to reflections.  If you have a lens hood use it, and get your lens right up against a clean section of the glass.  Then use a small piece of dark cloth, your hand, anything to wrap your lens and prevent light from getting in.  You can almost always eliminate unwanted reflections by doing this.

On my last night to shoot there were amazing clouds, and I knew when they saturated with that sunset magenta colour the sky would look amazing:


Spinning around, I shot another slow shutter speed image to try to capture some of that crazy las Vegas hustle and bustle:


…and Hooters.  You can’t photograph Las Vegas, Sin City, and not get Hooters in the frame!

Of course, no trip to Vegas would be complete without shooting the famous sign:


Shooting at night can be very rewarding.  The sky looks gorgeous, the city lights sparkle, and the slower shutter speeds allow you to capture motion.  This is your time as a photographer.   Enjoy the day with your family, visit the sites, enjoy the food.  When the sun is going down though put on your photographer hat and go looking for that trophy picture.

Next up, Freemont Street!





3 thoughts on “Photographing the Las Vegas Strip at Night

    • Ian says:

      Thanks Olaf! I actually considered just shooting the entire series in black and white, as we see so many neon coloured images from Las Vegas, but I think they work best once the sky was totally black. I can say with all certainty though that the way those cars are flying around is a perfect metaphor for what a few days in Vegas feels like. 🙂

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