Hoi An Photo Tour – Seeing Sunset with the Farmers [Review]

Here's what you'll experience on a 3-hour photo tour of Hoi An's countryside

hoi an photo tour main blog image

Looking for a Hoi An photo tour? In this post, you’ll discover what to expect on a sunset farm tour with Hoi An Photo Tour. Is this the right tour for you? Read on to find out.

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

As a travel blogger, taking photos is a huge part of my day-to-day activity. But, despite years of practice and tens of thousands of photos snapped, I often feel as though my skills are getting worse!

What’s really happening is that I get stuck in a rut. I (kind of) know what works and what doesn’t and I forget to make that extra effort to capture something really special.

woman in the fields near hoi an vietnam
We’re not quite ready to turn pro yet. This gorgeous photo was taken by Hoi An Photo Tour boss Etienne. ©E.Bossot_HoianPhotoTour&Workshop

That’s where photography tours and workshops come in.

No matter how many, or how few, photos you take in the course of your daily life, you’ll almost surely want to come home with a few spectacular shots of your trip to Hoi An. You might post them on Instagram, share with friends and family, or just have them as a way to remember how you felt and what you saw while you were in Vietnam.

Whatever your motivation for taking better photos, getting out on a shoot with a pro, plus other keen photographers of all levels, can be a great way to:

  • Sharpen your skills
  • Change your perspective on photography
  • Get out of your personal photographic rut
  • Ensure you come home with a few beautiful photos

While in Hoi An, Stephen and I joined a sunset farm tour with Hoi An Photo Tour which helped us do all of the above, plus it offered us a few surprises along the way. We were guests of Hoi An Photo Tour for this experience but on this blog, we are committed to only reviewing and recommending activities that we think our readers will love.

If you’re wondering if a photo tour in Hoi An is worth the time, read on for our review of…

Hoi An Photo Tour – Sunset with the Farmers Review

Check out our other helpful Hoi An posts, like our guide to transformational things to do in Hoi An, our complete guide to Hoi An vegan food, and our experience on a Hoi An scooter tour.

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Get our best Vietnam travel advice, our guide to transformational things to do in Hoi An, and find the best Hoi An vegan food.

What to Expect on a Hoi An Photo Tour

On our afternoon with our guide Fred, we headed a short way out of Hoi An into a nearby farming village. Our first stop was for coffee and a quick photography chat.

Fred started by asking us about our experience and photography equipment. We were shooting on my trusty old Olympus OM-D EM-5 mirrorless camera, Stephen’s fairly new Osmo Action Camera and our two iPhone 7+s.

woman wearing a conical hat looking into the distance on hoi an vietnam photo tour
This woman was busy planting her little patch of earth but stopped to chat with Fred and give us a big, welcoming smile.

It was a cool and windy day — around 17 degrees C, freezing by Hoi An standards — so all the locals were wrapped up tight in their warmest sweaters, jackets and hats.

Fred had to rouse the local cafe owner from under a pile of blankets to secure a jug of bitter green tea. While drinking this potent brew, we reviewed the basics of photography.

Though the principles, like aperture, exposure, leading lines and the rule of thirds, were all familiar to us, it was a good way to get into the photography headspace and ensure that we actually thought about these principles as we shot.

After that, it was time to get to work.

photo tour guide helping stephen through muddy field hoi an vietnam
In winter, these fields were muddy and slick but in summer they are dry and dusty. Either way, wear appropriate shoes!

This being rainy season, the fields were thick with muck and the farmers were wearing big rubber boots and plastic ponchos. We slogged along the raised paths between fields, trying not to slide down the slippery banks or sink our shoes too deep into the brown sticky muck.

As we walked, Fred taught us a bit about the farming community while seeking subjects for our photos.

Each time we approached someone working in the fields, Fred would call out a friendly greeting in Vietnamese. Without fail, each person we met stopped and gave us a big smile and welcome (no doubt secretly thinking that all Westerners are completely mad).

farmers working a muddy field near hoi an
These farmers laughed and smiled as we approached and then went back to work as we snapped our photos.

Then, as they got back to work hoeing, sewing, and weeding, we kneeled, stretched and dodged to capture the best angles. All the while, Fred provided a steady stream of valuable tips to help us take better photos, along with entertaining banter to help us understand local life a little better.

As the sun started to set, we left the fields and walked into the little village, stopping to chat with the adults, trade high-fives and hellos with the kids, and to cuddle countless local puppies.

man cupping a dog's head hoi an
We saw almost as many pups as people on our Hoi An Photo Tour. Of course, we had to cuddle them all!

Though the tour was simple (no zip lines or fancy meals involved), it’s the kind of activity than can restore your faith in travel as a tool for transformation — one that builds greater connection and understanding between people from all over the world.

What We Loved About the Tour

Sharpening our photographic eyes

As I said in the intro, I’ve been shooting travel photos almost every day for about 7 years now — but I’m a lazy photographer!

I’ve lost skills that I once had and forgotten things I used to know. Before the tour began, our guide, Fred, walked us through the basics of photography.

jane squatting down to get a different angle hoi an vietnam
Don’t forget to explore different angles as you shoot — you never know which photo will be the winner.

Though there wasn’t a lot there that I hadn’t heard before, the review was incredibly valuable. It put me in a photographic mindset before we started the tour, bringing things I had known for years back into the forefront of my mind as I shot.

Spending dedicated time just working on taking photos helped renew my love for photography and my desire to become a better photographer.

New perspective on taking portraits

Like so many avid photographers, I’m an introvert. Walking up to strangers and starting a conversation (especially in a language I don’t understand) is far outside my comfort zone. Because of that, my portrait photography, when I do actually shoot a portrait, is pretty lame.

I always feel intrusive with my camera pointed at someone’s face.

woman in a sweater and head wrap in vietnam
It was such a cold day, the locals were wrapped up tight in whatever head coverings they could find!

This was my first experience shooting portraits with someone to whom it does come naturally (or at least, Fred made it seem that way). Just watching the way he approached people and, with little more than a friendly smile, put them at their ease so he could snap natural photos was a great learning tool for me.

As we walked, I shared my doubts about the ethics of taking portrait photos which led to a discussion about the ways in which it is and isn’t intrusive and disrespectful. As with most tourism quandaries, it mostly comes down to your approach. Being on this tour and watching Fred at work, I learned how to adjust my approach so that taking portraits will come easier in the future.

Getting out of touristy Hoi An

I love Hoi An, I really do — but it doesn’t exactly provide an “authentic” local experience. The streets are just too full of tourists and locals whose job it is to sell to tourists to get beyond the customer/seller relationship and into something more meaningful.

small girl in yellow smiling for the camera
These two curious girls came out to meet the crazy foreigners but the smaller one was too shy to say hello.

It was great to walk through a village where no transaction was taking place between us and the local people, besides the exchange of smiles, laughter, and maybe a photo or two. Though we don’t speak the same language, I felt I had more heartfelt interactions in the space of a couple of hours than a week in Hoi An would ever provide.

What Surprised us About the Tour

Simplifying the photo process

Whenever I am disappointed by my travel photos, I often blame my technique, my equipment, or my lack of skills. I assume there are complicated settings and expensive filters that other photographers use to make their photos so much better than mine.

conical hat and farmers hands photo hoi an vietnam
In photography, geometry is your friend, especially when it’s part of an iconic item like this Vietnamese farmer hat.

This tour was a great reminder that you can take a spectacular photos on an iPhone and you can take terrible photos on a $5,000 SLR. Great travel photography is not about making things more complex, it’s about simplifying.

Sure, you need to think about light, angles, and composition — but the most important thing is to make a connection. The best photos are the ones where the photographer makes an emotional connection with the subject and delivers that connection to the viewer.

What We Didn’t Love About the Tour

Portraits only

Being an introvert, I’m a big fan of landscape photography. Though I learned a huge amount about taking photos of people on this tour, there was no focus on other kinds of travel photography, like landscape photos or street photos.

woman planting rice in hoi an
Most of the focus on this tour was on portrait photography.

On a 3-hour tour, it makes sense to choose one type of photography and stick to it — just don’t go into it expecting to unleash your inner Ansel Adams.

Camera malfunctions

This one has nothing to do with the quality of the tour but more to do with my own lack of preparation.

farmer in the field in hoi an
It was a cold day when we did our tour, so all the farmers were wrapped up tight against the wind and rain.

I don’t often shoot photos on my mirrorless camera these days, preferring the convenience of the phone in my pocket (like I said, I’m a lazy photographer). So I had forgotten that I have an intermittent battery issue that means my camera doesn’t always turn on when I flick the switch. I missed so many great shots because I was fiddling with my camera instead of snapping the pic.

Let this be a lesson to you. Make sure, before you go out on the tour, to test our your camera equipment, charge your batteries, empty your memory cards!

Tips for Getting the Most from This Hoi An Photography Tour

1. Think about what you want: It’s not often that you get to pick the brains of a professional photographer. Figure out what you want to learn on this tour and then come prepared with questions that will lead you to the answers you need.

line at play in the field hoi an
This was the closest I got to a landscape photo, shooting this farmer to capture the play of the clouds in the sky.

2. Bring beginner’s mind: No matter how many photos you’ve taken in your lifetime, start the day pretending that you’re new to photography. Learn from the guide and others even if part of you thinks “that’s not how I would do it” or “that’s wrong”.

3. Experiment: The key to improving your photography is to try different things. It’s hard, especially when you’re facing a live subject, to remember to play with angles and light. Just keep your cool and keep snapping until you’ve explored all your options.

4. Practice beforehand: Before you get on the tour, make sure to try out your camera on different settings and remind yourself what it can do. If you have been stuck on a single mode for a while or haven’t picked up your camera for a while (that’s me), it’s good to practice beforehand. Fiddle with your settings and remind yourself where menu items are, so you won’t be lost while you’re in the field.

woman walking through fields in hoi an
We have driven by fields like this hundreds of times, so it was a treat to actually get out and explore them.

5. Get a better phone app: If you’re shooting on your phone, get an app that shoots in RAW and gives you easy control over exposure, focus, and other settings. We use (and love) Camera+ but there are plenty of apps out there with similar features.

6. No fear! If you’re a complete beginner, don’t be afraid. These are the days of digital, so you can take as many terrible photos as you want at no extra cost. Set your camera settings at the beginning of the tour and then spend your time focussing on composition and light.

Practical Details of the Sunset with Farmers Photo Tour

When: Daily, 3–6:30pm
Where: Hoi An
Length: 3.5 hours
Transportation: Provided by Hoi An Photo Tours
Food & drinks: Coffee before & beer after
Additional expenses: Feel free to tip your guide
What to bring: Camera and all equipment, shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, sun hat & sunscreen

Other Photography Tours & Workshops in Vietnam

Tours in Hoi An

Hoi An Photo Tours offers a range of tours in an around Hoi An, including a morning photo walk in town, a sunrise tour to the fishing village, and an advanced sunrise photography tour.

farmer in rice fields at sunset
Learn to take photos like these on a multi-day tour with Hoi An Photo Tour. ©E.Bossot_HoianPhotoTour&Workshop

They also offer one-on-one workshops like their phone photography workshop, street photography workshop, and night photo workshop (perfect for capturing Hoi An’s lanterns).

Find a photo tour

Workshops in Vietnam

If you want to deepen your photo skills even further, join a 3-day Cultural Photography Training in Central Vietnam. You’ll learn the ins and outs of cultural photography, including the technical aspects, and the emotional and personal components of photographing locals.

solo travel in Vietnam
Meeting the local people is a highlight of any trip to northern Vietnam.

If you have a little more time, join an 8-day photography workshop in northern Vietnam to experience the beauty of the rice-harvesting season. Soaring purple-green mountains provide the backdrop while welcoming minority villagers provide the hospitality! This is an opportunity to sharpen your photo skills and experience areas of northern Vietnam that other tourists rarely see.

Other Tours in Hoi An

Countryside Bicycle Tour

Get out of town and visit the countryside and villages around Hoi An on our favourite mode of transport — the humble bicycle. This tour will take you the popular vegetable village, on a bamboo basket boat ride, and to local villages to experience rural life in Vietnam.

Get more details about the bike tour

stephen on bicycle in hoi an rice fields
Cycling the cement paths through the rice fields outside Hoi An is a truly transformational experience.

Night Food Tasting Tour

If you want to taste many of Hoi An’s speciality food in the space of a few hours, this food tour is the way to do it. Visit the central market, hidden food stalls and cozy cafes, and taste the best of Hoi An with the help of a local English-speaking guide.

Get details about this food tour

vegan breakfast plate from rosies
Don’t miss any the amazing food you can find in Hoi An!

Ancient Town Walking Tour

Explore Ancient Town on foot with a local guide to learn more about the history and culture of this amazing city. You’ll visit ancient houses, crafts workshops, the Japanese Covered Bridge and more.

Get details about the walking tour

I was a guest on this Hoi An Photo tour but as always, I only participate in and recommend trips that I think you’ll truly enjoy!

♥  Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen

We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J

Looking for a Hoi An photo tour? In this post, you'll discover what to expect on a sunset farm tour with Hoi An Photo Tour. Is this the right tour for you? Click to find out. #hoian #travel #photography #tour #photos #vietnam #transform
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