Safari photography tips
Safari Photography tips for beginners, are you new to the hobby have you caught the bug? To afraid or think you lack the skills to capture stunning photographs? Read on and let see if we can convince you otherwise
Few of us are lucky enough to experience the magnificent sights that a Photo Safari has to offer. Those of us that get the opportunity will want to photograph and document as many sights as possible but might worry that being a novice with few photography skills could be a hindrance.
Worry not! We have prepared a handy guide to ensure you get the best photographic memories from your vacation of a lifetime.
By researching everything before you go, including your tour guide, the different environments, and which animals you might expect to see, you will be best prepared.
The person with the knowledge; they will get you in the best positions to capture the best images. Ask them for any photography advice; they will have been in your shoes countless times trying to get great shots.
There will sometimes be restrictions on taking photos, often in areas where the animals are more timid. Going out in smaller groups of no more than 4 is ideal, they are likely to create less noise, allowing you to get closer to the animals. Your guide will advise you of this.
Whether you’re in the bush, marshlands, or sandy dunes, you will have the opportunity for some great shots, not always just of animals.
In some places it is safe to drive close to the animals, in other you have to keep a safe distance so as not to spook them. If you’re really lucky you will come across inquisitive animals that might walk alongside the jeep.
The Correct Gear
It is possible to capture some stunning images without the need for an all-singing, all-dancing, expensive set-up. However, there are a few essentials you won’t manage without.
Obviously! A digital SLR camera is ideal; lightweight and easy to use, a simple point and shoot will not do. Your equipment may get roughed up a little on bouncy jeep rides so high durability levels and weather-resistance is desirable. Tight seals that prevent dust from getting onto the sensors will help in the many hours you will be post processing your images. Dust spots are the vain of every photographer, removing dust spots becomes duteous after a while.
This is absolutely vital. It enables you to get images of animals going about their business in their natural habitat, without disturbing them.
Some of the bigger ones are expensive and often unnecessary. They take up valuable luggage space and are more prone to being damaged.
Consider a compact 400-millimeter lens, or 2 separate ones, maybe 1 x 100 – 400mm and 1 x 24 – 105 mm. Be aware that changing lenses can allow dust to find its way on to the sensor. One versatile lens with a quick, accurate focus should be sufficient. An image stabilizer function is also desirable.
Another absolute essential. You may experience shakiness at 300mm+ and for the highest-quality shots, you will need a method of steadying the camera.
Collapsible tripods and monopods work brilliantly, however, as the animals move you may find yourself needing to move quickly from one side of the jeep to the other. Tripods can be quite awkward to move in a restricted space, consider using a beanbag perched on the window frame to steady your camera.
Carrying a lot of photographic equipment can be heavy and cumbersome. Remember to check with your airline about weight requirements.
There is also a possibility that you will need to take connecting flights on small bush planes. These have much smaller cargo space and seriously restricted luggage allowances.
We suggest limiting your accessories to these;
• Multiple spare fully-charged batteries plus a vehicle charger
• Several memory cards
• A small portable hard drive is a great way of viewing your shots without draining the camera battery. It’s also useful to clear the shots at the end of each day and free up more space.
• Ziploc bags are a godsend! Keep all of your small and fiddly bits protected and safe from dust.
• A camera bag big enough to hold everything and throw on your back makes carrying accessories simpler.
It is worth checking with your safari company before travelling if they have an equipment hire facility. Many have tripods and lenses to rent for the duration of your stay.
Although this can lighten your luggage, don’t forget to check that they are compatible with your camera before you travel.
Be prepared to be an early riser. The best images are usually captured in the ‘Golden Hour’.
That is immediately after sunrise so be prepared to be out by 5 or 6 am.
It’s cold out there in the early hours, layer up to keep warm. Peel off the layers as the sun burns its way through. You may be treated to a Bush Breakfast while out, even that is a wonderful photo opportunity.
Remember to be patient and stay as quiet as you can. Respect the animals and you will be rewarded with the most incredible and natural pictures.
Evening safaris usually start an hour just before the sun sets so you will still feel warm. Remember, temperatures drop quickly so have those layers on hand. Hats, scarves, and gloves serve to keep you warm. Some tour operators will have warm drinks on hand.
The best photographs tell the viewer a story. Maybe a lion is lying in the shade of a tree because he’s hot? Or maybe he’s in wait for his next meal or resting after the thrill of a kill.
Don’t be afraid to use all of the environment in your pictures, there may be vultures overhead, cloud formations reflected in water holes, stunning dunes, and rock formations. Everything that you see is a tiny piece of a huge, stunning landscape.
Keep the camera as steady as possible and let the viewfinder work its magic. It will focus in on the subject, you just need to shoot it.
Take multiple shots, the light is ever-changing and so are the colors. Photographs taken seconds apart can look very different, particularly when the subject is moving.
Remember you have several batteries and memory cards so storage space won’t be an issue. Reliving the moments as you edit your photos is a pretty cool experience.
Animals are more active before and after the heat of the midday sun so be prepared to get great action shots. For clear images you need to have the steadiest hand possible; rely on the tripod or nestle your camera onto a beanbag to add stability.
Don’t be afraid to try different angles. Lie on your back, crouch down low, or stand on your seat if it is safe. Let yours be the images that stand out from the crowd.
You will undoubtedly come across native African people on your journey. They are a beautiful, fascinating, and colorful culture that makes stunning photographic subjects.
However, it is very rude to assume they are happy for you to snap away. Remember your manners and ask before you take pictures of them and their homes.
Offering them money in exchange for photographs is often seen as an insult.
Our Final Safari Photography Tips
Namibia truly has some of the most spectacular and memorable sights that you are ever likely to see.
Pay heed to the season and your guide, have realistic expectations, and trust in your judgment to find that inspirational shot.
Our safari photography tips for beginners should help you to take countless extraordinary photographs, stunning memories that will last a lifetime.