African Safari Photo Tips

First image...
Red lechwe race through marshy waters in Botswana.

10 Photo Tips

How to Take Great Shots on an African Safari

Giraffes in Botswana.
Botswana sunset.

Photography by Dook. 
The number five trip of a lifetime, according to Virtuoso’s 2016 Travel Dreams survey: Photographing the big five on an African safari. Be it a herd of elephants at a watering hole or a leap of leopards sprinting across the plain, witnessing these creatures up close is an incredible experience – we don’t blame you for wanting to return home from safari with a few frameworthy photographs.
Travel photographer and Virtuoso Life contributor Dook lives in South Africa and travels often to photograph the continent’s wildlife. Here, he shares a few of his best tips:
  1. “Plan your trip near the end of the dry season [it varies by country, your travel advisor can help], when less vegetation means more activity near watering holes.”
  2. “If you’ve bought a new camera or lens for the trip, practice before you go. You won't have time to read the manual when there’s a lion a few feet away.”
  3. “If you have a DSLR camera but don’t have a long lens, rent one. Just make sure it has a fixed f-stop and vibration reduction. I like the 200mm-400mm F4 or 200mm-500mm F5.6. Make sure it’s covered by rental insurance.”
  4. “For amateur photographers looking for a no-fuss camera, the Nikon Coolpix P900 has a staggering 83X optical zoom. It’ll take great photos in multiple situations, including long-distance shots of those colorful birds.”
  5. “Be sure to bring spare batteries; using the vibration reduction tool to minimize the blur caused by a shaky camera eats up power.”
  6. “If you plan on printing out your photos, be sure your camera is set to take the highest quality image – in most cases that’s either raw or .jpeg large.”
  7. “Obey the rule of thirds. Don't center your point of interest in the frame, be it an animal, person, mountain, or something else. This simple composition technique makes a huge difference.”
  8. “Don't just take close-up animal photos.  Zoom in and out, show where the animal is amongst the landscape, and shoot in both landscape and portrait mode.”
  9. “If you’re serious about taking wildlife photos, consider renting a private game vehicle, especially one that is allowed to go off-road to follow the big five. Ask if it's a private concession so you are not swamped with vehicles from other lodges.”
  10. “You’re on vacation, don't pressure yourself into trying to capture a National Geographic-caliber photo. Tell a story: your trip isn’t just animals, it’s about your family, the lodging and its staff, the food you eat, and the entire journey.”
Posted by Amy Cassell on June 27, 2016.

Amy Cassell is Virtuoso Life’s assistant editor.  
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