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Shooting Sylhet vegetable market

For the past 4 years we have been bringing our students to the Sylhet vegetable market in North Bangladesh. To this day, this remains one of our favourite locations to photograph in Asia. Here we explain why.

Extremely friendly people

The vegetables there come straight from the farms, and the people bringing them there have bought them directly to the farmers. They usually do not come from the city so they are very rarely exposed to tourist coming to take photos.

As I explained in a previous post, Bangladesh is the best country on the planet to improve your people photography skills, basically because everyone wants to be photographed. Sylhet vegetable market is no exception, and this allows us to dedicate more time working on our compositions without having to interact with our subjects much.

Portrait of a man carrying vegetables in Sylhet market

Lots of action for lots of photography opportunities

Sylhet vegetable market is extremely busy from the earliest hours of the day. We normally show up there at about 6 am, when the light is right and the activity at its paramount. What we can witness from the outside is all the trucks bring the vegetables from the countryside, and all the people unloading these trucks.

Once they have downloaded the trucks, some men will carry the vegetables to the stand where they will be sold. This creates several different photo opportunities, that will repeat each other over and over again, a perfect scenario to work on a composition idea and make it work!

Workers unload vegetables in Sylhet market, Bangladesh

A great place to learn about layering and storytelling

Once again, because of all the activity which is repeating itself over and over again, Sylhet vegetable market is a great location to try and layer as many subjects as possible in the frame. This will create more interesting compositions, as well as better story telling images.

What we recommend here is to try and find a static frame in the foreground, so you only have to wait for a few other people to be in the right place in your background. We have described this technique here. It is also recommended to work with a simple background (in this case, the sky) to come up with cleaner images.

workers taking goods out of the trucks in the vegetable market in Sylhet during a photography tour by Pics of Asia

A great market to play with the light

Because Sylhet vegetable market is half indoor and half outdoor, we have a lot of chances to play with the light. A lot of shopkeepers set up their stands on the edge of the building, allowing the light to hit them and their products but not the background.

This is a perfect opportunity to expose for the highlights and come up with pitch black backgrounds. Now, the only thing we need is to place the people through our frame, avoiding juxtaposition.

Composing great images in Sylhet vegetable market with Pics of Asia

Make sure you don’t miss the local tea shops around the market

At Pics of Asia, we would never start a morning photo session without coffee or tea. Lucky for us, neither do the Bengali people! Lots of tea shops are available around the market, offering food and drinks.

They also offer great photo opportunities, as most people are very keen to come and have a chat with us. Creating interaction with people is very easy, and so is taking their photos.

Taking photos in the tea shops of Bangladesh with Pics of Asia photography tour

Sylhet is one of our favourite city in Bangladesh because it is much more relaxed than the bigger cities. The vegetable market is one of the highlights of the city, and we will make sure to go back again and again on our photography tour in Bangladesh!

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Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.

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