That’s right, yours truly did a full-on Hoi An photoshoot with a professional photographer. Thankfully despite my initial fear of being super awkward, it was actually amazing!
I think we all know that I’m not an Instagram model that sets up elaborate photoshoots wherever I go. While I like to get a few photos here and there, I don’t bring a tripod, plan my outfits (hence, why I’m wearing the same 3 outfits in half my Instagram photos), or wear makeup because I’ll just sweat it off.
But I’ve really been wanting to get some great travel photos in Hoi An for some time now, so when Jim Grootes of Circular Media posted in an expat group looking for some models for his new photography business website, I hesitantly volunteered.
I’m not a model but… never hurts to ask right?
I’m Not a Model Okay?
The one time I tried out to be a “model” for a backyard BBQ photoshoot in China featuring “German looking people”, they hired me… to be an English teacher to their Chinese staff. Yep, the one time I tried to be a model they hired me as an English teacher. Hey, at least it was a lucrative job!
I’m pretty used to people looking for “non-models” to be in photos, only to have them turn me down for being too short and curvy. That’s why I was actually surprised when Jim jumped at the chance to do a photoshoot with me!
It turns out Jim was a professional wedding photographer back in the Netherlands and was looking to create a business and client base in Hoi An and Danang. Non-models like me were precisely who he was looking for.
Why I Wanted to do a Hoi An Photoshoot
I’ve been wanting (and needing) nice photos of myself for my blog and social media for a long time. But I hate forcing Chris to take them for me, and let’s be real, I’m usually sweaty and gross every time we go anywhere.
In addition to being perpetually damp whenever I go out, I also get a little awkward in front of the camera. I have no idea what to do with my hands, and I also dislike most “candid” photos of myself because I’m typically posed in a very unflattering way.
I’ve watched some Youtube videos on how to position myself for photos, but I still feel super uncomfortable and I hate that I can’t see myself on the camera when I’m posing.
I realized what I really needed to do was book a photoshoot with a professional photographer. I wanted someone who could give me direction, tell me how to pose, and produce some great quality photos to use for my website.
Thankfully Jim Grootes did exactly that, and it was awesome.
Health and Body Image: Celebrating My Hard Work
Many of you know I’ve been working really hard on improving my health and nutrition. In Beijing, I had a desk job from 10-7 with a 45-minute subway commute each way every day. I sat at a desk all day and ate out for most meals, which in Beijing means large portions and a lot of oil.
I went from eating a lot of fish and veggies in Ningbo to noodles, meat, bread, and oil in Beijing. Instead of having a glass of wine before salsa dancing in Ningbo, I switched to craft beer and sitting in Beijing. My hobbies morphed from dancing 3-5 days a week to trying to squeeze in 30 minutes on the treadmill during my lunch breaks.
Slowly but surely over the 2.5 years, I lived there, I gained a bunch of weight and no longer felt comfortable in my own body. None of my clothes fit, I didn’t like photos of myself, I had no energy, and I constantly felt puffy and sluggish.
Healthy Changes in Hoi An
Over the last year, I’ve made some major changes. Now I keep track of what I eat and try to get in four servings of vegetables a day. I measure out my portions and cook most of my meals, and I understand what’s healthy and what to eat in moderation. Finally, I also cut down on my alcohol consumption a lot.
I’ve gotten very into fun exercise with my Latin dance workout videos and 3x weekly strength training at the gym! I may not be as thin as I was in my early 20’s, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this healthy in my ENTIRE LIFE.
Since I’ve been working so hard on improving my health and fitness, it was great to celebrate all of my hard work with a photo shoot. The best word I can use to describe my experience is: empowering. I felt beautiful, comfortable in my own body, and happy to celebrate all the hard work and effort I’ve put into creating a healthier lifestyle for myself.
Working with Jim Grootes From Circular Media
I made it super clear to Jim that I’m definitely not a professional model, and I’m going to need a ton of direction. I have approximately 3 poses I know will (probably) look good, and that’s about it.
Thankfully, Jim was great at making me feel comfortable. If something looked awkward he’d tell me. If I was slouching too much, my hands were weird, or my angle was unflattering, he’d let me know! The direction he gave me definitely made me feel much more confident. I knew he’d tell me if something looked bad, so I had a fun time experimenting with different poses and shots.
Jim’s girlfriend Yến Nguyễn was also really amazing during the shoot. Not only did she carry my purse the ENTIRE time, but she also paid very close attention to the fact that I was sweating off all my makeup, dabbing me with tissues and even reapplying makeup that she brought from home halfway through the shoot!
Why Hoi An is Perfect For a Photoshoot
If you want to get amazing travel, family, or couples photos on your trip to Vietnam, I couldn’t think of a better place than Hoi An. The most obvious place to take photos is in Hoi An Old Town. With all the lanterns, cute cafes, yellow walls, little alleys, the river, decorated shops and more, you’ll literally never run out of good places to take photos.
Hoi An is also home to beautiful rice fields and stunning villas right on the many rivers. So if you’re looking for beautiful outdoorsy photos in a more natural environment, the Anh Mi rice fields or one of the many beautiful river villas could be a perfect choice.
Hoi An Photoshoot Challenges
That said, there are some things to be aware of if you are trying to get beautiful photos in Hoi An. Firstly, the sun and heat can be very intense, especially in the summer months (June, July, August). I did my photoshoot at the end of July and man it was HOT. We started at around 9 am to avoid the heat, but even then I was SO SWEATY.
Seriously, in Hoi An I pretty much never wear makeup or a real bra before 6 pm because I just can’t deal with the heat. Not only did all of my makeup sweat and streak during the shoot, but my bra was also literally soaking wet when I took it off. (You’re welcome for that TMI).
To avoid the sun, I usually go out in the evenings. But starting around 5 pm Hoi An’s old town gets CROWDED with busses of tourists coming to see the old town lanterns light up at night, and to release floating lanterns into the river (wonder who collects all the trash from them….?).
So basically the optimal time to do a photo shoot is between 6-8 am, but who really wants to wake up that early? Aside from the sweat, we managed to get some great photos by hiding in the shade from the trees and shop buildings.
Where to Take Photos in Hoi An Old Town
While we wandered around a lot of Hoi An’s Old Town, there are a few spots I really loved!
The Tiny Yellow Alley
To be honest, I have no idea where EXACTLY this is, so you’ll have to wander around a little until you find it. It’s a super tight alley with yellow walls on both sides. Of course, there will probably be someone taking a photo here when you arrive. I just know it’s somewhat near 92 Station on the opposite side of the road.
92 Station Restaurant and Cafe
All of the amazing photos from the balcony are shot here! Go to the 3rd floor for an incredible view with rooves in the background. The roof of 92 Station has a terrace, but it’s a bit bright and much harder to get good shots up there.
SUNDAY in Hoi An
This shop is extremely cute and has a little covered patio area painted pink with the “Hoi An Vibes Only” text that you see all over Instagram. Most people think this is a random cafe, but it’s actually a store. You’re welcome.
Grab a Bicycle
Take your bicycle, or grab a random stranger’s parked bicycle like I did. Hoi An is famous for bicycles, so use one as a prop!
What to Wear For Your Hoi An Photoshoot
If you’re going to book a photographer in Hoi An (or take a ton of photos yourself for Instagram), I highly suggest figuring out what you’re going to actually wear so that your photos turn out well.
Firstly, you want to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and beautiful (or handsome!). Part of the reason I chose this red dress is that I love how flattering it is on my body shape. You’ll also want to consider that it will probably be HOT so wear some breathable summer clothes!
The main thing you’ll really want to consider is color. Hoi An has a lot of yellow walls with bright green vegetation and some dark pink bougavelia flowers. Ideally, you’ll pick a color that pops against yellow. That said, all of my favorite photos actually the ones on the balcony with all the greens, pinks and browns. I just feel like yellow is not the best color for my skin tone!
My favorite colors for a Hoi An Old Town photoshoot are definitely berry or blue. I think the A. Byer dress I have is pretty perfect. But if you’re looking for more options, here are a few dresses I love!
- DB Moon TShirt Dress (in light blue or white)
- Azalouise Wrap Dress (in blue, light blue, or red bean would be perfect!)
- KILIG Halter Neck Dress (Floral E and Floral F are my faves!)
- ZESICA Bohemian Wrap Dress (any of the red colors would look amazing)
Booking Your Own Hoi An Photoshoot
Jim is an experienced wedding photographer from the Netherlands who now runs a photography business in Danang and Hoi An. While he specializes in wedding photos, he does amazing travel photos as well.
Get incredible photos from your vacation or wedding so you can remember your time in Hoi An forever!
What Do You Think?
Have you ever booked a photoshoot while traveling? How did it go? Are you thinking about booking a shoot in Hoi An? Leave me a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP!
Who’s getting their photos taken in Hoi An?!