7 Tips to Help You Take Better Photos of Markets

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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.

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1. Look for Moments

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.

Be patient and wait for the right moment to capture those fleeting moments.

Be patient and wait for the right instant to capture those fleeting moments.

2. Raise your ISO setting

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.

3. Focus correctly

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.

Make

Take your time and make sure that you have focused correctly to ensure the right part of the photo is sharp.

4. Look for patterns and colours

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.

Don't be afraid to really zoom in and capture textures and patterns up close.

Don’t be afraid to really zoom in and capture textures and patterns up close.

5. Variety is key

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.

Be on the look out for things in and around markets that can help add variety to your collection.

Be on the look out for things in, and around, markets that can help add variety to your collection.

6. Arrive early

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.

7. Always be ready

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.

Make sure your camera is on, with the lens cap off so you are ready to take a photo at any moment.

Make sure your camera is on, with the lens cap off, so you are ready to take a photo at any moment.

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?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and traveling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express, and many others.

  • Daniel Moisa

    cherry blossom sale in columbia road flower market 🙂

  • Kav Dadfar

    Terrific shot that captures the moment perfectly. Composed really well as the woman’s arms leads your eyes to the vendor and I love the expression on his face. Perfectly executed, great work. Well done.

  • Joe Routon

    Kav, I always enjoy your articles, and I never fail to learn something new from them. Here’s a photo I made a few years ago in a market in Palermo, Sicily.

  • Annie Metcalfe

    One from a couple of years ago in Osh Bazaar, Kyrgyzstan

  • From a very crowded flower market in Varanasi India…

  • Michael

    This one from unforgettable vacation in South America Peru 2012. The woman is very unique Uros people tribe member living on the hey floating islands of lake Titicaca at about 12,000 feet above sea level.

  • Michael

    This one from unforgettable vacation in South America Peru 2012. The woman is very unique Uros people tribe member living on the hey floating islands of lake Titicaca at about 12,000 feet above sea level.

  • Lyon S

    Shanghai ,China

  • Lyon S

    Farmers market in Shanghai ,China

  • Lyon S

    Farmers market in Shanghai ,China

  • sanju sood

    One from Old Delhi, India

  • sanju sood

    One from Delhi6, India

  • Lob Rampa
  • Kav Dadfar

    Thanks Joe! I’m glad you like them. Love the photo!!! And well done on getting it sharp. Can’t imagine you had too much light to work with. One suggestion would be to try the photo with a crop a little tighter. I think eliminating an L shape from the left side of the photo might make it feel a little more intimate and gets rid of the distractions on the left. Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Annie
    Kyrgyzstan is one of the places that I have very high up on my wish list. I haven’t had a chance to go yet. You’ve got a nice set of elements here for a good photo, but I really think this photo needs the man facing the other way as I think he gets a bit lost amongst all the things on the right. I’m hoping you managed to capture one showing his face??
    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Wow! That is a lot of flowers. I really like what you have here and I think without the man’s hand it would have been pretty boring. So well done for including it. I would be a little wary of your shadows being underexposed. Try brightening them up a little as there seems like lots of different things around and seems a shame not to see them.

    Kav

  • Hi Kav: Appreciate you taking time and give suggestions about the image… 🙂 All valid points will sure keep in mind next time…

  • Kav Dadfar

    I love this!!! Great shot! Perfect execution and an interesting subject. Just play around with the crop a little and see how the image looks without the person on the left. It just distracts a little from the main focus being the woman. But that’s a minor point. Great work.

    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Awesome. I can feel and smell what it’s like there! One that I wish I had in my portfolio. Great work, well done.
    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    And I prefer the version by the way. A bit more vibrant.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Great shot. Where is this? Timed very well as the woman is in perfect pose (legs and walking stick not crossing over). Good work.

  • Lob Rampa

    Hello Kav! Here in my town: Santos / São Paulo / Brazil. In my country we have weekly a street market in some streets. Was a rainy day. Thanks for the comment! See more of my photos in my flickr! Greetings from Brazil!

  • Michael

    Thank you Kav! This was taken with my old Canon EOS 20D and before I bought my favorite EOS Full Frame 6D.

  • Virgilio Rodriguez

    Street Market in Paris…

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi, yes I did actually have a look at your flickr photos. You have some great shots especially the B&W portraits. And I love the photo of the man sitting at the end of the pier. Great work!

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Virgilio, thanks for sharing. What a great market stall, so perfectly set up. Don’t be afraid to get in closer. You’ve got some nice elements here but I think you’re too far away. You could get really close to the produce and pick up the lovely textures. And don’t forget to try and involve the market vendor. Kav

  • Lob Rampa

    Thank you again your words! I wish have more time to photography… Hugs from Brazil.

  • Virgilio Rodriguez

    Hi Kav, Thanks for answer my post, you are right, there are several elements to pick up the textures. changing perpective and getting closer, in fact I took some pictures following your advise

  • glennsphotos

    Enjoyeed your article and great critiques of the photos above. Heres one I liked from Chinatown NY last month

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi, glad you liked the article. Really like this shot especially the fact that she isn’t looking at the camera. For me that is why it works if she was looking at the camera the photo would feel a little too symmetrical. I could easily see this as a series of street photos around that area! Great work.

  • Kathy

    I need help. I will be taking pictures this weekend at the aquarium. I’m not sure what to set my camera on to take pictures from inside where it is dark looking into the water tank. I know I can’t use the flash because it will take away from the beautiful fish whales and dolphins swimming in the tanks. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

  • Ron Vandenbosch

    finally got to read some of the emails. thanks again for the tips, enjoyed reading.
    Chooks on Belitung Island

  • Häshim Pûdiyãpûr?

    Here is one from the Dubai fruit and vegetable market. This one is from a photo walk organized by Fujifilm and I was test driving their X-T2 camera.

  • These are great tips! Thank you.
    Here’s one from the markets in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db6ba4f41a478441c8ccb11b53b58de4eeabf7acc77e2f48ef5964bd087ba990.jpg

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