How to Photograph Markets - Digital Photography School
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How to Photograph Markets

Markets are fascinating places to photograph and are always on my shot list wherever I go. They are often places where you get a real glimpse of the local, everyday life and make for fantastic photo opportunities. However, the low light conditions and busy atmosphere can make photographing markets somewhat challenging.

1. Raise your ISO

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Markets are usually covered so you will need to raise your camera’s ISO. This will ensure that you have a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. I aim for at least 1/80 but more likely 1/100 to be sure that I won’t have blurred images. But be wary of raising your ISO too high as you’ll be risking noise in your final image. I would suggest that you test your camera at different ISO settings before shooting so that you can get an idea of how high you can go before the noise becomes unacceptable. This image was taken with an ISO 400 at 1/100 sec.

2. Focus correctly

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When taking close up shots, make sure that you focus on the element you are highlighting so that the rest of the image is blurred around it. This gives a pleasing final result and helps to ensure that your main feature of the image stands out. The key is that one element of the image must be sharp in order to provide a contrast against the blurriness of the rest.

3. Capture the moment

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One of the reasons I love photographing markets is that you can capture people going about their everyday job. Try and capture market vendors as they are serving their customers, making food or crafts, taking money and so on. This will help your image tell a story and feel much more intriguing. But rather than walk up and start photographing, if they are not busy, take the time talk to them, ask them questions and then at the end ask if it’s OK to take some pictures. This will allow you to have their blessing and allow you to take your time and capture the right moment.

4. Look for new angles

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Don’t be afraid to look for new angles to photograph things from. Crouch down and look up or stand right over things. Things will look completely different than when we see them at eye level. The shot below is some chopsticks which you can find in most markets in South East Asia. I stood right above the chopsticks and photographed them looking straight down. This has produced a much more abstract and interesting image then if I shot them at eye level.

5. Don’t forget the customers

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It is easy to forget about the customers when photographing markets, but capturing the crowds can give another prospective to your collection. So look for interesting situations which show customers interacting with the vendors, counting money or browsing the goods for sale. The image below is from a clothes market in Bangkok where I got right into the crowd to capture the business and mayhem of this market.

6. Fill your frame

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Look for interesting and colourful stalls and fill your entire frame with the products on sale. These types of photos are not only visually fantastic but also help your overall collection of photos from the market to tell a story. There are so many things that you can photograph such as fruit, vegetables, meats, sweets and souvenirs, but just remember to get close and focus correctly.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Kav Dadfar is a travel and landscape photographer based in London, England. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising. His images are represented by 4Corners Images, Getty, Axiom Photographic and Alamy. Connect with him on his website and Facebook page.

Some older comments

  • Ranjith

    November 9, 2012 04:18 am

    I somehow liked the market place advt in Malaysia.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/msranjith/7083429767/in/photostream

  • Jason

    November 2, 2012 11:52 am

    Of all my market photography, this is my favorite:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/shakesgrear/6000082588/in/set-72157627335162474

  • Ningsih Tahir

    November 1, 2012 04:48 pm

    Great article.

    These were taken in Pasar Central Sorong, Papua, Indonesia
    http://kokifrustasi.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/makan-papeda-di-sorong/

    and Fish Market Makassar, Indonesia
    http://kokifrustasi.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/foto-pelelangan-makassar-dan-telur-ikan-terbang/

  • Jeff E Jensen

    October 29, 2012 11:29 pm

    Excellent pointers! It always amazes me the kind of images that you can find if you just look for them. In addition to markets, a lot of other stores can be great opportunities. Craft and hobby stores tend to be filled with great patterns and designs.

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2011/03/meat-market.html

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2011/02/art-supplies.html

  • Jeanie

    October 28, 2012 05:44 pm

    Love the 'fill the frame' look. Keen to try out these suggestions. Thanks to this blog I am slowly getting my head around my digital camera.

    I photographed an indoor market and found the lighting tricky. Was really surprised by how well some images turned out. I was a bit flustered by the whole thing...introducing myself and getting permission to photograph their wares (it was a small and intimate market).

    http://www.inspiredwish.com/2012/07/creative-design-market-wintergarden.html

  • Ebram

    October 28, 2012 03:32 pm

    Such a useful tips, thanks.

  • Jai Catalano

    October 28, 2012 09:15 am

    The tomatoes are vibrant.

    Sometimes you can find pretty deer in a market.

    http://portraitinspiration.com/inspiration-for-the-day-17/

  • Scottc

    October 28, 2012 04:24 am

    Great article, markets are one of my favorite places!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157631865360386/

  • Marcelo Lyra

    October 28, 2012 03:21 am

    These were taken in a public market at Fortaleza, Brazil.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/aryl_olecram/5460147144/in/photostream
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/aryl_olecram/5459540919/in/photostream

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/aryl_olecram/5459543679/in/photostream

  • Mridula

    October 28, 2012 02:49 am

    Was missing on the ISO bit. But I love to fill the frame. Some pictures from the Central Market, Terengganu, Malaysia.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/10/food-from-the-central-market-terengganu-malaysia.html

  • Steve

    October 28, 2012 01:57 am

    Zulu market

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/KwaZuluNatal/G0000Zvtpv7ROqno/I0000Q0JarbWTT2U/C0000D2MMb2JEuew

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