When you’re experiencing something as incredible as a safari, there is no better time than before your trip to start to hone your photography skills. After all, you will want to capture images you can be proud of and proudly display in your home.
Go Beyond An iPad
On our Safari we saw several people snapping away, using their iPad for their photography. To us, since we were putting out all the expense of being there, it was important to take decent photos. You’re going to get the best quality photos from a quality camera. While today’s technology is great, an iPad camera can only do so much. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Pack Just What You Need
Figure out what lenses and accessories you want to take with you for what you intend to accomplish. Because we were also road tripping the rest of South Africa as well, we especially didn’t want to bring more equipment than we felt we could safely take care of. We took our Cannon 40D with a 28-135mm lens. In the end, we were able to get some really great shots, but I would recommend a lens with a longer zoom option if you have it available. Really, to get great photos of the predators that stay farther away, you’ll want to have a telephoto lens that is capable of at least 400-500mm. We were lucky to get up close to most animals, but predators such as the elusive leopard would have been great to catch up close and with more detail.
Memory cards are so cheap these days, make sure you bring extra. And, bring a means of making a secondary backup. A portable hard drive works wonderfully if you’re bringing a laptop with you, or find somewhere you are able to upload your images to for safe keeping and downloading later should you need it. These will be photos you definitely don’t want to lose! I guarantee you will be going through a lot of memory, especially if the wildlife is super active and you’re using a high quality setting. Plus, if the memory card stops working for some reason, it is always good to have another to quickly pop in so you don’t miss out on incredible photos. Also, bring backup batteries.
Research The Location
What is the weather likely to be like when you are there? Will the trees and bush be lush and green, or will you be seeing bare surroundings? Either are great for capturing different Safari photos, but look up what you may expect- find out as much as you can. Read about other people’s first-hand experiences.
Practice using different natural lighting conditions. You will need to use the sunlight to your advantage to capture most, if not all, of your photos. Flash only works so well and from a short distance, and we would recommend to not use flash unless absolutely necessary. You may also find that you are told flash is not allowed, so know how to work with natural lighting and without flash before you go.
Focus On The Eyes
Just like humans, you can see so much when you look into an animals eyes. Capturing their expressions through their eyes can show you a lot. You may have to play with the focus to capture the eyes, depending on the animal and other facial features they have.
Family & Friends
Are you on safari with friends or family? Make sure that you all get into photos, including yourself. Having shots of yourself and family enjoying wildlife are amazing keepsakes you’ll really treasure.
If you’re on Safari with a driver, they communicate between themselves when there is a good sighting. You can see no other drivers for the longest time, and then all of a sudden they all race to the good location and there are a ton of vehicles around you trying to capture a glimpse of whatever is happening. Know that it is possible you may have to work around this and that it can also help create some cool photographs!
Write It Down
We found it helpful to write down any animals we might forget the name of, or any important facts we wanted to remember. This also included keeping a journal of our experience, what our thoughts were and what we hoped we would see before our Safari journey was complete. It helps keep your head straight, keeps you organized, and knowing what you want to ask your safari driver to try to do or find.
“Step Away” From The Camera
You will miss out on a lot if you are always looking at your Safari through the lens of your camera. Take a few minutes here and there to enjoy your surrounding and “just be”. It will also help give you perspective and ideas for different angles and shots for when you pick the camera back up and start snapping away again.
Are there any photography tips we missed?