Festival, fairground and carnival photography

Festival, fairground and carnival photography

As life is starting to open up again here in the US, festivals, fairs and carnivals are being added to event calendars. Attending these events with your camera can be a lot of fun. There are plenty of people, bands, games, rides and food to take pictures of, and lots of different things to experiment and try.

Music and bands

One of the advantages of local festivals is that the stages are usually easily accessible. You can be at the very front or sometimes even a few steps to the side of the stage to get shots from the wings. I would suggest checking with the crew or festival staff first before just jumping on stage.

Music usually plays throughout the day and into the evening, so be prepared to capture bands and performances in all lighting conditions. Bright daylight and stage lighting at night.

carnival attractions

This is great to experiment with. Capturing people’s expressions and reactions while on the rides can be a fun challenge. Try to capture the excitement, joy and sometimes fear as the rides move and rotate. Maybe start slow with a merry-go-round and work your way up to rollercoasters and other fast-moving, spinning rides.

The rides themselves offer many photographic opportunities. With fun colors, characters and shapes you can create a wide variety of images. Also think about motion – slow down your shutter and show the motion in the ride.

Again, be prepared for light changes between day and night. The night at a carnival is a whole other world. Bring a tripod and set it up to see the Ferris wheel lights in motion. Capture the people as they move from game to game.

People at festivals

So many people to take pictures of. Sit back and enjoy the sights, the music and the food and the whole festival atmosphere. People ride rides as mentioned above, play games of chance, interact with the animals in a petting zoo or at a carnival in the 4-H exhibits. So many opportunities to capture emotions at fairs and festivals. Dancing people, old and young.

There are also employees. I have noticed that many carnival and carnival workers have stories to tell. Interact, talk to them and ask if you can take their picture. Many of them like to tell their story and share a piece of their life with you. Make it a project, the people of the state, honest type of project. Shooting them in their environment… take some shots, portraits and of them driving the ride they’re in charge of interacting with customers in the aisle of the game, taking money, creating the excitement they create and giving out prizes. All these details tell the story of that specific person.

Festival food

Want to practice your food photography (and probably get a stomach ache in the process)? Okay, maybe you don’t need to test every type of food to get good shots. Think not only of photographing the actual end product, but also of the processes.

How nice to get images of cotton candy being made, corn cobs being dipped in batter and of course the ever-present and growing list of “every food you can think of” on a stick.

Have fun

This is the main advice, have fun. Don’t forget to put down your camera and join the festivities. Listen to the music, ride the rides, eat the food and enjoy. By relaxing and taking in the experiences yourself, you translate into better, more meaningful images.