An African Safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people – an experience that you’ll cherish for many years to come. By photographing your experience you can preserve these precious memories and show off the most beautiful wildlife to ever exist.
We believe that investing in the proper equipment (which doesn’t have to break the bank!) allows you to preserve these memories in the best way possible. You want to achieve bright, clear photos that show off your experiences and allow you to re-live them. If you’re worried that your photography skills are a little lacklustre – our comprehensive guide will show you absolutely everything you need to know.
Here at Tusk we capture an array of photos all over the world – however, our hearts belong in the wonders of Africa, especially with the abundance of wildlife and photographic opportunities available. Our guide is intended to help those embarking on their first safari – or perhaps you’re a well-seasoned traveller, looking to improve your photographic safari skills and capture those golden shots.
What should you bring along to your safari?
A DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera is usually the best to bring alone, however, if you’re on a budget then a compact camera or Smartphone with decent zoom still has some fantastic capabilities for shooting wildlife
If you have a DSLR then interchangeable lenses mean you can take the best shots depending on your subject matter and how close/far away you are.
We usually recommend lenses in the range of 200-400mm for wildlife photography – especially when you’re shooting predators from afar
Choosing your camera
The best camera for wildlife photography depends entirely on your budget. Everyone has different preferences and there isn’t an ultimate camera you absolutely need to purchase to achieve amazing wildlife photos.
Traditionally – owning a DSLR camera with a range of interchangeable lenses will guarantee you the best results as they can offer you crisp photos even whilst zoomed in. They’re also easier to fine tune if shooting in difficult lighting conditions.
However, in most recent days the smartphone has taken over the compact and DSLR camera as an affordable (and sometimes even better!) choice. Before deciding on which method you wish to shoot in – you need to consider the options and what best suits you.
It’s a notorious rule that you should never use your flash in a safari. By using a tripod to take a long exposure – allowing more light to enter your camera by using a very slow shutter speed (it can also help prevent camera shake)
Having a sturdy dust-proof case for your camera is an essential accessory, especially if you’re a pro-am or pro photographer. The deserts are very dusty and the last thing you want is tiny particles floating around your optics.
Or equip two bodies
Another alternative is equipping two bodies – one with a prime lens and the other with a zoom. This saves the need to switch lenses (which ultimately increases your chance of getting dust in your camera) and also saves you missing that golden shot.
Something as simple as a small bean bag to prop on the window of your car and rest your camera on is one of the best methods for reducing overall lens shake and any unnecessary damage to your camera whilst the vehicle is moving (not to mention it gives your arms a rest).
Telephoto Zoom Lens
If you’re using a DSLR a decent telephoto zoom lens of at least 200mm is perfect for capturing safari animals. If your budget allows – a 500mm zoom lens is really ideal for birds and mammals at further distances
Wide angle lens
Wide angle lenses are fantastic for scenic shots – anything with a focal length between 14mm-70mm would be ideal. It’s great for nature photography enthusiasts who wish to capture a variety of landscapes.
Don’t forget to point upwards – if you’re on a safari during a rainy season then including the sky within your shots can really add some drama and give you some awe-inspiring results.
Bring plenty of batteries and your charger so you don’t run out of juice unexpectedly – ensure they’re healthy batteries and are kept out of the plummeted temperatures of the desert.
You’ll be taking A LOT of photos without realising. Have a few memory cards packed and an external hard drive to dump your photos on to. If you don’t like the idea of swapping memory cards too often then invest in high capacity ones such as 32GB.
Safari shoot planning
Shooting in challenging conditions
You’ll need to learn to compensate for low lighting conditions, blue backgrounds to focus on an animal or other subject matter.
You’ll spend anything between 4 -16 hours a day within a vehicle on a game drive, however, we find that the optimal times for shooting are at dawn and dusk. You also need to consider the bumpy ride ahead
Having a good eye for details is just as (if not more so) important than having the right equipment for your safari. Thinking about how you compose your shots to tell a story to the viewer is essential in producing stunning imagery.
Avoid shooting high angles – take images at eye level or from below to enhance size and detail. Where possible, try and frame your shots against sand, trees, water or the sky – be mindful of bushes or other objects dotted about that could detract attention away from your main focus.
Practice shooting pre-safari
If you’ve got the budget to purchase new photography equipment then it’s essential that you find time to practice before venturing on your safari. Read your camera guide and play around with the different settings, especially if you’re new to the photographic practice.