African Photo Safari

The Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography

What are the best camera setting for wildlife photography? In an ideal world, an elephant would stand still and pose, a rainstorm would hold off just long enough for you to get the perfect shot. But it isn’t an ideal world; therefore, we need to adjust and adapt camera settings to the ever-changing conditions. Understanding the best camera settings for wildlife photography teaches you to react to different situations and take spectacular photographs.

There is no such thing as the perfect setting; it all depends on the photographer, the camera, and the subject. There are some tricks and tips to have you best prepared for any eventuality. Adjust settings before you get anywhere near the animals; they won’t wait around while you find the best exposure settings and shutter speed settings.

Why are Wildlife Photography Camera Settings Different?

Many variables are out of our control when photographing anything outdoors. Trying to snatch spontaneous high-quality shots can seem impossible. When it comes down to beautiful beasts, their movement and the lighting conditions are just two issues we have to overcome. The best wildlife images are well-exposed, have sharp subjects, and nothing too fussy going on in the background. These objectives are achievable on any DSLR camera by controlling the depth of field, exposure, and point of focus.

The subject should be well-framed and any movement momentarily frozen in time.

Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography

Let’s assume your camera is at default settings; 

White Balance

The first mode to set; controls the colour temperature of your photographs. While you can use auto white balance, we feel that manually setting it works best for wildlife photography. In most instances, daylight setting produces the best tones, both cool and warm ones from dawn ’til dusk. 


ISO relates to your camera’s sensor’s sensitivity to light. Increase the number as light fades, from ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and so on, until tens of thousands. The best images happen when the ISO number is low, so as a setting for wildlife photography, we recommend ISO 100 for scenery and ISO 400 for animals.

Auto ISO settings are good but can produce an inferior image unless you set strict parameters.

Shutter priority – In shutter priority mode, you can control the camera’s aperture and ISO automatically. If your subject is moving or in flight, go with a faster shutter speed to freeze their movement. Conversely, if they’re stationary and not doing much of anything – like an animal sleeping- opt for slower speeds so that more light enters through the lens into the sensor to get better exposure

  • Aperture priority – Aperture Priority is one of the most popular modes on your camera, both amateurs and professional use aperture priority. What is aperture priority? Well, it lets you control the aperture and leaves the shutter speed up to the camera. It’s perfect for photographers who want more control over their pictures, but don’t need to complete manual control of every aspect of photography. It’s also great for beginners because it gives them a little more freedom than manual mode without being overwhelming. You’ll be able to capture images with beautiful depth-of-field effects or use faster shutter speeds in low-light situations without worrying about blurry shots or underexposed photos. And if you’re looking for something new, this mode will give you access to many creative possibilities, like shooting long exposures at night or capturing high-speed action sequences.
Manual –Manual metering mode settings is a great way to get creative with your photography. It’s the perfect tool for those who want total control over their shots. You need to set both aperture and shutter speed, which means you have complete control over the depth of field and how long the camera will be exposed to light. It takes some time getting used to, but it’s worth it in the end!

With manual mode, you will need to experiment with different settings until you find what works best for your style of photography. And if that doesn’t work out? No worries – just switch back to the aperture or shutter priority.

  • Program mode – the camera chooses both shutter speed and aperture based on light levels and lens using inbuilt technology. Quick and easy to use, just keep an eye on the histogram. Sometimes this is the best option on game reserves where animals move between ever-changing light and shade levels.


Choose between self-timer, single shot, or continuous. We prefer the latter, a burst of 10/15/20 images from one click. It allows the photographer to choose the best photo or see a series of motion images. Often time animals will blink and if you’re going for that portrait, head shot, closed eyes can ruin an otherwise exceptional photo.

Manual Focus vs AutoFocus

With autofocus, the camera determines the sharpest focus using sensors devoted to measuring it. In autofocus mode, the photographer doesn’t have to do anything. Manual focus is great because the photographer has complete control over where the focal point is. Manual focus is often best used in low-light or night photography where autofocus may not work as well.

But when you’re shooting something that requires a lot of detail or has moving subjects like wildlife, animals running, jumping or in motion, you’ll have to decide autofocus or manual focus. If your subject is close and not moving manual focus, maybe what you want. Both are great options depending on what type of photography you’re doing!

Manual Focus vs Autofocus – which one should you use? It depends on what you’re shooting! If your subject is moving or if there are a lot of distractions in your photo, then an auto-focus may be more effective than manual, it has the ability to quickly refocus without input from you. However, if your subject isn’t moving or there aren’t many distractions in your photo, then manual focus may work better as it allows for greater control over what’s in focus within your frame and some say it can produce sharper images overall since you needn’t worry about whether the camera has found its focal point. They just know where it has been set it beforehand, so they can take their time composing shots while still getting significant results!

Final Thoughts

You’re about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa and you want to make sure you get the best wildlife photos possible. So what are the best wildlife photography settings? We recommend Auto ISO and Aperture priority as a good place to start. Be prepared, dial in the best settings for wildlife photography, choose the best composition, and click away. It’s not just about getting that perfect shot; it’s also about capturing memories of your experience with friends or family members who are travelling with you. Make sure they’re in your photos too! They’ll love looking back at these pictures years from now when they think back on their time abroad with you. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! Get out there and take some amazing photographs of Africa’s most iconic animals, and it’s amazing landscapes.
Best camera settings for wildlife photography

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