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
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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.
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.
Here’s a closeup of some of the fish she was selling – also cured.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Take a boat to visit the Suomenlinna Island Fortress for an easy day trip from Helsinki.
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