If you’re heading to Africa soon and looking for advice on how to take the most memorable wildlife images, you’re in the right place!
Over the years, we’ve welcomed numerous amateur and professional photographers. In so doing, we’ve gathered 21 safari photography tips to help you plan ahead and get the most out of your safari photography.
These tips are a sure-fire way to make your vacation an eye-watering and visual success.
1. Go At The Right Time
No matter where in Africa you’re heading, the time of years will impact the game viewing and, therefore, your safari photography experience. Seasonality depends on the region.
In Zambia, for instance, travelling during the rainy season comes with amazing skies and green scenery. However, thick bush and difficult road access will limit wildlife sightings.
Coming in October will allow for exciting predator activity at the cost of extreme heat and dust – and monotonously brown background. And it’s not just the weather but also the type of wildlife and its behaviour that you must consider.
Is it denning time for the African Wild Dogs? Will Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters be nesting? Will there be baby impalas to photograph?
Read our Best Time to Visit Zambia blog for more travelling tips.
2. Select The Correct Safari Photography Equipment
There are a lot of blogs and literature out there that will talk extensively about the pros and cons of various safari photography equipment and what to pack.
Of course, this will vary depending on your photographic experience, your readiness to spend money on new items, and your itinerary and transport.
DSLR or Mirrorless Camera
A DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) is still to this day the preferred type of camera for professional photographers mainly because the image shown through the viewfinder is “real,” which means it is “trusted.”
A mirrorless camera creates the preview electronically. These cameras are gaining popularity due to their portability and lighter weight, and the selection of interchangeable lenses is getting wider for them too.
Bring a Long Lens
The usual recommendation is at least 300mm, which allows for more flexibility and less frustration.
But don’t leave the standard lens at home; you’ll need it for landscapes too. Some excellent zoom lenses now cover wide ranges of focals, making them versatile.
Camera Support for Stabilisation
3. Don’t have it? Rent it!
Not everybody can afford to spend thousands on safari photography equipment and lenses on top of the safari cost. Renting is an option, and you can get much better gear at a fraction of the price.
This is especially true with enormous zoom lenses you wouldn’t otherwise use at home. Talk to your local camera store as they will likely offer rentals or recommendations.
Keep in mind that it is better to rent excellent quality equipment than buy cheap. It’s also common for avid photographers to rent photography equipment as a trial before committing to buying it.
4. The Best Settings
Our first handy tip is for you to use auto-focus! Modern cameras have fast and efficient auto-focus systems.
Also, make sure you use the continuous setting. Since the animals will continuously move, the auto-focus will come in handy. The exception is in a very bushy environment with grass between you and the subject. In addition:
- Don’t use Multi Point Focus which lets your camera choose from multiple focus points (because the camera doesn’t differentiate a lion from a tree)! Instead, using a single focus point is usually recommended. And this doesn’t mean only the central focus point; it’s good to try various points depending on the scene and composition.
- Shutter Speed. This setting will primarily determine the sharpness of the image. If the animals are static, you would probably start with a speed of 1/400sec. But if they are running, or you’re shooting flying birds, then you’ll be looking at 1/3200sec.
- Aperture. This controls the depth of field of the image, and you can play around depending on your creativity. But this will also depend on the quality of the lens. A wide aperture (f4, f5.6) will reduce the depth of field, isolating the subject with a blurry background.
- ISO. This controls the sensor’s sensitivity and is the third variable that will affect your speed and aperture. Using Auto ISO helps correctly expose the image using a good combination of the above. Just beware of grain caused by high ISO.
- Most wildlife photographers will use the Aperture mode: you set the aperture for the desired result, and the camera sets the speed.
- It’s essential to check that it is realistic (handheld vs. tripod, light, etc.) and, if not, simply adjust the ISO to reach the desired speed.
Ed Selfe has written another excellent blog on the basic settings. Read it here.