Markets are hives of activity, with customers and traders bustling around stalls and fresh produce. They are full of life and colour, giving you a great chance to capture the daily lives of locals. It is a great chance to practice your architectural, portrait and food photography in a lively and exposed setting. Let’s take a look at a few tips to help you along the way!
Step 1 – Pick a Market
The first thing to do is find the right market to visit, which sound a bit obvious, but it will have a significant affect on the shots you get. You may want to visit somewhere local, so you’ll know what you’re going to find, but from past experience it’s far more exciting to visit somewhere new – maybe as a tourist on holiday, but maybe just somewhere down the road that you’ve never visited. This will give you a fresh perspective and alertness to the market and photographic opportunities.
Be sure to check when the market is open, as some don’t operate every day. Check the weather – if you’re heading to an open-air market, it will be far quieter on a rainy day! Also, consider what time of day you want to visit, markets are often very busy as they open in the morning and all the produce is fresh.
Step 2 – Gather Your Gear
You don’t need to have any specific gear – any camera will do, but there are a few things to bear in mind. It’s much better to get right up close to the action rather than using a long lens as you’ll get a much better feel for composition and textures when you’re part of the action. Try to avoid using too much flash. It makes your presence very obvious and you’d be much better off popping up the ISO and using the natural light available.
Step 3 – Be Aware
One of the most important things to remember when photographing in a setting such as a market is to be aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you. There will be plenty of new and exciting things to look at. Let the things that catch your attention draw you in, but don’t spend all your time in one place – keep exploring as you never know what you might find!
Step 4 – Tell a Story
The most important thing is to tell a story with your shots. Try and capture the essence of the place and the people that occupy it. Be sure to take a variety of shots. It can be very tempting to just take close ups of all the fresh produce, but it’s important to get some establishing shots to set the scene and get a wider perspective of the market.
Try looking for significant buildings and how they relate to the market, maybe step away from the stalls or find a high vantage point to look down from. Also, consider the space in and around the market. Is it packed full of people and stalls, or are there large open spaces? Think about how to maximise these in your shots. Try and capture the essence of the place and the people that occupy it.
Step 5 – Fresh Food
The market may well be the best place to photograph fresh food. Depending on where you are in the world, you may see fruit, vegetables, seafood and probably a few flower stalls as well, all laid out and presented beautifully for customers to come and buy.
This makes our job as photographers so much easier. Look for patterns to aid your composition, complimentary colours, shades and tones and the variety of textures in the variety of produce.
Step 6 – Consider the Light
Light can be a photographers dream or nightmare. There’s no telling what the light conditions will be like at a market, it depends on whether you’re indoors, outdoors, whether it’s sunny, whether there are artificial light sources and which way you’re facing in relation to the light sources available.
The important thing to remember is to be aware of the light around you and try to use it to your advantage. Light can make a photograph great, so keep an eye out for that precious stream of light pouring down on your favourite fruit stand!
Step 7 – Chat and Converse!
A market is not only a place for consumers to buy produce; it’s also a place that many people build their livelihoods around. So as well as a chance to buy some fresh food, it’s an amazing opportunity to meet and capture some amazing characters. Don’t be afraid to get chatting to people and find out a bit more about them or their day. Building up a rapport will ease any tension or pressure in the situation.
Take time to observe people at work; are there certain people with defining features to highlight, or a particular character trait that you want to highlight? Keep shooting, but be patient and wait for that little movement or action to bring the shot to life.
Step 8 – Don’t Be a Pain!
There are a few guidelines when photographing in the market, but obviously use these at your own discretion based on where you’re shooting.
Try not to get in anyone’s way. It can be easy to become unaware of what’s going on around you when you’ve got a camera stuck up to your face, so remember that these people are trying to make a living! Be polite, it’s always best to ask before taking a direct shot or portrait, maybe even compliment them on their stall before diving in with the camera.
Step 9 – Don’t Get Trampled (or Pick-pocketed)
Markets can be extremely busy places, so try to make sure you know what’s going on around you. Keep your equipment at close hand and don’t display too much gear unnecessarily as they can be a temptation for pickpockets. It might even be worth taking a friend with you to share inspiration and keep an eye out for each other.
Once you think you’ve got all the shots you want it’s time to think about heading home, but don’t pack away your camera until the last minute, as you never know what you might see on your way out, the carnage at the end of the day might just be the final shot you’ve been looking for.
Step 10 – Enjoy Yourself!
Finally, try to enjoy your time at the market. They can be extremely vibrant and enjoyable places to spend time at. Don’t forget to take your wallet and enjoy the produce on offer!
Always be creative – look out for opportunities to try some different techniques, for example, movement in a confined area might lend itself to a motion blur. It may feel like an uncomfortable situation to put yourself in to start with, but if you embrace the variety or photographic options on offer I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.