Before you leave your hotel, make sure the market's open and have a quick glance at the weather forecast as it won't be much fun walking around a market when it's raining rather heavy. Although fewer people will venture out to open air markets when it's wet so you'll have more room to work. If you're going on a market trip that's organised by an excursion company you won't have much say in when you can visit the market. Plan your own trip however, and you can arrive for when it opens, giving you more room to work and the produce will be fresher which means your shots will look more appetising. If it is really, really busy step back or find a higher spot to work from and shot a few wide shots of the hustle and bustle.
Be aware of your surroundings
Don't leave your camera bag unattended and if it's really busy, it's a good idea to do the tourist trick of spinning your bag to your front. Yes, you may look a little silly but it's better than finding all of your gear's gone from your bag. Taking a bag that doesn't scream: 'look I'm carrying expensive equipment' is a good idea too.
It's important not to get distracted by one particular stall either. Market's are generally big places and they'll be more than one location that's worth getting your camera out of its bag for.
Photo by David Burleson - Your market photos don't just have to be of food stalls.
As most markets you find on your travels will be outdoors you'll need to watch your exposure as the contrast between a stall which will probably be undercover and the open space around can change drastically. As a result, your camera will see the bright surroundings and underexpose the shot, making the stall appear a lot darker than it actually is. You may find using the exposure lock function and then re-composing as necessary should fix the problems that may occur. If you're indoors exposure shouldn't be a problem but you will need to watch your white balance to make sure the lights aren't tinting the tone of your image.
When it comes to flash, it's best to avoid using it, particularly as you most likely will only have the one that's built into your camera and the harshness of it can ruin the atmosphere of the scene you're trying to capture. You're better off just using a slightly ISO and getting the monopod out if you have problems with shake.
Stepping away from the cover of the stalls to somewhere higher up, if possible, will give you the chance to shoot some shots that establish exactly where you are. If it's in a square surrounded by buildings try and get these in your shot and use the long lines created by the stalls to lead the eye through the image too.
The beauty with markets is the stall holder wants to sell their products so usually they present them well, which means all you have to do is take the shot. Look out for colours that compliment each other, interesting patterns and the textures on offer in the produce on display.
If you want to shoot portraits always ask before you take your photos, be polite and don't get in the stall holder's way. If they say no don't argue and keep pushing as this will only annoy them and you'll probably find someone else will be more than happy for you to take their photo on another stall. If you're finding communication's a problem a big smile and holding your camera up can often get your message across quite easily.
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