5 Top Tips for Your Photography on an African Wildlife Safari
African Wildlife Safari
Going on an African Wildlife Safari? 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.
Choose your Camera Equipment Wisely
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.
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!
Choose your Safari Guide Well
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 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 animals are most likely to be at certain times during the day.
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.
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.
Composition is Key
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!
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.
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.
So, remember, shoot some beautiful photographs on your African wildlife safari adventure but not any beautiful animals!