Capturing the Shopping Experience with Storytelling Images

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Shopping-Photo-Tips

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.

Shopping-Photo-Tips

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.

Shopping-Photo-Tips

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.

Close-ups

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.

Shopping-Photo-Tips

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.

Shopping-Photo-Tips

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 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.

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  • Geoff

    Thanks for the interesting article Kav. Plenty of handy tips. I’d like to expand on a couple of points however; firstly the one about asking permission. That’s fine for still images – fruit and veg or clothed mannequins – but a real killer for any spontaneity in shoppers and guaranteed to result in stiff poses and cheesy smiles. Secondly is the comment about unwanted reflections. If you’re searching for sharp images of shop window contents then I agree 100%, but to create atmosphere there’s probably nothing better than capturing reflections of the immediate surroundings. Below is an photo taken recently which indicates what I mean.

  • I love this. I am disabled so I don’t get out much; when I do go I document my trips. I recently went to a food store for the first time in 7 years and was blown away. Some of my photos are okay but after reading this, I hope to get better. Thank you!

  • Shreeharan

    A mango market in Northern Sri Lanka

  • Charlie Barker

    Saturday Market St.Albans

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    Some great tips here. I endorse the comment about shopping malls; on one early expedition for the NZ Scouts Photography School (I am a tutor), as it was a rainy day, we took our Scouts to Westfield Mall in Lower Hutt and let them try to capture some interesting images. It wasn’t long before the security guards came along, and threw us out because the Scouts had been taking pictures of jewellers’ shops, banks, and other places!
    I also agree about capturing the interaction between buyer and seller. Here’s a shot I took in a market in Bendigo, Australia. One can imagine the conversation between these two men. The only problem was the dark shade cast by the canopy over the stall.

  • Sue Hunt

    Also you are not permitted to take photo’s at the Victoria Market in Melbourne. Even when it is empty. I was asked to put my camera away and move along when trying to photograph the empty buildings which looks amazing.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Thanks for sharing Sue. Some markets can be funny about taking photos. There’s a few in London that don’t allow photography.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Bob, there are a couple of big Westfield malls in London and neither allow photography. It’s a shame as the buildings and interiors are stunning. You can adjust the brightness in post production using Lightroom or Photoshop. I would also crop in a bit to really focus the attention onto the interaction. Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Nice shot and the timing is great. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Now this is my type of market! I have never been to Sri Lanka but it on my list. Lovely shot, but I would crop in a little to really focus on the 3 guys! Well done.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Jackie, I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it useful! Make sure you share your images! Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Geoff. Good points (and a great photo). The great thing about photography is that there are no hard and fast rules and every scene can be creatively changed. Thanks for sharing. Kav

  • Shreeharan

    Dear Kav Dadfar, thanks for you comment. I agree with your crop.

  • Charlie Barker

    Thanks Kav.

  • I’m new at this so I may do things wrong. I’ve had a Flickr account for years but never really used it to add images – your comment encourages me.

  • I put this in Public Domain Dedication. Thank you, Kav, for your comment!

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    Kav, thanks for your comments. I don’t have lightroom, and I had already lightened the photo quite a bit in Paintdotnet, but I found if I went too far it spoilt the rest of the image. I have cropped the image as you said, and it does change the emphasis, but I’ve kept the original too. I also changed it to a landscape layout, but that took away the feel of a market stall.

  • ColininOz

    A canal food vendor in a wooden boat, a wood burning barbecue, and moored three deep so that the purchaser’s cash or in this case credit card is passed across to the vendor and the food purchase passed back. A fire hazard of some magnitude. Thailand near Bangkok

  • thukpa

    Outdoor market in (old) Jyekundo, Tibet, 2004

  • thukpa

    Outdoor market in (old) Jyekundo, Tibet 2004

  • Kav Dadfar

    I can only imagine what an amazing place this is! Nice shot. Don’t be afraid to get closer. Thanks for sharing

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi, I know this place well and have been there a couple of time. Amazing place isn’t it! Try to remember the rule of thirds so that you can draw the viewers eyes to the point in the photo that you want them to see. Good work. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi bob, yes always keep the original. if you use Lightroom it allows you to create as many duplicates as you want so you can multiple crops. I think the third ones works really well. You’ve got the interaction and a bit of context around the photo. Well done.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Nice. And I like the vignette you’ve got as it draws the eyes to the middle of the photo. Keep it up.

  • Gunamala

    Market in lalbagh(Bangalore, India) flower show..

  • Kav Dadfar

    Nice work. I love the vibrant colours. For the second and third shot I would just get in a little closer. But good work. Kav

  • Marwa Elchazly

    This lady is selling textiles in one of the largest local market where i live in Alexandria-Egypt, she’s smiling cause we had little conversation before shooting
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5b009757de883825df1df80669f2f4ba82b829022cd8327a384cb4dfc71e5e90.jpg

  • Marwa Elchazly

    another example from the same market (Alexandria-Egypt)…But the vendor was taking a nap and the mannequin was taking care of him!!!!
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8c260c94702d16c9ce53f34988831903bd480e295d076b402fcc5d0aaa74e89e.jpg

  • Kav Dadfar

    Very nice. What a great backdrop those textiles make. Well done.

  • Kav Dadfar

    How funny. This is one of those moments where you are glad that you have your camera. I think you should have framed the shot around that i.e. got closer and really focused on the hand and the man sleeping as it can easily get missed. But well done anyway for spotting it!

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