Tips for Photographing the Best of Markets
Markets are predictable and good subjects for photography. They are places overwhelmed by products and people. They have local features, seasonal aspects, and they are easy to find. Central Asia bazaars resisted well beyond empires did. Although Asian markets are famous, you can find attractive markets all around the world, from the common vegetable market to flower markets and cheese markets.
Many travel photographers look for inspiration in local markets. If you want to learn from the masters, admire the work of Steve McCurry. Observe not only the subject, but also the focal point, the angle of view, the colors. You’ll see that a simple market, not even a rich one, can be an amazing subject if you know to tell its story.
Markets as a Photographic Subject
There are many types of markets and they all have their charm. Don’t look for a specific aspect, rather look for details. For example, an Asian market will have for sure spices and condiments. In Holland you may find cheese markets. Flower markets are also everywhere. You may also find temporary markets (or Sunday markets) where local producers bring their merchandise (from fruits and vegetables to wine and sweets). There are book markets, antique markets, and don’t forget Christmas markets. They all are usually crowded with people and products. Full of color and energy, markets vibrate. That’s your subject: energy.
Timing is also important when you choose to photograph markets. Early morning may be a good time for some traditional markets. Others may look better at night (Christmas markets, for example). Try to synchronize your photo session with the market’s rhythm.
Color, Texture, and Pattern
When it comes to markets, colors, textures, and patterns are your best allies. Markets have a specific geometry, which is great to frame. Try not to cut things at the edge of your images. Respect the rule of thirds when necessary. But keep an eye for textures and patterns, fill the frame with them. Colors are also outstanding in markets. Use color enhancing filters and pay attention to lighting. You won’t be able to use a tripod in a busy market, so keep the shutter speed as fast as possible. Look for lighting sources available on site. The flash isn’t very helpful when you photograph people from a short distance.
Markets are about people more than they are about products. Your images don’t have to look like a commercial. Besides, in a market you have so many types of people. From local producers to fancy shoppers, from beggars to tourists, they all are characters and deserve a role in your composition. If you photograph from a very short distance, ask for permission. It’s a good rule for any kind of close-up portrait, especially if you are in a foreign country.
You may also want to photograph people working, hands over the merchandise, people carrying baskets or bags, traditional costumes, and any other part of a market’s life.
Markets are colorful places, both challenging and rewarding. Don’t carry too much equipment with you. You won’t need more than a camera, a wide lens, and some filters. Use a messenger bag instead of a backpack. It’s a good idea to visit the site several times, at different moments of the day. You’ll get to choose what most interests you: a crowded place, noisy, and energetic or a peaceful market, just after opening or just before closing, with everything in place. It’s up to you and to your artistic view. Don’t forget that any market has its own atmosphere and stories. Your images should reflect them in a realistic and charming way.