Capital Photography Center | Photography Classes in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and Online

Fun with Fair Photography

August 4, 2022 by Marie Joabar

It's that time of year, Fair Season! From August thru September there's a fair to photograph every single weekend. The shutterbug will find endless opportunities during the day or night, indoors or out; from colorful arcades, neon-lit carnival rides, tractor pulls, farm animals, livestock auctions, harvest contests, Miss Fair pageants, kiddie contests, to plenty of street photography scenes. 

14 local area fairs are listed at the bottom of this article so plan to enjoy one near you and have fun photographing it.

Daytime Fair Shooting Tips: 

Explore the fair during the day and capture folks enjoying themselves eating ice cream, watching the pig races, horse and pony shows, or antique car parade, or capture images of your own children on the kiddie rides or at the petting zoo.

  • For your outdoor landscape shots, consider composing without the sky if it's super bright, or change your angle (if possible) to get the sun behind you.
  • Speaking of bright sunny days, don’t forget the Circular Polarizing filter. These filters remove glare, make your reds, greens and blues more saturated, add contrast and overall just improve the look of your outdoor scenes on sunny days.
  • If you struggle to see your LCD screen in the bright light, look for a Hoodman Loop.  It’s my favorite accessory for image review on bright sunny days.
  • A zoom lens is going to be the most versatile and will give you plenty of options.
    • A wider lens, anything from 35mm or wider, is good to capture an entire scene such as the view of the fair’s main drag or the wide range of the midway. 
    • The longer telephoto lenses allow you to zoom in tight on a specific subject and isolate it from the background.  They’re ideal for candid of people. 105mm, 135mm or greater are helpful. 
    • A prime lens (any lens that doesn't zoom) will help you indoors in low light as they have such wide apertures to gather light.  
  • No need for the tripod during the day, it will only get in yours and other’s way and it’s bright enough to hand-hold your camera.


  • When the mid-day light is too harsh, head indoors to the Livestock barns. These offer so much to photograph from the young farm kids with their animals to the animals themselves. 
  • Don’t bother using the on-camera flash in the barns, most likely it will be too bright and spoil the “look” of the scene. Instead, set your ISO to 800, 1600 even 3200 depending on how dim it is.  

Nighttime Fair Shooting Tips

  • Shooting at night is a ton of fun. Plan to capture your favorite night scenes at twilight just after sunset when the sky is a beautiful blue and the artificial lights stand out like gems.
  • Best results can be achieved with the manual exposure settings and slow shutter speeds are the most exciting! In Manual mode, set the ISO to 100, set the aperture to f22 and then just play with the shutter speed to give you the motion blur that you want. 
  • Try shooting the ferris wheel or midway rides for 1 second to several seconds and capture the motion of the lights. The photo with the Funnel Cakes sign was captured at ISO 50, aperture f22 and shutter speed of 5 seconds. 
  • Long exposures require a tripod together with a cable release or self-timer. (Monopods won’t work.)
  • Find a location that offers you room to set up your tripod without blocking people’s way.  
  • Fill the frame with the color.
  • Get shots of people enjoying the midway.

Many of the fairs hold a photography contest, check out their website to find out more about entering your best shots for the following year.

If you attend any of the fairs, we’d love to see what you capture, send us your faves or just tag us. We're on Facebook, and on instragram

List of 2022 Local Area Fairs by Date