Hoi An Photography Tour

Hoi An is a photographer’s dream. From the stunning covered Japanese bridge and lantern-lit canals to its lush rice fields and fishing villages. Hoi An practically begs you to capture its charm and there’s no better way than through a Hoi An photography tour.

Perhaps the most photogenic part of Hoi An is its people. The local Vietnamese going about their lives, selling fresh produce in the markets, or whizzing by on motorbikes. They can make for the most stunning photos (and memorable encounters) of your time here.

Getting brilliant photos can be tough in Hoi An as you’re often elbow-to-elbow with other tourists trying to do the same. You may find it tricky to get off the beaten path and see the Vietnamese in their element. Especially if you’ve got only a few days in town. Cover photo courtesy of Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop.

Sunrise tour: Hoi An Photography Tour
Dawn in the fishing village. One of the images captured during our Hoi An sunrise photography tour. Photo: Greg McKeever

Why do a photography tour in Hoi An?

While Hoi An’s residents are incredibly hospitable, you may not always know when it’s appropriate to photograph them. Especially if your Vietnamese isn’t up to standard. Trying to snap a portrait of a woman in a non-la peeling a mango can land even experienced photographers in awkward situations, leaving them with rushed, blurry images.

Doing a photography tour is a perfect way to navigate these difficulties and capture the best of Hoi An in a respectful way. It’s also a great opportunity to brush up on your photography skills and see a side of Hoi An you might otherwise have missed.

If you want an experience like this, then Hidden recommends that you look no further than Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop. In this article, Hidden shares more about this company and how its team of experts can help you make the most of your time behind the lens while you’re here.

Workshop participant: Hoi An Photography Tour
A workshop participant capturing the light and colour of the shipyard. Photo courtesy of Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop.

Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop Overview

For nearly a decade, Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop has been the city’s go-to spot for photographers of all skill levels. Founded in 2009 by Etienne Bossot, who has lived in Hoi An for 12 years. Etienne continues to run photography tours and workshops with his team from their Hoi An Office.

Etienne and his extended team also run small group photography workshops in North and Central Vietnam, as well as in Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Iran, through Pics of Asia, which Etienne founded in 2012.

Not only is Etienne an experienced photographer. He’s also a local ambassador of sorts, between visitors and the Vietnamese people, and knows Hoi An’s roads (and hidden scenic points) like the back of his hand. No matter the photography experience you’re searching for in Hoi An, chances are that Etienne and his team will offer a tour for it. Hidden opted for the Sunrise with the Fishermen Tour, which is the company’s most popular Hoi An photography tour.

Hidden taking pictures: Hoi An Photography Tour
The Hidden team taking pictures during the Sunrise with the Fishermen Tour.

Sunrise with the Fishermen: Hidden’s Tour Experience

Hoi An’s fishermen start their day early, and if you go on this tour, then so will you. Expect pick up at your accommodation around 5 am by Etienne or a member of his team. This allows plenty of time to make it to your first tour stop well before dawn. Expect to finish and be back at your accommodation around 9:30 am.

Expect to have no more than seven other photographers in your group. Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop limit their photography tour numbers so they can provide targeted support and a more intimate environment for participants. Nearly all of the company’s tours are suitable for every type of photographer, from total beginners to experts.

The Hoi An Photography Tour Itinerary

Etienne shared the morning’s itinerary with us from the front of our taxi van. Our day starts in a small fishing village roughly 10 kilometres from Hoi An’s Ancient Town. Here, we’d photograph fishermen unloading their catches and women sorting and bargaining over the seafood haul. This would be followed by breakfast and a trip to a historic fish sauce factory, with a final stop at the local boatyard. The whole tour is done on foot, a great way to take advantage of other photo opportunities along the way.

The Photography Tutorial

But first… coffee. Our first stop was at a local cafe in the village. Here, along with a caffeine fix, we got a group photography tutorial from Etienne. After a brief review of camera basics (including aperture and ISO levels), he moved on to the most critical part of great photos: composition. Along with lighting, composing a stunning photo depends on where you place your subject. During the company’s photography tours, you’ll get lots of great Hoi An scenery, but your real subjects are its people.

Game of cards: Hoi An Photography Tour
A game of cards before work. Captured before dawn while Etienne briefed the tour participants.

Regardless of skill level, everyone in our group found Etienne’s advice on photographing people valuable. He reminded us to be friendly, smile, and show interest in what someone is doing, suchlike tending rice fields or pulling in a fresh catch, before going in for a shot. He encouraged us not to be shy (or use a zoom lens), because you get the best photos when you’re up close.

On the Docks

Etienne also helped us adjust our camera settings upon request. Then, just as the sun came up, we were off! He led us right into the thick of the action. On the docks, women haggled over fresh, flapping catches as fishermen pulled in nets of wriggling crabs and shrimp. Etienne led us to some key spots and helped us pick out angles and settings for the best images. It only took about 10 minutes to get over our shyness. Soon, we were climbing onto boats and squatting next to saleswomen, snapping away with our DSLR and iPhone SE as they furiously debated over prices.

Barbershop: Hoi An Photography Tour
Hoi An Photo Tours take you to places most tourists would never find. A quick word from the tour leader and we were welcomed into this barber shop to take pictures. Photo: Greg McKeever.

About 45 minutes later, Etienne called us together and then we headed down the road to breakfast. On the way there, we smelt something delicious cooking at a nearby house. Etienne ducked in and discovered a man roasting an entire pig over hot coals. It was a mouthwatering and extremely photo-worthy scene!

The Fish Sauce Factory

After banh mi (and more coffee), we headed to the fish sauce factory. Produce stands along the way offered us more photo opportunities, and we happily snapped away before the pungent nuoc mam reached our nostrils. At the open-air factory, Etienne greeted the staff and told us a bit about the sauce making process. Getting a taste (quite literally) of such an important part of Vietnamese culture, along with taking photos of hardworking locals, were very special treats.

Etienne with a local: Hoi An Photography Tour
Etienne has been running photography tours in Hoi An for the past 10 years and has a close relationship with many of the villagers you meet. Photo: Greg McKeever.

Village Life

A highlight of the photography tour was learning more about Hoi An village life through both the Vietnamese people and Etienne. His close relationship with many villagers and his command of Vietnamese gave us a snippet of things we wouldn’t otherwise experience. We got one such glimpse en-route to our final stop at the boatyard. During this detour, we entered the house of an elderly woman making red bean cakes. She and Etienne chatted as she fried up a batch of cakes and then offered them to us. We happily munched away and took snapshots of our gracious chef in her own kitchen. “She’s been making these cakes for local schoolchildren for years,” Etienne told us, “and it’s her own special recipe.” We smiled and thanked her before heading to our next stop, bellies and memory cards getting equally full!

Hidden Hint: Get to know your camera in advance—you’ll minimize your time playing with settings and maximize your time composing quality photos.

The Boatyard

The boatyard (our last stop) was much more serene than the fishing docks. Our subjects here were mostly men, all of them repairing giant, colourful fishing boats that were propped up on shore. With a few final tips from Etienne, we took our last shots and then headed back to the fishing docks to board the taxi back to town.

From experts to beginners (and even the non-photographer who came with his wife), everyone in our group was left thrilled by the photography tour of Hoi An. As amateurs, we got the most out of the experience, photography tips and access to great subjects and shots. The experts among us learned a lot, too. They were especially grateful for access to hidden spots and advice on how to photograph Vietnamese people in a respectful way.

Fisherman: Hoi An Photography Tour
A fisherman landing his catch. Photo: Katie Hunter.

Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshops: Other Offerings

Hidden highly recommends the “Sunrise with the Fisherman tour,” but there are plenty of other excellent photo tours and skill-building opportunities within Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshops. The tours include Sunset With the Farmers, which is more relaxed than the sunrise tour (and a great pick for late risers). Taking advantage of dusty afternoon light, participants head to local villages and venture into rice paddies, where workers plough, plant, and harvest their crops. This popular tour is great for photographers of all skill levels and lasts four hours. Like the sunrise tour, it costs 1,265,000 VND (55 USD) per person (refreshments included).

Hoi An’s Old Town Photography Tours

If you want to see Hoi An’s Old Town highlights, then Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop offers a Morning Market and Old Town Photo Walk. Geared toward novice photographers, this three-hour tour is a great way to develop your skills while seeing the quaint old buildings and temples of Hoi An for 920,000 VND (40 USD) per person.

A two hour Night Photography Walk in Hoi An’s Old Town is also offered. This is when the brilliant lanterns and riverfront come alive with visitors and vendors, the walk is a great introduction to making photos in these challenging conditions. A welcome drink and spare tripod (upon request) are included in the 1,035,000 VND (45 USD) per person cost.

Etienne teaching: Hoi An Photography Tour
Etienne providing technical and creative guidance during one of his Hoi An Photo Tours. Photo courtesy of Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop

For the most adventurous, expert-focused tour, opt for the Advanced Sunrise Tour. This tour is limited to three participants and led by Etienne himself. It takes you to a hidden fishing village 50 kilometres away from Hoi An. Here, waist-deep in the action (and ocean!), you’ll have tons of opportunities to get the shot-of-a-lifetime. The cost of this exclusive tour is 6,210,000 VND (270 USD) and can be shared with up to three participants. NB: All other tours are limited to eight people.

Private Photography Workshops

Getting the best photos often means working on skills, too. Private workshops offered by the company include a general, travel-photography focused option for 2,760,000 VND (120 USD). This includes a skill review, guided lesson, and walk through Hoi An’s Old Town. If you have a more specific interest, try a private workshop on food photography, street photography, workshop, wildlife, or even smartphone photography. There are also custom options available if you (or a group you’re with) are interested in a workshop or tour. Just enquire with Etienne and his team by filling out the form here.

Photo tour participant: Hoi An Photography Tour
A photo tour participant finding inspiration along the riverbank.

Booking with Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshops

You can easily book any of the workshops or tours online on the Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop website. Most tours and workshops are offered every day. So you should have no trouble finding a date that suits your travel plans. Payment can be made via PayPal or in person by credit card or cash (USD or VND) at the office.

Hidden Hint: Try to book at least a few days in advance as tours and workshops can fill up quickly.

Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshops offer a full refund for any booking cancelled due to inclement weather. Except for the Advanced Sunrise option, tours must have a minimum of three people to run. The company will check in with you in advance about different options or alternate dates in the event your tour doesn’t have enough participants.

Further Information

If you want more information about the company’s offerings, simply email info@hoianphototour.com, or fill out the online enquiry form here. You can also opt to reach Etienne or his team at +84 905 67 1898.

If you’re keen for a multi-day excursion or workshop, check out Pics of Asia for exciting tour options and even more ways to take your travel photography game to the next level!

Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop

Address: 42 Phan Boi Chau, Hoi An Phone: +84 905 67 1898  – Email: info@hoianphototours.com
Prices: 920,000 VND (40 USD) to 6,210,000 VND (270 USD) for tours, starting at 120 USD for a private two-hour workshop Duration: Two to four hours
B
ooking: Visit their website and book online at Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop here

Market sellers: Hoi An Photography Tour
Fishermen and market sellers haggle over the price of fish, captured during Hidden’s workshop with Hoi An Photo Tours.

Hidden’s Thoughts

Whether you’re a novice with a smartphone or a travel photographer with years of experience, make the Hoi An Photography Tour a part of your visit. The Sunrise with the Fishermen tour experience will no doubt end up being a highlight of your stay. It gives you access into the community that you just wouldn’t get on your own. You’ll also gain an appreciation for the local fishing economy and the incredible people that run it. With Etienne’s help, you’re able to get past any shyness, meet many of these wonderful people, and take their photo in a respectful, ethical way.

Hidden recommends this tour for photographers of any level, especially people with a little photography experience, suchlike ourselves. If you’re looking for alternative tours, we strongly suggest that you read each tour itinerary before booking. Just to make sure it fits your needs and skill level. If you’re a skilled photographer and have more money to spend, then do check out the Advanced Sunrise Tour.

Whatever experience you choose with Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop, you’ll be left with a deeper, more fulfilling experience of Hoi An and memories of it for years to come.

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