For many people, going on a safari is on their bucket list and constitutes a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Of course, you want to do it right by capturing your safari experience as best as you can. However, you feel a bit intimidated by the task ahead since you are a novice at wildlife photography.
Now, there is no need to buy loads of expensive and fancy equipment to take photos of your safari adventure. All you need is a keen eye and some tips for wildlife photography.
I have put together in this post, a list of wildlife photography tips for beginners. If you follow these tips, you will return home with breathtaking safari photos.
Research the Wildlife
First, make a list of all the animals you want to see and photograph during your safari. The next step is to investigate the wildlife you want to photograph. You need to find out everything you can about their behaviors and habitats.
Once you are on a game viewing drive, spend some time observing the wildlife. Remember, the more you know about the behavior of the wildlife will help you predict their next move and enable you to capture it!
Gear and Stuff
Camera and Lenses
To get fabulous photos, you need to know your camera! So, the first thing to do is to read the instruction manual for your camera! Sound silly, I know, but many people have no idea what are the features and limitations of their camera. Once you have read the instructions, it is time to practice, so, take loads of photos!
You need to play with the settings of your camera. Try various ISO settings to find out the best setting to use for low-light and bright conditions. Also, learn how to use your camera in the manual mode, it might come handy.
Practice makes perfect! So, visit the local zoo and take pictures of the animals. Practice taking portrait shots and wide-angle shots. You need to familiarize yourself with your camera before going on your safari adventure. This will have a tremendous impact on the quality of your photos!
Nowadays, there are so many choices when it comes to buying a camera that you might feel overwhelmed. A mistake often made by the novice wildlife photographers is to assume that by purchasing the most expensive camera they can afford, they will effortlessly produce breathtaking photos for sure! Wrong! You need to learn how to use your camera to get stunning pictures!
Before buying your camera, ask yourself this: What do I want to photograph with my camera?
If you are looking to capture portraits as well as wide-angle pictures of the wildlife, then you should get a camera that allows you to take these types of photos without the hassle of having to change lenses over and over.
Tripod and Stability
Blurry pictures are the result of a shaky hand, so to avoid this, you should opt for a camera with a stabilization feature. Also, go an extra step by using a tripod or monopod or even a bean bag to avoid the camera shake!
- The tripod is the best option. However, if you are going on a walking safari, it might be a hassle to carry one with you. So, you need to think outside the box! Use your surroundings as a tripod to stabilize your camera and get sharper pictures. For instance, you can use a rock or a branch or even the stump of a tree to support your camera. If you are in a vehicle, try a monopod, that you can mount on the side door of the vehicle.
- Another excellent alternative is the bean bag. Especially, if you have a limit on the amount of luggage you can take with you on your safari. Bring an empty bag from home and once you have arrived at your safari destination, fill it with beans. Use a beanbag underneath your camera to stabilize it. This will significantly improve the quality of your photos. You can use the bag on the roof or the side door of a vehicle.
The use of polarized filters reduce the glare and increase saturation. You should use them over water and when taking wide-angle shots with sky and clouds.
I strongly recommend that you bring your personal safari binoculars. If you don’t, you will have to share a pair of binoculars with other fellow travelers and most certainly will miss out on the action! The binoculars will allow you to spot the animals from afar.
Don’t forget to bring extra memory cards. Why? For one thing, you don’t want to run out of space. For another, if the memory card that you are using get damaged, then you will not be stuck with no memory cards!
I also recommend that you do a backup of your images every night on another device. Here are a couple of options to consider:
- Bring your laptop computer with an external hard drive to store your pictures.
- If you don’t want to bring your laptop, you should opt for a memory card storage device to backup your memory card.
As you are backing up your photos, do some editing as well! Don’t wait to get home to start editing your pictures. Because if you do, you might have thousands of photos to go over. Quite an undertaking!
You Need More Power!
Pack extra batteries for your camera. Batteries are a rarity in Africa, and they are quite expensive. Don’t forget to bring the charger and adapters to charge your electronics devices. Always have a set of batteries charging while you are using the other one.
Apply the rule of the thirds. Don’t center the animals in your pictures. By placing your subject off-center, you create some space in which the animal can move into. This will give the impression to the viewer that your pictures are alive, not static.
There are two types of photos of the wildlife you should take during your safari:
- Environment: It is important to take wide-angle shots to include the animal’s surroundings. What is the point of going on a safari if you intend only to take portrait photos of the wildlife! Don’t waste your money! Just visit the zoo and take portrait pictures of the animals there! It is of the utmost importance that you don’t just focus on the animals! Otherwise, how will you be able to tell where the pictures were taken?
- Portrait: To take a great portrait photo, you need to focus on the eyes of the subject. By doing so, you will capture the animal’s personality, and your pictures will be more enticing.
Take your time to frame the wildlife perfectly to avoid cutting off the extremities of the animals.
A friendly reminder, turn off the beep function of your camera. This might be very unnerving to your fellow travelers. Also, don’t use the flash, it will scare the animals.
To add an effect of depth to your images, you need to have objects in the foreground as depicted in the picture below.
The best time to go on a safari is usually during the spring and winter months (June to October). The reason for this is because of the sparse vegetation. It is easier to spot the wildlife throughout the wilderness and take outstanding pictures.
Patience and perseverance are crucial to getting excellent pictures of wildlife. Furthermore, wildlife is not at your disposal and ready to strike a pose whenever it is convenient for you! You have to be patient and learn about the behavior of wildlife. By doing so, you will know where to find the animal and be able to anticipate their next move and capture it.
You probably won’t get all the photos that you are seeking on your first day, so be patient and persevere. Also, keep in mind that you might not be able to get pictures of all the animals on your wish list, because of some factors that are beyond your control.
Some people will say that photography is all about light. In fact, what makes a photo is the light, not the subject. You need to find the best light to get stunning photos.
The best time to take pictures on an African safari is early in the morning and late in the afternoon. This is known as the “Golden Hour.”
Always make sure that you have the sun behind you when taking pictures. Except, if you want to add some effects to your photos, such as a silhouette.
Tell a Story
A common mistake made by many people while on a safari is that they take too many pictures. Do NOT overshoot. If you are too hasty, you will forget to apply some of the elementary rules of photography such as the rule of the thirds. As a result, the quality of your pictures will suffer greatly.
So, always envision the scene you want to capture. Then, find the proper light along with the story you want to tell with the picture.
Your tour guide has a wealth of information about wildlife. So listen carefully to your guide if you want to learn everything about the animals that you are seeing! Don’t forget to write down the names of the animals. At the end of the day, once you are back at the campsite, go through all your photos with your guide. Don’t be shy, ask more questions about the animals in your pictures and take more notes.
Upon your return from your vacation, add your notes to your photos as a complement of information. Put together a slideshow presentation to show to your friends and family, telling the story of your safari adventure.
Finally, one last piece of advice, put down your camera every once in a while to enjoy the scenery and the wildlife. Furthermore, if you are on a family vacation, spend some time with your family. Don’t be that guy that spends his vacation behind the camera rather than with his family!
Even if you are a novice wildlife photographer, you can take breathtaking pictures of your African safari adventure. Simply follow the tips outlined here in this post. Don’t let the wildlife photography intimidate you!
Start by doing some research, learn about the behaviors of the animals you wish to photograph. Also, prior to your departure, it is paramount that you fully understand all the features and limitations of your camera.
You don’t need to buy an expensive camera to capture your African safari, especially if you are a novice photographer. What you need is a user-friendly camera delivering high-quality images. If you are interested in learning more, read my full review about the Fujifilm FinePix S1, here.
If you have any inquiries about wildlife photography or would like to share a few photography tips, please leave a comment below. I am looking forward to hearing from you!