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Helsinki

Kauppatori Fish Market, Helsinki

I walked through this Helsinki fish market a few times while I was there. It’s called Kauppatori and it’s an open-air market near the water, just past the Esplanadi, full of beautiful food and colors. It’s worth walking through anytime you pass by. Definitely an easy street shoot, made especially charming with the fresh fish, ruddy Finnish sellers and handmade signs.

The Nitty Gritty

What to ExpectIt's an open-air market that you can wander about in. It's free and there's no entrance per se. Lots of food, fish, and crafts for sale. Good place to buy a reindeer rug if you're into that.
Best Time to GoThe market is open Mon- Fri 6.30 - 17.00. Sat 6.30 - 16.00.
But in the colder parts of the year, you're less likely to find as many open stalls.
Versatile Gear
A walkaround lens should work for this one. And of course you could also use your phone or a point and shoot. Recommended walkarounds below.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
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Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens
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And here's an excellent point and shoot, if you want to go super light
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II (Black)
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Helsinki Fish Market

One of the main things sold at the market is the fish. In fact, the Baltic sea is right there so a lot of the fish come straight out of that sea.

You’ll see a number of stalls like this one where you can buy fresh or cured fish. I think the ones in this picture are mostly cured.

We do have the signs though – so I can take a minute to figure it out. My google-fu translates the signs as follows

  • Savusilakka – Smoked Baltic herring
  • Savulohi – Smoked salmon
  • Siikafile – European whitefish
  • Savunieria – Smoked charr
  • Graavilohi – Gravlax or salted salmon

Which brings me to the conclusion that savu- means smoked. The more you know.

Fresh fish at Helsinki Kauppatori Market

Exposure
1/160s ƒ/4.5 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
24mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
May 23, 2015, 11:08 am

Here are some more fish from another vendor who was located on an actual boat. Doesn’t get more legit than that.

She was a bit on the grumpy side – probably because I was heaving the old DSLR and didn’t look like I was about to purchase a pile of fish.

Exposure
1/640s ƒ/4.5 @ ISO 100
Focal Length
35mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
May 19, 2015, 10:38 pm

Here’s a closeup of some of the fish she was selling – also cured.

Helsinki market square cured fish

Exposure
1/400s ƒ/5 @ ISO 100
Focal Length
50mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
May 19, 2015, 10:38 pm

Helsinki Street Food

The stalls where the food is being prepared on site are also really popular. There’s fish, sausages, reindeer meatballs and veggies.

You can get some great photos of the young ladies cooking up all that fare, but the lighting is challenging.

Many of the stalls have bright orange or red canopies and the light under them is strongly tinted. To get a good shot, fix your white balance to daylight, or at least something other than auto.

That will ensure the camera doesn’t try to correct the color and make everyone green or some other awful tint.

Selling reindeer meat at Kauppatori Helsinki Market

Exposure
1/640s ƒ/4 @ ISO 500
Focal Length
18mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
May 23, 2015, 1:13 pm

If you shoot raw, you can adjust the lighting later by using the background to correct color. The stall will still come off as red but that captures the actual scene so it doesn’t bother me too much.

If you can, try to capture the smoke or steam rising up from the grills.

Helsinki Market Square Photography

Exposure
1/1000s ƒ/5 @ ISO 500
Focal Length
59mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
May 23, 2015, 1:03 pm

Handmade Signs

I know I mentioned the signage before but everywhere you look are handmade signs detailing what’s for sale.

Isn’t every photo made so much better by these charming signs?

Berries are another popular thing to sell in spring at the market. They bring great color to your photos so looks for varieties next to each other.

You’ll see again that the canopy is red and the young woman’s face is strongly tinted by it, but I think the image still holds together.

Berries sold at Finnish Market Place - Kauppatori Helsinki

Exposure
1/800s ƒ/3.5 @ ISO 100
Focal Length
19mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
May 19, 2015, 10:40 pm

If you keep going, to the edge, you’ll start seeing a larger variety of things such as furs and reindeer antler souvenirs.

There are also quite a few knives and leather goods for purchase as well. They also make for great photos.

Helsinki Fish Market – Final Words

The short of it is, this is a beautiful and vibrant marketplace that’s worth wandering around for both the photography and the people-watching. It’s also called the Helsinki Market square and nearby is an indoor Market Hall you can visit.

Another interesting thing to check out on the first Friday of the month, is the display of old American cars that gathers outside the market.

You don’t need too much special gear and can shoot this easily with an Iphone or point and shoot camera.

This location is also where boat to Suomenlinna Island depart.

Beautiful day at Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna Island Fortress

Take a boat to visit the Suomenlinna Island Fortress for an easy day trip from Helsinki.

This post has affiliate links. If you use the link, you don’t pay anything extra but Sidecar Photo gets money for another glass of wine!
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Shimona Carvalho
Photographer, Engineer, Traveler who wants to help you take incredible photographs on your next trip.