What to Photograph at Summer Shows and Festivals

Probably every weekend from May to September there will be a summer show or festival happening nearby.  In this article I will give you a few ideas on what to photograph at summer shows and festivals.

With most shows and festivals there is a lot going on so trying to capture everything is not going to be an option, unless you want to spend your whole visit looking through your viewfinder.  The best way to approach an event is to think about what you want to photograph before you go.  If it is an event you have attend before then you’ll know what’s on offer, if not then a bit of research before you set off is a good idea.  Look at the organiser’s website or social media posts to get a feel for past events.  If it is a completely new event then you may just have to go with an open mind.

Fetes and Fairs

Face Painting at Summer FetesFetes and fairs are full of colour, get in close and isolate elements of traditional games or wares on stalls.  If you are comfortable with portraiture then have a look at the stands offering face-painting and capture people at work.  It is always polite to ask permission of your subject, even if you do it after you’ve taken the picture if you want to capture people looking natural rather than posed.

Classic Car Shows

Classic Car PhotographyI have been attending classic car shows for many years, one local show is a particular favourite and always give me lots of opportunities to try out different themes.  I like to go with a specific project in mind.  One year I wanted to capture the details of wheels, another the challenge was to photograph all the letters of the alphabet and another was to search out car badges.

I find that trying to get photos of complete vehicles isn’t really an option. With lots of people looking at the cars and with the vehicles being parked relatively close together. so I like to get in close and look for unusual details and different angles.  You may get a few funny looks from other visitors but that’s half the fun of being a photographer.

Many shows will have a parade ring where selected vehicles drive round with commentary, this is a good place to get action shots and full vehicles.  You will need a long lens to avoid your subject beings a dot in the frame as the rings can be quite big.

Steam Fairs

Steam Fair Traction EngineSteam engines are great for nostalgic shots and can be great for grainy black and white photography with lots of steam and water dripping.  Get down lot and use a wide angle lens to emphasis the size of these vehicles.  You could also focus in close on some of the mechanical parts that are all on show and usually nicely polished.  Just watch out you don’t get your own reflection in any shots.

Music Festivals

Summer Shows and Festivals - Music FestivalsSmall local music festivals probably give more access to photograph the performers than the large famous events with big name artists and their security entourage.  Whilst you will be able to get close to the action bear in mind that the majority of performers don’t do this all the time and might not be used to having a camera lens pushed in their face.  Try using a long lens so you are away from the action but can still isolate the subject from the surroundings.  A wide aperture (low number eg f1.8) will give you a very narrow depth of field to get your subject in focus while turning the background into a blur. If there are lights behind these will turn into bokeh spots which is quite popular at the moment.  Back lighting your subject against set lighting or the sun if you are outside can also be effective.


Whatever summer shows and festivals you end up with your camera have fun and happy snapping.

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