Las Vegas casinos have a reputation for having strict policies prohibiting photography. Those policies can suck it.
Photography is a great way to capture and remember our experiences, so knowing how to dance around antiquated guidelines can be very useful during a Las Vegas visit.
Here, then, are 10 tips for taking photos in any casino while avoiding run-ins with casino security, law enforcement and The Man. Let the security breaches begin!
1. Use the Smallest Camera Possible
In Las Vegas, size matters. One of the keys to taking photos in casinos is to avoid being noticed. The smaller the camera, the better. Smartphone cameras tend to blend in, while larger, DSLR cameras can draw unwanted attention. Casino security is on the lookout for what’s considered “professional quality equipment,” so use your phone’s camera whenever possible.
2. Take Stills, Not Video
Just as a small camera is preferable to a larger one, still photography is less problematic than video, even if it’s taken on the same camera. Don’t push your luck. A snap is less likely to be noticed than a pan.
3. Turn Off Your Flash
This is a biggy. Using a flash is like a giant neon sign over your head that screams, “This person is violating the rules. Use your Taser on them immediately.” Every camera has the ability to override the automatic flash, so simply turn the flash off. It means you’ll have to hold the camera still to avoid motion blur, but you’ll get better at it with practice. (Try resting your camera on something to keep it steady, or tuck your elbow in and use your arm like a tripod.)
4. Never Use a Tripod
Speaking of tripods, they’re an absolute no-no in casinos. This is the one rule that makes sense on the part of casinos. Tripod legs are a danger to other guests who are often either drunk or distracted by all the shiny things in a casino. Tripods also fall into the “professional quality equipment” category, so leave them in your hotel room so they’re handy for the homemade porn. Not that anyone would do that kind of thing in a Las Vegas hotel room, of course.
5. Work Quickly and Keep Moving
It’s easy to discreetly take a few photos and move on, but if you linger, you risk being stopped and questioned by security. Think through where you need to be for your photo so you get it right the first time. It’s not a photo shoot, and the longer it takes the more likely you’ll be chastised by an employee or security.
6. Play Dumb, Drunk or Pretend You’re Hard of Hearing
Seriously. These strategies are the key to successful photography on a casino floor. Hit your spot and start snapping. Chances are someone on staff will say, “No photography!” Yes, it’s almost always with an exclamation point. Do not acknowledge the person. Keep snapping. They’ll shout again, probably louder. As you continue snapping (you should have dozens of photos by this time), turn and say, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” You’ll get the “No photography” thing again. Then say, “I didn’t realize I couldn’t take a photo here.” You get bonus points if you add this to help smooth things over, “I’m so drunk, I can’t figure out how to use the camera, anyway.” You have your photos, the employee has done their due diligence and everyone’s happy.
7. Never Shoot the Cage
While these tips apply to 99% of a casino, all bets are off when it comes to the cashier cage. Most casinos use security concerns as an excuse to ban photography, but that reason is outdated and misguided. Casino thieves don’t need photos to case a joint. These tips might work for cage photos, too, but why tempt fate? Steer clear.
8. Avoid Photographing Guests
As mentioned, casinos often cite security as the reason photography is prohibited, but the real reason they don’t like photography is related to customer privacy. Casinos know people are often in casinos that shouldn’t be, and are often with people they shouldn’t be with (like mistresses or even prostitutes). We’ve taken thousands of photos inside casinos, often including guests, without incident, but do as we say not as we do.
9. Find Photography-Friendly Casinos
Bans on photography aren’t universal in Las Vegas casinos, and some casinos are downright welcoming of photography. Harrah’s Las Vegas, for example, welcomes photography as long as the photos aren’t of customers. Four Queens, downtown, actually has signs encouraging photography.
10. Always, Always Be Polite
If you’re approached by a casino employee, always be polite and never let the interaction get confrontational. Security guards tend to get overzealous, and tensions can escalate quickly. If it does, you’ll lose, so just be nice. If asked, explain your photos are for personal use, not commercial. Never offer to delete photos you have already taken, and do not let security review your photos, as they do not have the legal right to do so. Odds are you’ll be treated like a child being scolded, but keep calm and don’t take it personally. Ask to speak to a manager, and sort it out with someone higher on the food chain. In the vast majority of cases, if you’re nice, and avoid acting like you’re doing research for an “Ocean’s Elven”-style robbery, you’ll be reminded of the rules about photography and be sent on your way.
Here’s the bottom line: We’ve never heard of a case of someone being kicked out of a casino for taking photos. Turn off your flash, stay away from the cage, work quickly, act dumb and keep things light if you’re confronted by a casino employee.
We’d love to hear your casino photography stories, especially if they involve pretending to be drunk. Because you’re nearly as adorable when you’re pretend drunk as when you’re actual drunk.