Sarasota’s Downtown Farmer’s Market – Sarasota, Florida

As photographers we tend to think that we have to race off to a far way land with lush landscapes populated with exotic wildlife and colorful flowers. Granted, if this opportunity presented itself I’m sure that any photographer could pull off a couple of real show stoppers. On the flip side, if one has photographed their area everything to death, what is left to shoot? There is always something, but we may just have to look a little closer.

I was doing a class for a couple of folks on a Saturday. It was what we call “season” here in Florida. This is when our northern friends come down to visit for a few months. Being season and a weekend day, I had to really think where to go. As with most of my classes, I don’t want people to have to pay for an entrance fee on top of the class fee if possible. Standing there, scratching my head I had an idea. I told everyone to gather their stuff and we were going to meet in downtown Sarasota, Main Street to be exact. What’s so special about this area? On Saturday’s Sarasota has a massive farmers market. It’s quite the thing and there is just about everything you could want.

I told my students to put on the lens that they use the least. I personally attached my trusty Nikon 50mm f/1.4. This is a great all around lens as its light, fast, sharp and not obtrusive. Here’s the thing, if we stick with the one lens that we use all the time, then our creativity will get stuck in a rut and all of the photos will start to look alike. Then there are the folks who have every lens that was ever made from their camera manufacture (you know who you are). Since all of this stuff was purchased, one feels like they have to cart it all over creation “in case I might need it” (again, you know who you are!) I find that part of the challenge of photography is “stripping down” and only using your camera and one lens. This makes it interesting to see what one can come up with. Personally, I like to shoot with primes when I can. If you’re not familiar with what a prime is, they are fix lens or lenses that don’t zoom. These are really sharp and fast focusing. However, I find they are better for the creative process as they require you to move your feet to either zoom in or out. Also, you can hunch down or put the camera above your head and get photos that other wise would have been lost due to “concrete feet”. This is when you plant yourself in one spot and use the zoom to take all of the photos.  I realize that there are times when the only way to get the photo is with a zoom, so I’m not counting them out completely.

Now that we were carrying a basic kit, we had to look for things to shoot. When we were walking around, I mentioned that photographing people may not be the best route or shooting products that people have taken the time to make and package. Some think that you are there to steal ideas and create competition. After discounting these items, what’s left to shoot?

Spencer Pullen photographed these red flowers at the Sarasota Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota, Florida.Flowers – Spencer Pullen © 2105 All Rights Reserved

We came upon a flower vendor and asked if we could take some photos for our class. They gave us the go ahead and we were off. Since there is a lot of “stuff” in the background, I like to shoot at a shallow f-stop to help blur the background. In this case I used f/2.8. This not only blurs the background, but allows to me to shoot at a very fast shutter speed with a low ISO.

Spencer Pullen photographed these limes at the Sarasota Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota, Florida.Limes – Spencer Pullen © 2105 All Rights Reserved

We eventually ran into a fruit vendor and I could see many possibilities. Repeating patterns make a great subject as well. I photographed this at an angle to the baskets to create a diamond shape. In this one photo, there are ovals, squares, diamonds and rectangles. Can you see them all? If you’re wondering, I did touch up some of the blemishes that were on a couple of the limes.

Spencer Pullen photographed these peaches at the Sarasota Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota, Florida.Peaches – Spencer Pullen © 2105 All Rights Reserved

There were baskets of peaches lined up ready for sale. In this case, I wanted to lead the viewer through the frame with  the repeating pattern as before, but I added a blur to the mix. This is very popular in food photography. The next time you go grocery shopping and your in the different departments, look at the promotional photos that they are using. Most of the time they are blurring the background and putting focus on just one or two items. This also makes it easy for graphic designers to overly type and create “art” out of a photo.

Spencer Pullen photographed these potatoes at the Sarasota Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota, Florida.Potatoes – Spencer Pullen © 2105 All Rights Reserved

What struck me was the difference in color. There seemed to be a natural line where one color stopped and the other started. I didn’t touch these up, hey they’re potatoes. They had a hard life, buried in the ground and dug up out of their cozy home to be put on display.

Spencer Pullen photographed these peppers at the Sarasota Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota, Florida.Peppers – Spencer Pullen © 2105 All Rights Reserved

This is a take on color as well, but did you notice what is pulling this photo together? Check out the color of the table, it has a similar color as the peppers. I found this to compliment the main subject, I also left the basket in the frame to let the viewer think that they might have been freshly picked out of the garden. I also used the duplicate basket in the back and blurred it a bit.

There you have it, the local farmers market can really be a treasure trove to get some different type of photos. Always asks before you shoot, it’s just common courtesy. Also, I don’t move any of the items, I leave them as respect to the vendor. I figure they are being nice enough to let me photograph their items, the last thing I want to do is tick them off by moving their displays. Be aware of any potential customer approaching the vendor, then its time to get out of the way and let them sell their items. Who knows, if you get a library of food items together you could approach a grocery store and sell them photos to use in their advertising. If someone asks what your favorite subject is, just simply reply, “I hang with fruit”. If they stay friends with you then you know that they have passed the test!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. No matter where you go or what you do you make everything interesting and educational.
    Appreciate the post and lessons. Particularly like the limes and the angle you shot it.

  2. Thank you for the reminder that we don’t have to travel far for photo opportunities.

    Appreciate all that you do.

  3. This is one of my favorite places to shoot. Some of the exotic fruit at the stand at the north end near Whole Foods is worth a trip in itself…rambutan, jack fruit, pitaya, sweet apples. Then add in every size of dog known to man and you have a bonanza of subjects. Thanks for sharing

  4. Very cool photos! Can’t wait to take your class and learn my new camera.
    I never had a totally digital camera before and it is taking some time to figure out how to set everything…. Susan (newbie)

    • Spencer

      It will be a great time. Photography is always fun. See you soon! Thanks…


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