Safari Photography is very different to other forms of photography, in the beginning, I really struggled to get the perfect shot. Fast Forward to 2020 when I was voted the Safari Influencer of the year, was one of my proudest moments. Here are some of my tips and tricks to level up your Safari photography game. (By Craig Howes)
Photos By Craig Howes
If you're planning on going on a safari, it's important to make sure that you have the proper photography gear. You'll want a camera that can handle challenging lighting conditions and lenses that will allow you to capture all the beauty of Africa's wildlife. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 tips for taking amazing safari photos!
African Safari Photography Tips
When it comes to Safari and Wildlife photography your planning and preparation before the trip is key to making sure you are in the right place, with the right gear to capture that once-in-a-lifetime moment.
1) Research the location
Research the location and plan ahead. It's important to understand the type of wildlife you might encounter, as well as what kind of lighting conditions you will be dealing with. This will help you determine which camera gear to bring along with you.
2) The right equipment. Wildlife Photography Equipment
Bring the right equipment for your safari. Invest in quality lenses that are suitable for low-light situations and wide angles, so that you can capture stunning photos of the landscape and its inhabitants from up close or far away. Additionally, make sure to pack an extra battery or two – there’s nothing worse than running out of power during a golden opportunity!
3) Plan for the best and different lighting conditions
Prepare for changing light conditions. Safari photography requires quick adaptation to different lighting levels due to the movement of animals. Make sure to bring filters that can reduce glare and increase contrast, as well as a tripod for long exposures during low-light times.
Personally, I love shooting in Golden Hour, this is when the animals are most active and golden light adds a beautiful ton and depth to your images.
4) Find the perfect vantage point.
It's important to take advantage of the terrain and find a spot where you can get the best shots without disturbing wildlife. Consider investing in a spotting scope or binoculars to help you scout the area before setting up your camera gear.
5) Don't use flash photography.
Flash photography can startle animals, so it’s best to avoid using one unless absolutely necessary. Instead, try boosting your camera’s ISO or shutter speed settings for better low-light performance.
6) Shoot from multiple angles.
To capture the best shots, you should take photos from a variety of angles and perspectives. Swap lenses if necessary to get different focal lengths and use manual focus to isolate your subject from its surroundings.
7. Use the rule of thirds for the composition of Safari Images.
When composing your shot, try using the rule of thirds – this technique involves imagining an imaginary 3x3 grid on your frame and positioning important elements along those lines or at their intersections.
8) Take advantage of natural frames.
Look out for trees, fences, rocks, etc., that can be used as natural frames for your photos – these will add depth and perspective to your shots while also drawing attention to the subject.
9) Capture moments of action.
When a lion is hunting, a herd of elephants is drinking water, or a giraffe is running across the savannah, you need to be ready to press that shutter button! Stay alert and look out for these once-in-a-lifetime moments.
Burst mode with high fps is a great way to capture the moments of action.
Photo Tip: Use Subject tracking to keep the subject in focus.
10) Experiment with post-processing techniques.
Once you’ve taken all your photos, take some time to experiment with different post-processing effects like saturation, contrast adjustments and vignetting. This will add an extra layer of creativity to your images!
Camera Bag Checklist for Safari Photography (Camera Equipment)
- Camera body(s)
- Extra batteries
- Tripod and ball head
- Flash unit (if necessary)
- Lens filters and lens caps
- Spotting scope or binoculars
- Memory cards and card reader
- Lens wipes.
- Remote shutter release (If applicable)
- Photography backpack
- Rain cover for gear.
- Bean bags.
Camera Lens Checklist for Safari Photography
- Wide-angle lenses
- Standard zoom lenses
- Telephoto (zoom) lenses
- Macro lens
- Prime lens
- Fish eye lens (for creative shots)
- Teleconverter lenses.
Tips for Photographing Wildlife from a Safari Vehicle
Keep the windows open
When photographing from a safari vehicle, try to keep the windows open. This will help reduce any vibration caused by the engine and allow you to capture sharper images.
Switch the engine off
Switching the engine off will help reduce vibration and noise so that you can get clearer images.
Keep the camera steady
When taking photos from a moving vehicle, it's important to keep your camera as steady as possible. Investing in a tripod or monopod will help with stabilization while shooting videos or long exposure shots.
Use high shutter speeds
To freeze any fast-moving action and avoid camera shake, try using high shutter speeds of 1/500 or higher. This way you can capture sharp images without any motion blur.
Be patient and wait for the perfect shot
Animals move quickly and unpredictably - take your time to study their behaviour before pressing the shutter button. Wait until they're in the ideal location and angle, then click away!
Use a bean bag (Camera Support)
To get even more stable shots, try using a bean bag on top of your safari vehicle. Place the lens in the bag and then gently press down to steady it.
Anticipation of the moment
When shooting from a safari vehicle it is important to take into account animal behaviour and understand lighting. The best safari images are taken when you position your safari vehicle in the correct position anticipating the animal's movements and light. You do not want to be continuously moving your vehicle as it will affect the wildlife's natural behaviour.
Best Camera Settings for wildlife photography on Safari
ISO: 100-800 (unless you need to use higher ISO for low-light situations)
Aperture: f/4 or wider (depending on the lens)
Shutter Speed: 1/500s or faster
Focus mode: Continuous focusing and AI Servo (for moving animals)
White Balance: Auto or Daylight
Drive Mode/Burst Mode: Continuous High Burst Photography.
Telephoto lens (Zoom Lens) for Photography on Safari
Telephoto lenses are a great choice for wildlife photography, especially if you want to get the close up shot. Not only do they allow you to capture animals from afar, but they also help compress the perspective of your images and blur the background. Choose a lens with image stabilization to reduce camera shake and invest in high-quality optics for better results.
Mirrorless Camera for Photography on Safari
Mirrorless cameras are becoming increasingly popular among wildlife photographers as they offer a lightweight, yet powerful option for capturing stunning images. Choose a camera with good autofocus capabilities to keep up with fast-moving animals and make sure it has enough megapixels to capture the detail you need.
Another big plus with Mirrorless cameras on Safari is their weight. Mirrorless cameras typically weigh a lot less than DSLR cameras. If you are flying in Africa you will often be on board a small aircraft with a total luggage restriction of 20kg. You don't want to be trading clothes for a tripod!
Long exposures Photography on Safari
Getting creative with long exposure techniques is an effective way to create unique and dreamy safari shots. Set your shutter speed slow (1/15s or slower)to achieve this effect and use a tripod or bean bag to keep the camera steady. This will allow you to ‘paint’ the scene with light and capture beautiful motion blur in your photos.
Photographing Nocturnal animals on Safari
If you're looking to capture stunning photos of nocturnal animals, then investing in a sturdy (and preferably waterproof) flashlight and using longer shutter speeds are essential. Set your ISO to the lowest setting possible and mount your camera on a tripod to reduce camera shake. This will help you create atmospheric photos that showcase both the animal’
A low f-stop lens
When it comes to photographing wildlife, having a low f-stop lens is essential. A low f-stop or aperture will allow you to capture sharp images with beautiful bokeh (or out-of-focus backgrounds). But most importantly it lets in more light, which is essential with night images.
Having a Photography Guide on Safari
For the best possible safari experience, consider having a photography guide accompany you. Photography guides are local experts who know the area and can provide invaluable advice and tips for taking amazing safari photos. They can also help you choose the best locations and times to get the perfect shot.
Photography on Walking Safaris
If you'd like to get even closer to the animals, then consider a walking safari. This is an incredibly unique and immersive experience that will allow you to capture spectacular shots of wildlife up close. When taking photos during a walking safari, make sure you use a low ISO and keep your shutter speed fast (1/500s or faster) to avoid camera shake.
Being Respectful of the Wildlife
Finally, always remember to be respectful of the wildlife and their habitats when taking photos. Don't disturb them or get too close; let them go about their lives while you take photos from a safe distance. Photography on safari can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but
Safari Photography Experience
Photography on safari can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it also requires patience and knowledge. It is important to be patient, do your research and be ready to capture that perfect moment when it happens
Realistic expectations Photography on Safari
Have realistic expectations of Photography on Safari and don’t expect to come away with that perfect shot all the time. Photography on safari is unpredictable, so try your best to enjoy the experience and be open to whatever happens. You never know when that once-in-a-lifetime moment might happen!
Photography on Private Safaris
Private safaris offer a unique opportunity to take incredible photos of wildlife without crowds and can be great for those looking for a more intimate safari experience. Photography on private safaris allows you to get closer to the animals, but it's important to retain a respectful distance and not disturb them.
Photography on Balloon Safaris
The ultimate way to get creative with your wildlife photography is to take a balloon safari. This allows you to capture aerial shots of the landscape and animals from a safe distance, often with stunning results. Keep in mind that balloons require very calm winds for safety, so if the wind is too strong, you won't be able to fly.
If you are looking to save money on Safari Equipment
If you're looking to save money on safari equipment, then checking out second-hand stores and online auctions is a great way to find high-quality gear at discounted prices. Be sure to check the condition of the item before purchasing and make sure it has all the features you need for your photography safari.
Best Countries for Safari Photography
Africa is the best destination for safari photography, with a variety of countries to choose from. Each country offers something unique and special that you won’t find anywhere else. Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are all excellent choices for safari photographers.
Photographing wildlife from a safari vehicle can be challenging but incredibly rewarding. With some patience and practice, you’ll soon be taking amazing photos that will last a lifetime! Follow these 10 tips for taking amazing Safari Photos and you'll be sure to capture some beautiful memories. Good luck!
Final Tips for Safari Photography on Safari
- Always be respectful of the wildlife and their habitat
- Always remember to keep a safe distance from the animals
- Make sure you have enough memory cards, batteries and chargers with you
- Be prepared for any weather conditions. Wear warm clothes in cold areas or carry an umbrella if it's raining.
Weight Limits Safari Photography
Keep in mind that if you are flying by light aircraft in Africa, you will often have a weight limit of 20kg. Keeping in mind that tripods and big lenses can be heavy. It is worth thinking this through before your tip.
Following these tips will help ensure that you come home from your Safari Photography trip with stunning photos to show off! Photography on Safari can be a rewarding experience, but also requires patience, preparation, and the right equipment. Let us know in the comments if you have any additional tips or tricks for successful Safari Photography! Hope this article helps you capture amazing moments during your next African safari adventure! Happy Shooting!