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Tips To Capture Fun At The Fairs

September 12, 2018 by Marie Joabar

Most of us think of the state and county fairs as summertime events but you’ll find many held in September as well.  They’re listed below so plan to enjoy one near you and don’t miss the opportunity to photograph some of the fun.

Loved and anticipated by many, these annual events began in the early nineteen hundreds as a way to bring people together to showcase area farming, livestock and agriculture.  Today’s fairs continue that tradition but also offer a wide assortment of entertainment as well, such as music, carnival rides, circus tents and more.

For the shutterbug, these fairs offer endless opportunities to photograph during the day or night, indoors or out, the possibilities are many.

Nighttime Fair Shooting Tips

  • Shooting at night is a lot of fun. Plan to capture your favorite night scenes at civil twilight (just after sunset when the sky is a beautiful royal 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 here was captured at ISO 50, aperture f22 and shutter speed of 10 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.

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 at the petting zoo.

  • When you’re shooting outdoors during the day, chances are you’ll find the sky overly bright so try to compose your frame without it for a stronger image.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Telephoto lenses with a focal length of 105mm, 135mm or greater, are helpful to fill the frame with your distant subject. They’re ideal for candid photos of people or close-ups of anything that you can’t physically get close to but want to make larger.
  • A wider lens, anything from 50mm or smaller, 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 smaller the millimeter the lens, the more you’ll be able to fit in the frame.
  • No need for the tripod during the day, it will only get in yours and other’s way and it’s plenty bright enough to hand hold your camera.


  • If you find yourself at the fair mid-day when the light is 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 the dimness inside.  

Many of the Fairs hold a photography contest, find out more about entering your best shots on their website.

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