Going on a safari is on their bucket list and constitutes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many people.
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 manual mode, it might come in 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 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.
- Put the 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 reduces glare and increases 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 gets damaged, then you will not be stuck with any 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 electronic 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. 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 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 is 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 its 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 wildlife photography intimidate you!
Start by doing some research, and 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 of 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!
20 thoughts on “Paramount Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners”
Just recently took up photography and found your site. I just finished reading your article on Paramount Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners. I saved your website to my favorites for future reference. There’s too many awesome tips to remember. Thanks again for all the photography tips. I can’t wait for your next article.
I am glad that you found value in my post.
What a lot of information and tips for the budding photographer on safari! Taking an empty bag with you and filling it with beans at your destination is something I’d never have thought of. Great tip.
Also, your recommendation of taking your own binoculars is spot on. Apart from giving you a wide-angle view of what’s going on in the vicinity, binoculars are much underrated and underused IMHO. This applies to stargazing as well as to wildlife photography.
The problem with lenses is one I suffer from. I really like to take macro shots of flora but am also very interested in wildlife, especially birds. What lens/es would you take on your safari? Great article.
I agree with you. A pair of binoculars must be included in your duffel bag for your safari adventure! Otherwise, you will be missing out on the action!
Now, if you don’t want to carry loads of luggage in order to bring all your photographic equipment such as multiple lenses to capture different shots, then you should opt for a mega-zoom camera like the Fujifilm FinePix S1. This camera has a 50X optical zoom lens that allows you to capture wide-angle shots as well as telephoto shots. So there is no need to bring one lens to capture the birds up close and another to photograph the wildlife from afar!
To find out more about the great features of the FinePix S1 and why it is the ideal camera for the budding photographer, read my full review here.
I get the feeling that it’s a continual learning process because there are always new ideas and everything needs practice, practice, practice. Maybe you should start a club or something so you photographers can share together.
Yes, you’re right. Practice is the key to getting better at photography.
What great advice… you seem to have thought of just about everything.
My camera is just point and click but my son is just about to embark on a full photography course which should be really good.
I’ve found, as he discusses different parts with me I’m getting more and more interested in the subject as a whole.
I love great photos and to be set up to go on safari and snap all those great animal pictures would be more than fantastic.
I did take notes from your writings and want to say thanks.
You’re welcome! I find that photography is quite a fascinating subject. One of the things on my to-do list is to take photography lessons to further improve the quality of my photos by learning new techniques. Maybe your son could give me some pointers when he’s done with his course!
Thanks for stopping by.
I always wanted to go to Africa and take pictures of wildlife there! I like photography, and I’m always the one during holidays that are waiting for that perfect shot.
Unfortunately, I also sometimes have no choice but to point and click quickly, and for that, the better the equipment you have – the better the picture is going to be for those quick ‘ points and click’ shots.
I will consider some of the equipment recommended here for my next trip – whenever that will be!
I am also guilty of taking pictures where I just point and shoot and forget the theory to get amazing photos!
Even though you have a high-end camera, you still need to know your camera, play with the different settings to get the most out of your camera, which will lead to better pictures! Practice makes perfect!
Fascinating article on wildlife photography.
Going on a safari is definitely on my bucket list but I think will remain on the bottom as it is so expensive – especially to get to Africa from Australia where I live.
Your advice about reading the instructions might sound silly but it is very apt. So many people don’t read instructions and wonder why something they have bought doesn’t work properly!! There is an expression “When all else fails, read the instructions!!”
A lot of people do spend all their holiday behind the camera and forget to actually enjoy what they are looking at – another interesting point.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and your photographs were fabulous.
You know, on my bucket list, I listed a trip to Australia and New Zealand. I find the landscape breathtaking, and I wish that one day I will be able to visit and take pictures of the amazing landscapes!
As for reading the instructions, I find that many people think it’s a waste of time, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to operate a camera… Up to a point, they get stuck or damage their brand new camera because they failed to read the instructions!
Fantastic! What an awesome idea – watching the animals and predicting their behaviour. As an amateur photographer I often like to take snaps of the local wildlife here. We have a diverse range of animals and insects around these parts. This has given me some great ideas to build upon the next time I go out and snap a few.
Lovely article. I also liked your theme – the colours are beautifully presented 🙂
Taking pictures to include a technical aspect requires a lot of practice. You need to know your camera in order to take great shots. Photography requires a lot of patience too… and dedication!
I hope that with time to become a decent photographer…
Hey Sonia, lot’s of great information in this post. I don’t do much photography work, but when I travel I do like to capture some of the better moments.
Like I said I’m not anywhere close to a professional or even a novice photographer so the tips in this post really helped.
I have a pretty cheap camera now that’s pretty crappy, and have a trip planned here soon.
Do you have a recommendation for a good wide angle camera under $200 or so? Unfortunately I don’t have that much to spend =(
Thanks for the help
Photography is a hobby, and I’m not a professional photographer. I’m good in theory… But there is a lot of room for improvement!
If you’re looking to buy a wide-angle camera, you should take a look at my Fujifilm FinePix S1 review. The Fine Pix S1 is an excellent choice, but the price is above your budget! The camera is around $300!
Other models of Fujifilm camera, such as the Fujifilm FinePix S9400W, might be more in your price range (under 200$) and is also an excellent camera.
Hope it helps.
This is a marvellous article, I’m in no way an expert photographer, but I do like to take nature pics when I’m out and about.
You have covered all the angles here for a trip and is great reference for newbies and professionals alike.
I personally like your shot with the horses, as I enjoy landscapes. The shot there looks breathtaking and something I’d like to see for myself.
I appreciate you sharing your knowledge, I found it helpful and interesting.
I’m not a professional photographer either, and I have a lot of difficulties putting into practice what I preach! I know all about the theory on how to take a good picture: the light composition, the rule of the thirds, etc., but I get caught in the moment and forget all about it, especially with moving subjects! I need more practice, so taking pictures becomes second nature!
P.S: The photo you’re talking about was taken at the Ngorongoro crater and its wildebeests in the forefront! 🙂
Thanks for these much-appreciated advice. I put in practice some of them, but always run into problems with my camera, it’s a Kodak Z712 IS. I’m looking to buy another that would be good for both still and moving subject animals also sports. Do you have any advice? Is a Gopro camera a good option?
If you’re looking for something that is weather-resistant and enables you to take wide-angle shots and telephoto shots, you can also record video in full HD (1080p/60fps). I would recommend the Fujifilm FinePix S1 with a 50X optical zoom. Take a look at my review of the Fujifilm FinePix S1 where I go over the different features of the camera.
The GoPro is perfect for recording high-definition video, but it doesn’t have the zooming capability of the Fujifilm FinePix S1! So I would personally go for the Fujifilm FinePix S1, which offers an excellent image quality for the price (under 400$ USD). I hope it helps!