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Capturing the Shopping Experience with Storytelling Images


One of the most powerful benefits of photography is being able to capture fleeting moments that happen so quickly, that they are missed by the naked eye, or are so obvious that most people just miss them by walking past. One key area where this happens is around the shopping experience. But, to capture images that really tell a story can be tough. Here are some tips to help you.

From the outside

The majority of the time, the first thing you will notice will be the shop front, but capturing a photo through the glass can be challenging. To avoid getting unwanted reflections, position your camera as close to the glass as possible, trying not to touch the glass for risk of damaging it. Use a polarizing filter and lens hood to help remove unwanted reflections. Compose your image carefully, and try to focus the photo on one element rather than trying to capture the whole window.


Get close to avoid reflections in the glass, and focus on a small part rather than the whole window.

Avoid using a single on-camera flash

One of the great things about places that offer a shopping experience is that they are usually lit by a variety of light sources, which can give a pleasing result. Unfortunately, a single flash on-camera destroys that ambience by making the image seem flat. If the place you are photographing isn’t lit very well, consider using a tripod or alternatively use a higher ISO setting, but make sure you check out your camera’s capabilities at high ISO settings beforehand, to ensure that the noise will be acceptable.

Ask permission

To obtain the best shop or store photographs, get permission from the owner or manager, then you won’t have to rush or upset anyone. Not only is it common courtesy, but also means you may be able to capture a better angle, or use a tripod if you can’t shoot handheld. This is obviously much easier in locally independent stores than big national brands. If the owner is there and they aren’t busy, speak to them and ask them about their business. It is incredible how receptive people are when you show an interest. Buying something first also helps.


Asking permission means you would be able to take your time and even use a tripod to ensure your images are sharp.

Know the rules

One thing to be aware of is that sometimes in shopping malls or certain markets, photography is not allowed. For example, the MBK Center in Bangkok does not allow photography inside, so respect the rules and avoid taking photos. If you do miss the signs and are asked by security not to take photos, apologize, and don’t take any more! Often the rule could be because of religious or security reasons, and it is not worth getting into trouble in a foreign country, when you don’t speak the language.


The advances in cameras and lenses means it is easier than ever to capture close-ups of products, and produce, that people would not see with the naked eye. These types of photos work incredibly well when you fill the entire frame or show close-ups of the details. So don’t be afraid to get close and zoom in, you may find that you capture images that are incredibly unique.


Close-ups are a great way of capturing the shopping experience, and can add variety to your portfolio.

Moment of interaction

It is incredibly rewarding capturing moments that are otherwise missed. These tend to happen when a customer and vendor are interacting. That could be making a sale, trying a sample, or the exchange of money for goods. These are all wonderful stories, which say a lot about the venue but also about the people involved. So always be on the lookout, and make sure your camera’s settings are ready so that as soon as the moment arrives, you are able to capture it.


Capturing moments which are often missed by the naked eye is one of the best ways to showcase the shopping experience.

Shopping probably isn’t the first thing people have on their list to photograph, but considering how much of our daily lives are centered around it, not to mentioned how much it forms our holiday experiences, it should be on everyone’s list. The opportunities are endless and results can be captivating.

What are your tips for capturing the shopping experience? Share your tips and your shopping images below.

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Kav Dadfar
Kav Dadfar

is a professional travel photographer, writer and photo tour leader based in the UK. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images and Robert Harding World Imagery and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and many others. Kav is also the co-founder of That Wild Idea, a company specializing in photography workshops and tours both in the UK and around the world. Find out more at That Wild Idea.

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