Here in the midwest, it’s the beginning of festival, carnival and fair season. Attending these events with your camera can be a lot of fun. Plenty of people, bands, games, rides and food to take photos of, and a lot of different things you can experiment and try.

Music/bands

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

Rides

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

The rides themselves offer many photographic opportunities. Fun colors, characters and shapes allow you to create a wide variety of images. Think motion as well — slow down your shutter and show the motion in the ride. Again, be prepared for lighting changes between day and night. Nighttime at a carnival is a whole other world. Bring a tripod and set up to catch the ferris wheel lights in motion. Capture the people as they move through from game to game.

People

So many people to take photos of. Sitting around enjoying the sights, the music and the food. People riding rides as mentioned above, playing the games of chance, interacting with the animals in a petting zoo or at a fair in the 4-H exhibits. So many opportunities to capture emotions at fairs and festivals. People dancing, old and young.

There are also employees. I’ve found that many carnival and fair workers have stories to tell. Interact, talk to them and ask if you can take their photo. Many of them love to tell their stories and share a little of their lives with you. Make a project out of it, the people of the state fair type of project. Photographing them in their environment, take a few shots, portraits and of them operating the ride they are in charge of, of them interacting with customers in the games aisle, taking money, creating the excitement they create and giving prizes. All of these details will tell the story of that particular person.

Food

Want to practice your food photography (and likely get a stomach ache in the process)? Ok, you may not have to test every type of food there is in order to get some good food shots. Think about not just shooting the actual final product but also the processes. How fun to get images of cotton candy being made, corn dogs being dipped in batter nand of course the ever-present and growing list of “any food you can think of” on a stick.

Have fun

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