At the time of writing this article, we’re just entering my favorite time of year: Autumn. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the temps are starting to drop, rainclouds are beginning to move in, and my favorite seasonal veggies and ales are making their way to the tabletops of my local farmers market. I’m very fortunate to live in close proximity to a wonderfully quaint one called Hollywood Farmers Market. On most Saturday mornings, Nicole and I will meander on over to with cameras in hand and create art out of produce. With all the beautiful and mesmerizing arrays of colors and patterns, there are plenty of photographic opportunities. After several visits, I came up with a list of 5 photo tips to keep in mind when you visit your next farmers market.
1. Play colors off each other
Often times, produce being sold by vendors is stacked and bulked together. This means lots of the same colors and shapes bundled in your frame, which may translate into difficulty for your viewers. Your goal is to create a visually striking and appetizing photo and a great way to do this is to pit colors against each other. I know some vendors who actually take great care in the way they arrange their produce so that it looks beautiful (more on that later), and you should totally take advantage of that. I recommend familiarizing yourself with color theory and the color wheel to help know which color pairings complement each other best.
2. Shoot at parallel
I’ve found that one of the most pleasing ways to photograph a lot of produce is simply by positioning your lens parallel to the surface. Usually, this translates into me shooting directly above or flatly facing my subject. Instead of relying on angles, you can present a flattened composition which lets the characteristics of the produce do all the work. In a way, you could think of it as photographing a perfect cross section of what’s on the table.
3. Embrace angled leading lines
To expand ways to photograph produce at a farmers market beyond what we just covered in Tip #2, another compelling way to compose is by incorporate leading lines that are angled. This is a great way to add a bit of a dynamic feel to these photos and helps aid in drawing the viewer’s eyes through the frame.
4. Reposition produce when needed
Given the craziness and chaos that can come with stacking a bunch of produce together, a tip like this simply needs to be included as a reminder that it IS OK to rearrange and reposition the items so that they fit better within your frame. Obviously, you’ll want to be a good citizen and ask for permission from the vendor first before moving their stuff around, and I’ve had nothing but positive responses whenever I’ve asked. Just be courteous and mindful with what you move around and try to put things back the way they were if you moved anything out of frame.
5. Get to know your vendors and fellow patrons
One of my favorite things about visiting the Hollywood Farmers Market is the friendliness exuded by everyone there. Every time I go, people are chatting, laughing, and discussing facts or trading stories about the produce that they’re about to purchase. I try to make it a point to strike up conversations with the people around me, if only to make myself seem more approachable with the camera in my hands. Plus, you never know what fun stories you’ll be told. For example, one vendor shared with me the brief story about why Italian plums are no longer called Italian prunes (apparently, there’s a council that determines such matters). And when another vendor saw me arranging some produce, he started explaining that he uses color theory when determining how to arrange his veggies, as well as stacks them using irrational numbers.
I can’t recommend it enough to seek out your own town’s farmers markets when you have a chance. All you need to do is bring your camera, a good attitude and some cash to support these local vendors. Plus, you’ll be getting some of the freshest fruit and veggies around!
Additionally, I work for Sony as the Alpha Team's Social & Content Strategist and am a member of Sony’s Artisans of Imagery program. I also contribute regularly to Photofocus, Lynda.com and a variety of other online and print publications.
Admittedly, I have [not-so] tiny obsessions with long-exposure photography, neutral density filters and fisheye lenses. Basically, my passion is helping others help themselves with their pursuits of photography.
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