Going on a safari is an exciting prospect. Very rarely do we get to see wild animals outside of zoos, and the chance to see lions and zebras and giraffes in their natural habitat is a thrilling one. For many people, a trip like this is a great opportunity to get some once-in-a-lifetime safari photography.
Capturing the perfect shot on a safari can be hard, though. Read on to discover some tips for getting great safari photography.
Get a Good Camera
You may not be surprised to learn that the most important thing you can do to get good safari photos is to have a good camera. You’ll want a DSLR camera with exchangeable lenses, as well as a decent telephoto lens. At a minimum, you should probably have an 18-200mm lens, as well as a 24-105 lens for wider shots.
If you aren’t a professional photographer, you may not have cameras or lenses like this. And nice cameras can be incredibly expenses; some lenses alone retail for $12,000. Luckily, there are some online rental companies that will let you borrow a nice camera for a safari trip.
Use a Tripod
If you’ve ever zoomed in on a photo, you’ve probably noticed that things can get really shaky. Small tremors that don’t cause an issue when you’re taking a photo at a normal distance get magnified the more you zoom in. And on a safari, you’re going to be taking a lot of long-distance photos, so you want to make sure you’re not fighting shaky cam the whole time.
Having a tripod along can go a long way towards helping you capture great safari photos. Make sure you get one that will fit on your camera, and if you’re renting a camera, ask if you can also rent a tripod. You’ll want one that folds up small enough to fit in a bag so you can easily carry it around.
Bring a Memory Card
The last thing you want to happen on your safari is to run out of memory to store your pictures. Photos, especially high-resolution ones, can be very large files, and cameras only hold so many files. You don’t want to miss a great shot because your camera is out of memory.
The best way to avoid this problem is to bring along at least one extra memory card. You can get 32-gigabyte memory cards for a reasonable price – more reasonable than an extra camera certainly. While you’re at it, it may be a good idea to bring two or three along just in case; you’d rather have too much space than too little.
Use Good Composition
One of the biggest tricks to getting good photos is to use good composition. This is a learned skill, and it’s one that makes the difference between a great photo and a mediocre one. Luckily, there are a few basic principles that will help you up your safari photo game.
First of all pay attention to the edges of the photo; cropped trees or animal limbs can make a photo look odd. You also want to make sure there isn’t anything distracting in the background, such as the safari vehicle or an animal taking a huge dump. Finally, follow the rule of thirds – try to leave one-third of the photo as negative space on the top and one side.
Vary Your Perspectives
While it’s crucial to use good composition in your photos, you also want to make sure you vary your perspectives in your photos. You don’t want a bunch of super close-up shots or wide, distant shots. Having a nice blend of a bunch of perspectives can make for a more interesting photo montage from your trip.
Try to use a combination of wide, medium, and close-up shots when you’re taking photos. Look at your subjects and think about the best way to frame them in the shot. If you have an individual animal, a close-up or medium shot might be good, but if they have a spectacular sunset behind them or a group around them, a wide shot might work better.
Use the Light
When it comes right down to it, art and photography are just reflections of light that we capture. Color is a matter of what light wavelengths get reflected back, and light and shadows can make or break a photo. You want to make sure you use the light to your advantage when you take photos on your safari.
Pay attention to the quality of the light when you get ready to take a photo and make sure you’re working with the light. Sunrise and sunset offer some of the best light of the day, and overcast days can make for beautiful soft photos. In general, the harsh light of the midday is not the best for photography, but you can sometimes work with it to get some good pictures.
Focus on the Eyes
You’ve heard the old saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and it’s as true for animals as it is for humans. We’re conditioned to pay attention to faces, so when you’re framing a photo, as much as possible, you want to focus on the animal’s eyes. It will make your photo much more poignant and engaging.
If you can, try to capture photos when animals’ eyes catch the light and seem to almost glow. Any time an animal looks your way is a good time to grab a shot. But if you can get close enough and you have a good enough lens, close-ups on the animal’s eye can be amazing on their own.
Talk to Your Driver
Trying to grab good photos on a safari can sometimes seem stressful. The animals may not be working with the light very well, and it can feel like you have a limited window to get the shot you want before you leave. The last thing you want is to add on top of that stress a driver who’s unwilling to wait for you to get your shot.
If taking good safari photos is important to you, it’s a good idea to talk to your driver before you head out for the day. Explain to them what you’re trying to do and ask for their help in getting great photos. They can wait longer to let you get a shot, and they may be able to get you to better locations for taking beautiful photos.
As we mentioned before, a big challenge in taking good safari photography is waiting on the animals to get into a good position. Wild animals don’t live their lives to be photogenic, and it can seem like the perfect shot will never come around. In addition to your cameras and your memory cards, you want to be sure to bring plenty of patience.
The trick to good wildlife photography is being patient enough to wait around for the perfect shot. You have to be willing to sit in one place watching the same spot for hours on end if needed. Being willing to enjoy the process and wait for the perfect shot will help you have a better safari and get better pictures.
Pay Attention to the Small Stuff
You’ve always heard that the devil’s in the details, and nowhere is that truer than in wildlife photography. Little factors can make or break a good photo, and you have to get all of them right. All the Photoshop in the world won’t fix the fact that the safari vehicle was in the background of your perfect photo.
Pay attention to the tiny details when you’re framing up your shot. Look at the background, and make sure none of the animals are doing anything weird. It will take some practice and a lot of bad photos, but paying attention to the small stuff will make for better photos.
Of course, the most important thing you can consider when you’re taking safari photography is your safety. No matter what, it is not worth compromising your safety to get a good photo. We promise your family would rather have you around than the perfect picture.
Follow the rules your safari guides give you and don’t wander off from the group. Don’t get too close to the animals, and stay away from precarious positions. Don’t risk your safety for the sake of a photograph.
And finally, you want to be sure you respect the wildlife you’re photographing. These are wild animals, and it’s important that they stay that way. Never do anything to provoke or endanger an animal while you’re on a safari.
Remember, you’re there to observe and photograph these beautiful pieces of nature in their natural states. Do just that, and don’t lose sight of what you came to see in pursuit of the photograph you want.
Get Great Safari Photography
One of the major draws of a safari trip for many people is the chance to take beautiful photos. There’s something wonderful about hanging a breathtaking photo of a zebra on your wall and knowing that was something you got to experience and create. And with these tips you can come home with memory cards full of great safari photography.
If you’d like to get started planning your safari trip today, check out the rest of our site at Earthlife Expeditions. We can help you plan every part of your trip, from accommodations to day trips to full safari itineraries. Contact us today to start planning your African adventure.