Adelaide Central Market Excursion – Bruce Nankervill

  • swbFriday January 20 at 6.30pm
  • Meet on the lawns in front of Sir Samuel Way Building – (cnr Gouger St. & Victoria Sq – S/W corner) 
  • Linked to the ’50 Shades of Orange’ Competition on February 2

Markets are fascinating places to photograph, they are hives of activity and full of life and colour. However, the low light conditions and busy atmosphere can make photographing markets somewhat challenging.

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. Think about how to maximise these in your shots. Try and capture the essence of the place and the people that occupy it.

To help you get it right on the night, here are a few hopefully helpful tips:

  1. Raise your ISO

As the market is covered you will need to raise your camera’s ISO. This will ensure that you have a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. Be wary of raising your ISO too high as you’ll be risking noise in your final image. We would suggest that you test your camera at different ISO settings before shooting so that you can get an idea of how high you can go before the noise becomes unacceptable. Additionally you will need a shutter speed of perhaps 1/80 or higher at 1/100 to help ensure you don’t end up with blurred images.


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 adjusting your ISO levels.

  1. Know your white balance.


You may have the most amazing subject and composition in the world, but if the mood and colour temperature are off – an unintended bluish tint, washed out or over-saturated colours – you still have a bad photo. Yes, post-processing can help a bit, but it’s best to get the colour temperature right in the original image.

Even most hand-held cameras allow you to adjust white balance. Play around in advance with these settings so you know which to use in heavily shaded market stalls, under fluorescent lights, etc. Some photographers tend to use cloudy and shade white balance settings most to yield warmer colours.

  1. Focus correctly

When you are taking close up shots be sure to focus on what it is you want to highlight so that the rest of the image is blurred around that focus. This will both give a pleasing result but also will ensure that the main focus of the image stands out. Importantly you want one element of the image to be sharp in order to provide contrast.


  1. Capture the moment

Markets are a great place to capture so many moments. Whether it’s the vendor in the process of serving customers, members of the public perusing all that is on offer or maybe it is some of life’s characters just doing what they do. Perhaps it is people sampling some special cheeses, breads, fruit etc. These moments help your image tell a story and feel much more intriguing.

Rather than walk up to vendors and start photographing, if they are not busy, take time to talk to them, ask them questions and then at the end ask if it’s OK to take some pictures. This will allow you to have their blessing and allow you to take your time and capture the right moment. 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!

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.


  1. Look for new angles

Don’t be afraid to look for new angles for photographs. Crouch down and look up or stand right over things. Things will look completely different than when we see them at eye level. The trick is to test a static subject from several angles to establish which works best for you.


  1. Don’t forget the customers

It is easy to forget about the customers when photographing markets, but capturing the crowds can give another prospective. So look for interesting situations which show customers interacting with the vendors, counting money or browsing the goods for sale.


  1. Fill your frame

frameLook for interesting and colourful stalls and fill your entire frame with the products on sale. These types of photos are not only visually fantastic but will also help your overall collection of photos from the market to tell a story. There are so many things that you can photograph such as fruit, vegetables, meats, sweets and souvenirs, but just remember to get close and focus correctly.

  1. Fresh Food

Look for patterns to aid your composition, complimentary colours, shades and tones and the variety of textures in the variety of produce.


We hope we have given you some ideas to help you capture those magical images at Adelaide Central Market.

To take photographs at the market we were required to seek a permit, which we have. On the night we will hand out a copy to everyone just in case you get challenged.  If you are considerate and courteous there shouldn’t be any problems.

We would suggest no tripods, certainly for inside the market.

This excursion is right in the middle of the Tour Down Under which is based in Victoria Square with many cycling teams staying at the Hilton. This just means there are even more opportunities to find something that interests or that fits with the ’50 Shades of Orange’ competition*.

* Competition definition:

‘50 Shades of Orange’ = The subject can be anything. However, the dominant subject or a significant portion of the image must be orange.

James Allan has written an article on Market photography as well.  This contains further tips and  images from the BPC Central Market excursion in 2010.