With epic landscapes, colourful streets and photogenic people gracing them, Vietnam is a photography dream.

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I couldn’t hit the shutter fast enough. There seemed to be multiple photo opportunities in every direction and I was overwhelmed by the thought. 

Vietnam is easily one of the most photogenic countries in the world. Its unique and impressive landscapes look like real life postcards. The street life is a constant stream of photos waiting to be made. And the people all have a story waiting to be told. 

That doesn’t mean travel photography in Vietnam is easy. Far from it, Vietnam’s reserved culture and sensory melange makes it intimidating and tricky. 
 

If you’re planning to travel to Vietnam as a photographer, you sure won’t be disappointed by the scenes that await you.

However, you will want to arrived clued up on Vietnamese etiquette. No photo should come at the expense of your manners or respect, after all. 

Whether you want to try your hand at street photography in Vietnam or are more drawn to the many landscapes, here are my best tips for visiting Vietnam as a photographer.

Not travelling yet? Pin this post to come back to later:

Travel photography tips for Vietnam

Just to let you know… This post (probably) contains affiliate links, including Amazon Associates links, and I may receive a small commission if you click one. This is at no extra cost to you and allows this site to keep running.



Things to know about travel photography in Vietnam 

Approaching travel photography in Vietnam the right way begins before you even arrive.

From timing your trip to planning the finer details, these tips will help you take the best Vietnam travel photos while you’re there.

Here are some things that photographers – and every traveller with a camera! – should keep in mind when planning a trip to Vietnam.


The most important thing is respect 

Vietnam is one of my favourite countries in the world for street photography. There’s simply so much going on and I completely lost myself in the non-stop action, smells and sounds.

Before you point your camera, though, it’s important to make sure you’re photographing people respectfully. Vietnamese people are generally hospitable but they don’t like having their photo taken without permission, 

It might come as a bit of a shock if you’ve travelled to nearby countries, where people are much more relaxed.

It’ll be an even bigger shock if you’ve travelled somewhere like the Philippines, where almost everybody wants their photo taken. 

Being respectful is important, and in Vietnam that means always asking permission. Be a responsible traveller and find a way to ask before pointing a camera in someone’s face.


GET YOUR FREE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE

Want to take better travel photos?

Click here to get your free travel photography cheat sheet!


You won’t capture it all 

Vietnam is a big country and much of it is fairly inaccessible.

Unless you have months or years to spend in Vietnam, you simply won’t be able to capture every side of this wonderful country.

If you’re travelling to Vietnam for photography specifically, it’s important to keep that in mind when planning your Vietnam itinerary.

You’ll need to prioritise the areas and themes you want to photograph – and, sadly, forget about the rest.


Timing your photography trip to Vietnam 

Given Vietnam’s diverse landscapes and weather, there’s no ‘perfect time’ to visit. While other destinations have better and worse months for photography, Vietnam is split.

Southern and Northern Vietnam are both driest between November and April, making it a great time to explore.

However, you won’t get to enjoy summer in Central Vietnam at this time because you’ll have to wait until January-August for the drier weather.

If you want to photograph the rice harvest in Sapa – something on many Vietnam travel photography bucket lists – you’ll need to be there between September and October.

For this reason, it’s best to plan your trip based on your photography (and travel) priorities.


Sunset at Halong Bay in Vietnam

You’ll be planning your next Vietnam trip before you leave 

Vietnam will leave you inspired, both as a photographer and as a human being. 

With so much to photograph – and even more to see and experience – you’ll almost certainly want to return.

With this in mind, don’t feel like you have to cram in everything on your first trip to Vietnam. 


Check your camera insurance 

No matter what photography gear you’re bringing with you, you’ll need to make sure it’s insured. 

Your usual camera insurance or travel insurance won’t necessarily cover you. You’ll need to make sure you have camera insurance that covers your travels specifically. 

I wrote an entire guide on choosing travel insurance for photography gear, which covers everything you need to know.


TRAVEL TIP

If you only do one thing before going, please make sure you have adequate travel insurance. Make sure your policy covers you for healthcare and cancellations, as well as any activities you plan to do.

I use and recommend World Nomads because they cover things that most insurers won’t.

Check the price here or find out more about why I use them


Travel and photography don’t have to compete 

Vietnam is one of those rare countries where travel photography doesn’t take away from the travel itself. 

In most destinations, the best photos aren’t made at the best places to visit and you have to choose between the two. That’s not the case in Vietnam.

In fact, some of the best photos can be made from popular viewpoints or attractions.

It makes Vietnam a pretty special place to travel as a photographer, and means you won’t feel guilty if you’re travelling with non-photographer loved ones!

Tips for taking photos in Vietnam

Now you know what to expect when planning your photography trip to Vietnam, let’s move onto the fun stuff! 

Here are some things to keep in mind when taking photos in Vietnam.

Travel photography in Vietnam is fun, but you’ll also want to approach it the right way.

These tips will help you get the best Vietnam travel photos – as well as keeping you out of trouble!


1 – You don’t need to travel far

If you’re used to hiking or driving long distances to get to photography spots, Vietnam will be a real treat. 

There are photo opportunities everywhere you look in Vietnam, so you never need to venture far – unless you want to!

Most of the time, you can simply stroll out of your hotel and come face to face with endless shots. My advice? Make the most of it – especially if you’re not travelling solo.


A black and white photograph of a street in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, outside the presidential palace

2 – Immerse yourself

The fun of photographing Vietnam lies in capturing the many details that make this country so unique. 

The best way to familiarise yourself with these quirks – and get great photos of them – is to immerse yourself in the local culture.  

Don’t look at Vietnam through a photographer’s eyes until you’ve explored it as a visitor. – tweet this


3 – Spend time with the locals 

Following from that, local interaction is important – and special – in Vietnam. Make an effort to get to know people, despite the obvious language barrier. 

Stop and talk to kids. Buy something from a street vendor. Ask a restaurant owner about the dish he’s cooked for you.

English isn’t widely spoken in Vietnam, but there’s always a way to communicate. Google Translate is one of my must-have travel apps and the voice recognition will be invaluable in Vietnam.

Locals will be much more open to having their photo taken if you make an effort to get to know them. And don’t worry about it ruining the shot; if they try to pose for a photo, just keep shooting until they take a more natural stance.


READ NEXT: My favourite travel photography posts.


4 – Try your hand at street photography in Vietnam

Street photography is one of the trickiest types of photography to do in Vietnam, but it’s also one of the most fun.

More than that, the Vietnamese streets are just begging to be photographed.

From the bustling markets to the alleyways dripping in dispersed light rays, you’ll never struggle to find awesome street photos in Vietnam. 

Even if you don’t usually do much street photography, don’t shy away from it in Vietnam. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are both fantastic places for street photography.


Women selling fruit at a market in Hoi An, Vietnam

5 – Accept that you will miss a lot of shots

With so many photo opportunities, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss many great ones in Vietnam. 

It’s one of the curses of being a photographer in such a photogenic country.

Instead of letting it get to you, focus on the photos you do take and try not to get distracted – as hard as that may be!


TRAVEL SMARTER: The best ways to spend less, save more and pack well.


6 – Don’t underestimate the power of a smile

It’s unlikely that the locals will approach you in Vietnam. However, don’t underestimate how far a smile can go.

I found that most Vietnamese people were receptive to the camera if I approached with a big grin. Don’t be afraid to pull out your cheesiest smile, when you’re behind the camera (rather than in front of it)!

7 – Don’t miss the details

With so much going on, it can be easy to get lost in the bigger picture when taking photos in Vietnam. That’s especially true for the open landscapes and views.

Some of my best Vietnam travel photos don’t reveal much about a scene. Instead, they pick up on details that give you a glimpse into Vietnamese life. 

Don’t miss the smaller details while you’re taking in the wider scene.


A black and white photo of a street vendor in Hanoi, Vietnam
Street vendors and motorcycles are everywhere in Vietnam – and will be in many of your Vietnam travel photos, too.

8 – Travel as light as possible

You don’t need loads of lenses to get great photos of Vietnam. In fact, taking just one or two can be a fun challenge. 

Having a limited number of lenses will help you narrow your focus when photographing Vietnam. A couple of lenses, a bag that’s easy to access for you (but not thieves!) and a lightweight body are all you need.

Keep scrolling to see what gear I recommend for travel photography in Vietnam.    


9 – Plan some variety into your itinerary

As fun as the street photography in Vietnam is, you’ll probably want to venture out into its epic landscapes too. After all, it would be a shame to visit and not photograph more of this diverse country.

Even if you usually stick to one type of travel or photography, don’t be afraid to branch out. Vietnam is an accessible country with plenty to offer for both travel experiences and photography, so make the most of it. 

Unless you have three weeks in Vietnam or more, I’d recommend sticking to one region and exploring as much of what it has to offer as possible.


RELATED READ: The best travel camera for backpackers and amateur photographers.


10 – Don’t move too quickly 

Whichever part of Vietnam you choose to explore, make sure you allow yourself time everywhere. You could easily spend weeks in any of Vietnam’s cities and just as long in the smaller town and villages.

Trying to travel Vietnam too quickly will end up feeling rushed, and your Vietnam photos probably won’t be as good.


A woman buying fruit at a market in Hanoi, Vietnam

While you can photograph most things in Vietnam, there are some things you should never point a camera at.

This includes anything that belongs to military. Taking photos of Vietnamese military could land you with a hefty fine (or worse) so don’t  even think about it. 

There will usually be signs when you can’t take photos but, when in doubt, err on the side of caution.


Vietnam travel photography gear

When choosing what photography gear to pack for Vietnam, I recommend keeping it light. 

I took a small micro four-thirds camera with me, plus a zoom lens and a 45mm prime. 

Next time I travel to Vietnam, my photography set-up probably won’t change much. I’ll take a full-frame mirrorless as my body, a prime for street photography and a zoom lens for capturing details in landscapes.

The only addition I would make it a wide angle zoom. 

Based on my current photography gear, I’d take the following: 


A note on drones in Vietnam

It’s currently legal to take a drone to Vietnam. However, you’ll need permission to do so. 

You’ll need to be aware of the drone laws in Vietnam, and you’ll also need a permit to fly.

This needs to be obtained at least 14 days before your first flight, so make sure you leave enough time to get one.


Enjoyed this post? Forward it to a friend or save it for later: 

Tips for taking photos in Vietnam

Alajode UK travel blog and vlog by a female digital nomad
Jodie Marie Dewberry

Jodie has been travelling the world full time since 2017, sharing the most unique places in the world along with tips for living as a digital nomad. She is a passionate wildlife photographer and has worked with a number of prominent travel brands, including airlines, tourism boards, hotels and tour operators.

All author posts