10 Tips for Stunning Street Market Photography (+ Examples)

There are very few places in the world that offer the same kind of visual stimulation and human interaction as street markets – but how can you create stunning street market photography? How can you distill the commotion into meaningful images?

I love capturing the beauty of these markets, and in this article, I share my top tips for gorgeous results, including:

  • How to Choose the Perfect Photo Equipment for the Street Market
  • An easy way to find beautiful and unique photo opportunities
  • How to Capture Seller Portraits
  • Much more!

I also include many photo examples throughout the article; this way you can see exactly what my advice will do for you.

Let’s start!

(Note: You can also use these tips to take great photos of farmers markets. So even if you’re not planning on photographing an actual “street market”, keep reading!)

street market photography

1. Look for the little things

When photographers head to street markets, they’re often looking for colorful items like stunning flowers and bright red fruit – but while these can certainly make for great photos, you shouldn’t stray too far from the others, more subtle topics.

Remember: when captured with care and thought, little nicknames, little patterns in displays, and interactions between people can be very interesting!

mushroom close-up and wide shot

If you have trouble finding more intimate subjects to photograph, try standing in one spot for a few minutes. Observe the scene around you and only capture subjects that you can see from your vantage point. Soon you will begin to identify beautiful subjects everywhere!

2. Include vendors in your photos

Every time I visit a street market, I meet interesting people: artisans, artists, creatives and bakers. These folks are an essential part of the market, and while their wares might look more eye-catching and camera-ready, it’s worth capturing street portraits of vendors whenever you get the chance!

street market photography shop booth

You can always take pictures from a distance, but I like to walk up to the seller, be friendly, and ask permission before taking a few pictures. (If you’re in another country and don’t speak the language, you can often just wave at your camera.) Most people are nice and willing, but be respectful and ask first. Once they agree, take a few shots and when you’re done, say thank you.

Also, if you get a “No”, that’s okay – just respect the seller, be polite, and move on.

3. Capture a variety of images

Although a street market may have some eye-catching features, make sure you don’t spend all your time in one place. Instead, do what you can to tell a story by capturing a mix of subjects, including vendors, visitors, food, items, and more.

fruits in cups for sale

I would also recommend working with a few lenses for extra variation. Capture wide-angle shots that help define the scene, then switch to a 50mm lens for select portraits of vendors and visitors. And break out your macro (or closest focus) lens for product details.

street market in india

If it helps, consider yourself a photojournalist trying to capture the essence of the market!

4. Do research beforehand

Street markets are like any other subject – which means that if you want the best shots, you need to spend some time researching the area before you visit.

If the street market is popular, check guidebooks or online forums for pictures, maps, market opening times, etc. And if the market is small, find a website or Facebook page and consider asking people on the street what they know about it.

(In fact, in my experience, people on the street can be an amazing resource! Just be sure to plan ahead what questions you want to ask.)

If the market is really huge, try to determine the most interesting stalls in advance, then plan your route to make the most of your trip.

And if you have plenty of time, head to the area without a camera and create a list of mental (or physical) shots. So when you come with your camera, you know exactly where to go.

man selling noodles

Street markets are fast-paced, which means there’s often something interesting going on. This too means that if you spend time fiddling with your settings and experimenting with different buttons, you’ll miss all the best opportunities.

So learn the ins and outs of your street camera in advance. Find out where all the buttons and dials are and how to use them to get the shots you’re looking for. Learn to anticipate how different lenses will “see” the scene (so you can quickly choose the best lens for the job).

Additionally, markets can present major lighting challenges; you often move between sun and shade, and you don’t have much control over your subjects. So be prepared to quickly change your settings (here, the Aperture Priority mode can be a big help!).

man painting at street market stall

6. Buy something

If you want to photograph vendors but are too shy or uncomfortable to try the approach I shared above, consider making a purchase. In my experience, even a small purchase can help build rapport, which you can then turn into a photo opportunity.

market vendors

Again, ask for clear permission, and if the seller says “No”, just let them go and walk away. If they say “Yes”, though – and they often will! – they will often be more relaxed and willing to pose given that you have purchased one of their products.

7. Choose the right equipment

Most street markets are on the street and span several blocks, which means you’ll spend a lot of time walking around – and you don’t you want to carry tons of gear because after an hour or two your bag will start to feel very, very heavy.

(And if you end up buying items from vendors, the weight will only increase!)

My recommendation? Just bring a camera and two or three strong street photography lenses. I like to use a zoom in these situations (a 24-70mm is a great choice) or a few small lenses (like a 50mm and a 35mm). This way I’ve covered the main focal lengths, but I’m not struggling under the weight of a full camera bag.

people selling items in a street market

8. Choose the right settings

Markets are often covered or indoors, so you will sometimes be shooting in low light. Therefore, I recommend that you be generous with your ISO; don’t be afraid to increase it as needed. Street photography is often done in a documentary style anyway, where a bit of noise can really add to the images.

fruit stalls in a market

You can also widen your aperture, but don’t go so far that you blur all the beautiful details. And be sure to increase your shutter speed enough to keep moving subjects sharp (you’ll probably want to shoot at 1/250s and up).

Also be sure to keep lighting in mind. You may have to contend with a variety of lighting situations, including sun, shade, and tungsten bulbs. To make your life easier, consider using your camera’s automatic white balance mode. This will usually do a good job, and as long as you’re working in RAW, you can tweak the white balance in post-production.

9. Pay attention to your compositions

Street markets can be very distracting, so it’s easy to start clicking without considering composition – but that’s a mistake.

carts at a street market

Instead, whenever you have time to think about the composition of the image, do so. For each shot, aim to:

  • Deliberately position your main subject in the frame (consider using the rule of thirds)
  • Remove all problematic distractions
  • Push the viewer’s eye towards the main subject

And try shooting from different angles: top, bottom, or even from the hip. Changing perspective is a great way to add variety to your photos!

street market photography

10. Be aware of your surroundings and stay safe

Street markets tend to be crowded places, and a photographer with expensive gear and a fancy backpack sticks out like a sore thumb.

So even when capturing footage, keep an eye on your gear! Make sure your camera bag or backpack is securely closed and hold your camera in front of you (rather than letting it hang over your shoulder). Keep your valuables close to you and make sure wallets and smartphones are stowed away.

This way you can prevent your street market experience from going sour.

Street Market Photography: Final Words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know how to create amazing street market photos.

So remember the tips I shared. Plan a trip to the street market. Have fun!

Which of these tips do you plan to use first? Share your opinion in the comments below!

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