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Markets are one of my favourite places to photograph, whether I am at home or abroad. The opportunities for photos are endless, and they’re a great place for capturing the hustle and bustle of a city. This is often where you’ll see a real glimpse of everyday life, away from the tourist hot spots. But low light conditions, not mention the amount of shoppers and visitors, can make markets challenging places to photograph. Here are 7 tips to help you capture better photos of markets.
One of the great things about photographing markets is the opportunity to capture fleeting moments, like for example, the interaction between a vendor and customer or the vendor making something. These moments that are often missed by the naked eye are unique, so capturing them in a photograph gives the viewer a real glimpse into everyday life.
The key is to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to present itself. If the vendor isn’t busy, start by talking to them, ask them questions, and at the end ask if it is okay to take some photos. Not only will you have their blessing, but it will mean you can take your time. Be aware of not getting in the way of their customers, or interrupting them if they are making a sale. After all, this is their job.
Often your biggest challenge when photographing markets is the low light conditions, as most markets are usually covered (indoors). To ensure that your photos are sharp and avoid camera shake, you need to make sure you have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action, while hand-holding the camera. Often this can only happen if you raise your ISO setting. Your aim should always be to only raise your ISO to the minimum you need, to allow you to capture the photo at the shutter speed you require. Remember that the higher your ISO, the more noise you will get in your photos.
With everything that is happening in the scene, you need to ensure that you focus correctly to avoid your image looking cluttered and busy, and blurred. If you are taking a photo of a market stall, make sure it is focused on that, and not the surroundings or the foreground. Or if you are photographing something close-up, use a wide aperture to blur some of the background, to make the main point of interest stand out.
Markets are usually filled with vibrant food, produce, and products that look stunning in photographs. So, always be on the lookout for interesting patterns or colours that allow you to get close enough to fill your entire frame. Not only do these photos look fantastic visually, but they also show textures and details that people often do not see.
One of the pitfalls of photographing a market is that all of your photos look the same, for example, they are all portraits of the vendors, or close-ups of food. Try to capture a range of subjects like the customers, or even the outside of the market. A good way to ensure you capture a variety is to work through a shot list. For example, you could set yourself a target of three photos from each scenario (i.e. three close-ups, three portraits and three environmental portraits). This will ensure that you cover a wide set of scenarios, and give your collection more variation.
Markets are usually incredibly busy, so if you want to have more space, or capture photographs of the market with less people, arrive early. Depending on the market, if you arrive early enough you often will get the entire market to yourself. Sometimes if the vendors are already set up, they will be much happier to talk to you, as they are less busy as well. But don’t forget that markets are supposed to be busy, that’s what makes them such a great place to be, so always try capturing them during the busy period as well.
Things happen quickly in markets, whether that’s a vendor making a sale, a customer tasting food, or that small window of opportunity when people are not walking across your shot, so make sure you are always ready. This means having your camera on, with the lens cap off, and the settings set up so that you can capture the moment, without having to mess around to get your camera out of your bag. Obviously though, be mindful of the people around you, as thieves do operate in busy environments.
Markets are wonderful places for photographers. Some of my best ever selling photos have been taken at markets close to my home. Markets are usually one of first places of interest I look at when researching any destination. So the next time you are stuck for where to go and photograph, head out to your local market – you might be surprised by how many great photos you come back with.
It’s your turn now. Show us your great market photos below?