10 African Wildlife Safari photography tips
Are you heading to Africa for that African Wildlife Safari experience? Carrying a camera instead of a gun? If so then you need to know how to get the best photographs in a snap of a second. Because getting the best shot isn’t always about luck – there are ways you can improve your odds to capture that quintessential wildlife photograph. A trip to an African Wildlife Safari is a trip of a lifetime, so you need to get your pictures right the first time.
1 Choose your Camera Equipment Wisely For An African Wildlife Safari
You’ll need a camera setup that allows you to get close to the action without being too bulky to handle. This means probably the best bet is to go for interchangeable lenses – if you can afford it, then go for a zoom lens with around 200-400mm as well as another for wide landscape shots. If you are going for gold on your African wildlife safari, then the ideal thing would be to have two cameras – one with a long lens and the other with a wide lens.
You don’t want to risk missing the shot because you were too busy switching lenses just at that crucial second a tiger appears with its cub. You have to remember that the conditions will be dusty on an African wildlife safari, so you have to bear in mind that such situations can wreck your exposed sensors.
2 What Kind of Extra Gear Should You Bring?
Keep memory cards on hand. Nothing is more frustrating than running out of space on your cards. It’s a simple error to avoid, so stock up before you leave.
Extra batteries are required. Depending on where you’re staying, you might not be able to charge your batteries overnight, so bring more just in case.
Teleconverters. Add a teleconverter to your lens to get that additional bit of reach. But be wary of what it will do to your minimum aperture, especially if you’re shooting in low light.
Camera bag that is both durable and cushioned. Something you may already have, but safaris are not usually performed on paved roads, so the ride is not always smooth. Make certain that your gear is well-protected at all times..
If you’re going on a once-in-a-lifetime photo safari, it’s worth investing in a camera gear to properly document it.
3 Do you really need that tripod?
They are large and bulky, and you won’t be very popular in a crowded vehicle if your equipment is taking up all the room! Instead, you could pack extra batteries and memory cards so you can transfer photos when you change cameras. It’s imperative, however, that you know how to use your camera before you go on your African wildlife safari – it’s not a good look, to keep tinkering with a new camera while on safari because you’re not sure how it works not to mention you could be missing out on the action!
4 Choose your Safari Guide Well, Do They Have Experience?
There’s very little point going on an African wildlife safari and spending lots of money on expensive equipment if you go it alone and don’t see any wildlife! If you hire a professional guide, they’ll be able to take you to the most amazing sights and will know all the best places for those stunning shots. No one wants to go on a African safari and miss out on the action shots or the beautiful scenery as your backdrops! An excellent guide will know the African setting like the back of their hand, so they’ll know what time of day is best and where the Safari animals are most likely to be at certain times during the day.
5 Turn the Light On!
Good photography is dependent on the light, and it really doesn’t matter how expensive our camera equipment is, without good light, your photos will be uninspiring and flat.
Your African wildlife safari guide will be able to get you up at sunrise, which is when the best chances of active wildlife photos are available. This is when the animals are resting in the shade of away from the heat.
Likewise, dusk is another superb time to capture the animals on film as they are most likely to be waking up from their afternoon snooze as the sun is setting on the horizon.
6 It’s Also Essential You Know How Your ISO Works.
The ISO setting determines how sensitive your camera is to light as well as how fine the grain is of your image.
The ISO we choose depends on the situation – when it’s dark; we need to push the ISO up to a higher number, say anything from 400 – 3200, as this will make the camera more sensitive to light, and then we can avoid blurring.
On bright, sunny days, we can choose ISO 100 or the Auto setting as we have more light to work with.
This is probably the setting you’ll want on an African wildlife safari photo shoot.
You might think that you should only use the flash during the evening or night-time – think again.
On an African wildlife safari, you’ll find the light is exceptionally bright during the day, and therefore the sun can create hard shadows on your subject.
Switch on your flash, and by forcing extra light onto your subject, you’ll be able to fill in those unwanted shadows and create an even exposure.
7 Composition is Key at Wildlife Parks
If you want to have the ‘wow factor’ in your African wildlife safari photos, then the setting and the composition are paramount.
This is when the Rule of 3 is essential – this is when you imagine four lines, two lying horizontally across the image and two vertical creating nine even squares.
Some images will look best with the focal point in the center square, but placing the subject off-center, at one of the intersecting points of the imaginary lines, will often create a more aesthetically composed photograph.
This means that when your photo is composed, the eyes will wander around the frame, making it more pleasing.
Try and keep the backgrounds simple so that the focus is on the main feature in the center.
And – fill the frame!
8 Use the Right Lens
The most common lenses to use for wildlife photography are telephotos because they can be used to shoot from long distances.
Some of them feature optical stabilization (OS) to minimize shaking due to extreme magnification. Still, these models can also be quite expensive; although there are also cheap plastic ones that may not have OS, you can always keep them steady on a sturdy tripod and use high shutter speed to minimize blur.
A telephoto zoom allows for more shooting flexibility. An 18mm-300mm lens means that you can take photos from up-close to much longer distances.
If you want to get a telephoto with a fixed focal length (no zooming capabilities), you should look for one that’s at least 100mm.
9 Watch For Movement in the Wilderness
If you want to take that photo of a lion going in for its kill, or a vulture swooping down on its prey, then you’ll need to capture your subject in motion.
To do this, choose a shutter speed around two steps lower than necessary – so for 1/250, choose 1/60
Keep your camera on the subject with your finger half-way down on the shutter to lock the focus, and when ready, take the photo, remembering to follow them as they move.
Try and keep yourself as steady as possible to avoid shaky pictures. You can also choose some interesting effects by playing with the shutter speed.
10 Feature The Animals In the Spotlight
Many newbie photographers place the animal in the center of the frame. Thus trying to make it the center of their composition. As a wildlife photographer, it is important to think about your composition before taking the photo.
You should photograph the animal using the rule of thirds to create more interesting compositions. You could also include part of the animal’s habitat in your frame, such as a bird in its nest or a woodland river bank.
What Makes An Extraordinary Wildlife Photograph?
As many of you are aware, Africa is home to an amazing diversity of wildlife. But what makes a photograph extraordinary?
Some wildlife photographers say it’s the subject: capturing just one animal or focusing on a rare species that most people have never seen before. Others argue that it’s more about how the photographer captures the moment – whether by using their creative skills to make something beautiful out of ordinary things, or through spectacular photography technique and composition.
But for me, what really makes a photo special is when I can get up close and personal with my subjects, such as lions or giraffes. When this happens, there is no need for any other props; nature provides all the drama!
So, remember, shoot some beautiful photographs on your African wildlife safari adventure but not any beautiful animals!
We Get Asked Which African Country?
1 Tanzania African Safari
Ngorongoro Crater: Look for the Big 5It is well-known for providing the easiest and most consistent Big 5 sightings in East Africa, and it offers what is perhaps the greatest safari in Tanzania.
2 Zimbabwe and Zimbia
Zimbabwe is a terrific safari location all year, but the ideal months to visit are June through September. Known as the dry season, it’s a great time to view animals congregating near water holes.
Victoria Falls, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the world’s greatest sheet of tumbling water, leaving tourists speechless. Two nations on each side of this massive waterfall provide some of Africa’s greatest wildlife watching opportunities. Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is one of the continent’s largest parks, with a high elephant population. Zambia’s South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi give travellers a variety of options to observe wildlife, including walking, motorboating, and even canoeing.
3 South Africa
Consider this diversified location to be your starting point for your African adventure. This is the place to go for a true safari, with an abundance wildlife of Kruger National Park and options to venture off the beaten path in Botswana and Namibia.
Botswana is absolutely untamed. A Botswana safari offers a variety of wildlife watching opportunities, including both boat and land-based excursions. The Okavango Delta has beautiful rivers, abundant bird life, and a laid-back atmosphere that can only be found near water.
5 Namibia Tour
Namibia, home to renowned and profoundly rewarding safari locations, is a safe, pleasant, and diverse nation to explore. However, it is a large country – larger than France – with enormous distances between significant locations such as the Sossusvlei dunes and Etosha National Park.
6 Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is an outstanding wildlife haven and one of Southern Africa’s top national parks. You’ll be charmed for the rest of your life by the variety of species and gorgeous vegetation!
Because of the many rivers, Chobe National Park is exceptionally lush. During the dry season, the Chobe River flows through the park, attracting many animals and birds.
We hope our photography tips have inspired you to take an African Wildlife Safari. We are positive you will capture some amazing photographs. If you would like to book a safari, we would be more than happy to help you plan the perfect trip. Alternatively, if you would like to learn more about wildlife photography, we have a range of other articles that may interest you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What months are best for an African Wildlife safari?
The best months for African Wildlife safari are during the dry season. The rainy season can sometimes make traveling difficult, so it is ideal to tour in a dry month when you will have more time to explore
Is a Safari Better in Kenya or South Africa?
Kenya is home to the Maasai people and their safari experience, while South Africa is known for its big game hunting. Safari in Kenya has more variety of wildlife than that in South Africa.
What country in Africa has the most robust wildlife populations?
Gambia has the most robust wildlife populations in Africa. The country has a large number of animals that live there, including elephants, lions, and gorillas.
Which African countries have the best wildlife?
The African countries with the best wildlife are: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa.
What is the best time to do a safari in South Africa?
The best time to do a safari in South Africa is between November and April, when the weather is most pleasant.