5 Tips For Capturing Hanoi On Camera
Hanoi is such a fast-paced, spontaneous city that it can be hard to capture the city on camera. The charming chaos can be gone in the blink of an eye, let alone in the click of a shutter.
An entire family on a motorbike – zoom! Gone.
A train rattling through a tight residential street – zoom! Missed it.
A street seller carrying an unimaginable amount of fruit – zoom! Too late.
Plus, there’s so much going on. Where do you even start? Every scene has its own appeal and every person seems to be doing something more interesting than the last.
We’ve come up with a few tips to help you get compelling photos of hectic Hanoi that are more than just unidentifiable blurs or every building on the block.
Communicate with people
So what if you don’t speak a word of Vietnamese? That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with the locals! A little bit of friendly gesturing or attempting to use the language (even if you butcher it) can entirely change the expressions and body language of the people in your photos.
In particular, asking permission to take a photo of someone can totally transform a shot. Having a more comfortable subject could be the difference between a photo of an old woman looking away and a picture of a cheerful toothless grandma grinning at the camera.
Stay in one place
With so much hustle-bustle in Hanoi, you can often feel like you’re chasing after shots, only to miss them by milliseconds. Sometimes the key to a great photo is just staying put!
The great thing about staying in one place is that you can prepare your shots a little more than when you’re wandering around the streets. There will be less chance of ending up with an entire album of blurry pictures.
Find yourself a spot to sit, whether it be on a busy junction or a hidden alleyway. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.
Hanoi can feel like an obstacle course at times with so many motorbikes, street stalls and tiny plastic stools dotted all over the pavements. You can spend a whole day staring at your feet just trying not to trip over something!
However, it’s worth remembering that lots of Hanoi’s most riveting sights are not on the ground but stacked up above your head. Seemingly disconnected buildings are piled up on top of each other, locals are hanging their washing out in every available space and pets are poking their heads through metal bars of balconies.
Take a moment to let your eyes wander above street level – there’s a whole other world up there that many people miss!
Keep an eye out for contrasts
One of the best things about Hanoi is its non-continuity. The buildings are different colours, heights and styles, the people wear everything from traditional conical hats to modern party dresses with heels, and the shops range from immaculate fashion boutiques to cluttered living rooms converted into souvenir shops.
There are so many unique and unusual contrasts in Hanoi that you might stop noticing them at all. But, keep an eye out for the city’s weird and wonderful comparisons, and you’ll come away with pictures that are both visually arresting and telling of Hanoi’s unique culture.
Don't Forget about Close-ups
We’ve already mentioned the charming non-continuity of Hanoi’s architecture which makes for tons of brilliant wide shots. But, you can find just as many intriguing close-ups in the city too. Whether it’s a colorful bowl of pho or a wild assortment of goods in the market, don’t forget to look for close-ups!