How to Improve Your Photography on Safari and Create Original and Visionary Images

October 12, 2012 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized

How to Improve Your Photography on Safari and Create Original and Visionary Images


Many people get back from their safari and having edited their way through 100’s of photographs end up with only a handful of images they are actually happy with. These are normally a lion roaring, a hippo yawning and elephants drinking. I find it surprising how, irrespective of the location and the time of year, I seem to end up being shown the same photos again and again!
Picture this situation, which you see repeatedly on safari. A jeep full of budding photographers spot a lion and park up 10 metres away. The snazzy cameras come out, the big zoom lenses are on and a shooting frenzy endures. The result is one hundred photographs of a lion’s head. Having successfully shot the lion the jeep pulls away in search of the next victim!Whilst they may be able to boost about how sharp their new ‘L’ lens is, or how many flies were sitting on the nose of the lion it doesn’t give any reflection about the environment or the user’s skill or identity as a photographer. For those wanting to get more out of their photography on a safari it’s time to start getting creative.Let’s take the same example again. What this jeep full of people missed whilst they were snapping away at the lion’s head was key element of the photograph, the environment. You can go to a zoo and take a close up of a lion’s head but what you can’t get is a back drop of an African plain with the golden grasses blowing in the wind. The environment helps to tell a story and give the subject meaning.


The best shots are often the most unexpected ones, where you will only have a few seconds to react so make sure that the camera is always ready to go and not tucked away in your bag. It helps to have a high shutter speed set and also to have a good base level ISO that can be used in a few different environments. One of my favourite shots is of a Dik Dik which characteristically scurried away just as I pulled up, but just before it disappeared into the deep bush it turned back to look at me and I was lucky enough to capture the glint in its eye before it turned and disappeared. This was all in a matter of a couple of seconds which I would have missed if my camera had been in my bag.If you do have the opportunity to take 2 bodies with you then it’s definitely advisable, as it gives you the opportunity to have a zoom lens and a standard lens and prevents you from having to keep changing lenses every few minutes and also the risk of getting dust inside your camera. You’ll certainly find that you’ll get a wider range of photographs and won’t miss out on a landscape shot which often happens when you stick with the more favourable zoom lens.
How to Improve Your Photography on Safari and Create Original and Visionary Images

For animal portraits that stand out from the crowd use a zoom lens with the wide aperture, focussed on the eyes. If you can get some distance between the subject and the background matter you’ll get some great background blur, focussing the viewer on the subject of the photo, the animal. Background blur is a sure fire way to wow the uninitiated when you show them your photos after your trip!


Safari photography is a different beast to most other forms as you are often governed somewhat by the environment in which you’re enclosed, the dreaded vehicle! Most of the shots I see are taken from the same level, looking down at animals, which in my opinion makes the shot lose its sense of power. One way around this is to tackle the problem at source and look for a safari camp that offers walking or river safaris and I guarantee this will add another dimension to your photography. The other options are to get moving in the vehicle or use the lay of the land to position the vehicle at a lower height than your subject. Getting down at eye level with your subjects, or even underneath if you can so you’re shooting up will add some real punch to your shots.ADD CHARACTER WITH DIFFERENT EXPOSURES

Slow shutter speeds are one of my favourite weapons in the fight for individually. Whilst high shutter speeds will generally help with nice sharp photographs, using a low shutter speed and panning on a moving animal can help to create a fantastic effect. The artistic blur accentuating the movement and the different colours, really helping to add that something special to the shot. I’ve found this works especially well with animals of multiple colours such as cheetahs, leopards and zebra.


Light is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal and whilst the normal rules that light should be behind is a good one it is also fun to play with the light in other ways. Side on light in early morning and late evening creates wonderful shadows that bring your subject to life and light behind subjects can create mystical silhouettes. The golden hour at dawn and dusk is magical and definitely worth getting out of bed for in the morning, you’ll have a siesta to catch up on sleep!


Safari is so much more than just the ‘Big Five’. The most satisfied clients are invariability the ones that learn to appreciate every creature and landscape that they are lucky enough to see and photograph. Sometimes it might even be something such as a tree that has suddenly been brought to life by a glint of a light that suddenly transforms this otherwise boring subject into an amazing opportunity.

If the idea of developing your photography skills to the next level, whilst on safari in some of most amazing destinations in Africa, sounds appealing, there are some fantastic photography tours led by professional photographers which you can join. These tours provide a great way to learn from a professional whilst out in the bush and also in workshops which are run in camp. Capture Safaris is a company that specialises in safaris for keen photographers either in a tour or a privately organised trip. For more information please contact or visit

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