Sometimes it takes a little smoke and mirrors to get people to see what you see.
For 15 years, photographer Adam Sternberg has made it his business to show people what’s in his head. Through a little illusion, the former magician is able to create an end product that keeps him in demand with a growing bank account.
Sternberg charges $150 an hour for his photo shoots — three times the average rate — and he’s raised his prices every year.
“If you want me, it’s going to cost you,” Sternberg said.
Every year for the past 10, his business has grown, which perhaps has been his greatest trick of all.
“If I didn’t watch the news, I’d never know there was a recession. It has impacted my business none,” Sternberg said.
What has affected his business is the type of blogs he posts, which draw about 20,000 monthly hits.
He created one about the difference between his photos and what a tourist could produce with an iPhone, and another about the 10 top places to shoot in Las Vegas.
Sternberg uses those posts to drive traffic to his main photography site, and he estimates he’s gotten scores of customers that way.
“I can’t even calculate the money I’ve made off that (iPhone comparison) entry, simply because the traffic is so strong. My blog now is a profit center indirectly,” Sternberg said.
Sitting in a local coffee shop, Sternberg is of average height, a little pudgy, wearing a black-and-white bowling shirt and jeans.
He’s also uberconfident: “There are a lot of photographers in Las Vegas, but not a lot of successful photographers.”
And, he is a bit of a name dropper when it comes to magicians, proudly noting that all his best friends are in the trade.
His photos all have a certain edge to them. And his past interests in comic books and magic come through in his art in a subtle way.
The Vegas native plays Texas hold’em in casinos and hosts a monthly poker game at his house. On date night with his wife, he relishes in classic Las Vegas-style outings that may or may not include a 99-cent shrimp cocktail. Sternberg made his way into owning a photography business via a magic hobby that helped pay his way through college before he opened an illusion business that made small-time tricks for cruise magicians.
Question: What’s the connection between magic and photos for you?
Answer: Every time I pick up my camera, there’s a creative conclusion to something. I see a performance of a magician and there’s a beginning, middle and then a huge finale. I see my photography the same way. I see the end in mind before I even pick up the shot. I know what the photo’s going to look like before I even put the lens on the camera.
Question: How have you maximized your blog’s search engine optimization?
Answer: I paid attention to emails my clients were sending me when they booked me. I would question them and ask why they booked me and how did you find me. I then started targeting my blog to that demographic.
Question: What sets you apart from other photographers?
Answer: I think of myself more as a marketer first, before a photographer. One of things I noticed is that the overwhelming majority of photographers I work with are really talented but have no idea how to make any money.
Question: How did running a photography business become a full-time gig?
Answer: I worked a series of odd jobs after UNLV but was never happy at any of them. I like to refer to myself as unemployable. Even when I had jobs I hated having them. This evolved from work-for-hire gigs into full-time work.
Question: Which countries that you’ve visited are your favorite?
Answer: The Asian countries. I think I like them because the culture I like a lot. The people are wonderful, and Singapore is the cleanest country you’ll ever go to.
Question: You’re a native, so what do you think about Las Vegas?
Answer: I’m like your quintessential goofy Vegas guy. Having grown up here, I know a lot of people who have moved here who aren’t really happy here. I can’t ever see leaving Vegas. I love it here so much. I love the energy, I love the craziness of the city, I love how wacky the city can be sometimes. And my wife shares that with me.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.