Tips for Photographing State and County Fairs - Cramer Imaging - Quality Fine Art Photography
Cramer Imaging

Landscape Photography | Nature Photography | Fine Art Photography


Cramer Imaging

Tips for Photographing State and County Fairs

Tips for Photographing State and County Fairs
The Eastern Idaho State Fair is coming very soon.  Are you ready for it?  This is a more uncomfortable question for exhibitors and vendors than it is for most other people.  However, there are a couple of things which can be cause for concern to you.  The most important one is whether or not you are ready to take pictures there.  Just in case, here's some tips to help you out.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality fine art photograph of aerial view of Eastern Idaho State Fair carnival in Blackfoot, Bingham, Idaho at sunset

State fairs are all about the outdoors and farm feel.  They are also a chance to check out the carnival.  There can also be interesting shows like rodeos and demolition derbies.  These are the most common and popular parts of the fair and so should be your choices for photo subject matter along with your family and kids.

While also important, the plant, hobby, and fine art exhibits don't involve movement so they don't require special tips for photographing.  Because of this, we will be concentrating on the portions of the fair which do: animal exhibits, shows and events, and the carnival.

Photographing Animal Exhibits

Cramer Imaging's professional black and white photograph of a pigeon seated on a birdhouse at Tautphaus Park Zoo, Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho
Most of the time, I find that the agricultural side of the exhibits, namely the animals for display and judging, are not as photogenic as they seem like they should be.  Often, the animals are in cages, necessitating careful focusing to remove the cage bars if possible, or the animals are harnessed up tight in pens which leave much to be desired as subject matter for the camera.

If your animal is on display, then you will definitely want to get photos of your exhibit.  I find that the bars of the cages are often too small for a regular camera lens to fit through.  A smart phone lens might just be able to fit through the gaps in the cages if you can get close enough to the cage.  Many fairs don't want you getting close to the animals on exhibit for good reason.

If you can get close enough to photograph an animal on display, here are some tips to help you out.

  • Don't use flash in the sections with cages as flash can make the cages reflect off the metal and darken the animal inside.  Also, the animals don't like flash and will probably wince and blink.

  • Zoom in close so that your animal will fill most of the frame.  After all, you don't want a photo of someone else's pet rabbit, do you?

  • For larger animals kept in stalls and pens, not cages, you will need to carefully position yourself or you will end up with the animal's backside being its prominent feature in your photo instead of its head.  That's not very attractive at all.

  • For indoor areas where the light is too dark for a proper exposure, you should up your ISO to compensate for the low lighting conditions.
No flash, zooming in, & carefully choosing your focal point are your best bets for good animal #photos at fairs.

Photographing Shows

The concerts, rodeos, and derbies are the big draws of fairs.  Most people come to see the shows for good reason.  The bands and the sports are often well worth seeing.  The attendees, like you, also come wanting some photos of the shows they come to see.

Taking photos during a show can be a difficult business if you don't know what to do.  Photographing shows also gets complicated by the fact that the light changes.  Shows start out while the sun is up and often end well after dark.  This means that photos later on end up blurry or dark.  Most smart phones are not up to the task of event photography with fast-moving subject matter.

If you are intent upon taking photos of a concert or a sports event at the fair, here are a few tips to help you get properly exposed photos.

  • You will need a fast shutter speed to catch the action without blur.  This means compensating with a wide aperture and raising your ISO as needed.

  • This kind of photography is all about timing.  Try to anticipate when a good shot will come and be ready for it.

  • If you have an SLR (DLSR included), shooting with a 50 mm lens will be your best bet when the sun goes down.  It has a really wide aperture.

  • If you want to increase your chances of getting a few good shots, you need to take lots of photos.  The fast action of sports or dancing on stage will blur most of your photos even with the best gear, settings, and preparation.
Want good show #photos at the fair? Take lots of photos, use timing, & fast shutter speed for best results.

Photographing the Carnival

Cramer Imaging's professional quality fine art photograph of a ferris wheel silhouette against sunset at Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, Bingham, Idaho
The carnival is all about the lights, games, and rides.  It really takes on an air of magic when the sun goes down.  The lights, the bright colors, the sounds, and the prizes on display are amazing to capture on camera when done right.

Carnival photos depict the peak of human fun and amusement along with togetherness of family and friends.  While not every photo needs to contain people enjoying themselves, it does help when you're looking for memories on metaphorical film.

Some of the rides are perfectly fine for you to whip out a camera and take selfies on.  Some are inadvisable to do so for fear you would lose your phone and some are downright dangerous to take photos on.  All are generally fine to take photos of while not riding.

Here are a few tips for getting optimal carnival photographs while at the fair.

  • Some of the best photos of the carnival area are taken at night when the bright lights contrast against the black sky.

  • Unless you have no chance of dropping and losing your phone, don't take it out on any rides.

  • During the day, you don't need to worry about your settings as much as you do at night.  At night, it can be easy for your photos to blur so open up your aperture and raise your ISO if you can.

  • Use flash when taking portraits (including self portraits) so that the lights in the background don't overpower the people in your photograph.
Don't take #selfies on the #carnival rides at the fair unless you want to lose or break your phone.


Taking photographs at the fair can be a fun and rewarding experience if you take the time to get the right photos.  Now that you have a few tips to help you take better pictures, we can't wait for you to try them out.  We hope that you can enjoy your animal exhibits, shows, and carnival visits a lot more with some proper photos as souvenirs.

Do you know of other parts of the fair which need photographing?  Are there places or events which we missed?  Have any tips yourself which you would like to share?  We would love to check them out.  Please share them in the comments section below.