Going on a safari in South Africa is a truly memorable experience, one that you will treasure for a lifetime. Naturally, you want to capture these memories so that you can look at them for decades to come, but also so that you can share some of the splendour of this country with your friends and family back home.
Before providing tips on how to take the best safari photos, though, we want to remind you to enjoy the holiday. Put the camera down for a while and witness the majesty and beauty first-hand. These are memories that will never fade, and you will be able to tell others about your experiences with passion. Too often, tourists are so busy looking through the lens of their camera that they forget to enjoy the magical allure of the destination.
Here’s how to make your safari pictures really great…
Do research on your destination and the types of animals, plants and birds that you can expect to see there. This will enable you to look out for these, perhaps even requesting your tour operator or guide to take you to areas in which this fauna and flora is abundant, specifically for your photographs. This will also help you to plan for more variety in terms of what you see and do (and, therefore, photograph).
Some places do not allow you to take photographs (such as certain animal rehabilitation centres), so be sure to find out about these beforehand.
Some of the best preparation that you can do is to talk to others that have been to your destination.
It is worth investing in a good camera and its peripheral equipment if you plan to take loads of photos on your safari vacation. Your lens should be at least 300 millimetres long, and a support structure (such as a beanbag or tripod) will do wonders for the quality of your images. Consider a window-mounted stabiliser if you are driving yourself around on safari.
Learn about the different light settings on your camera and how to set it up for optimal quality in different settings. Do not use flashes around animals at night. Rather, take advantage of the guide’s spotlight.
You will want to minimise the need to keep changing your lens.
Take charged batteries with you as not all the destinations in South Africa have accessible sources of power.
Think about the logistics of getting your camera and equipment from one place to another while you travel around. You cannot go everywhere with your tripod, beanbag, and so on. So, as you plan your itinerary of flights, car trips, and sightseeing, think carefully about what needs to go where. Of course, actual game drives on your safari should get priority in terms of the equipment you bring along as these present the most rewarding photographic opportunities.
A non-invasive approach to safari photography is to take photos from a distance with a longer lens. This showcases the animal within its natural habitat without startling it or capturing its reaction to you. Longer lenses also provide better shots of birds and small animals. The detail in their colours is not to be missed, so be sure to take plenty of shots.
In terms of composition, the bushy terrain of South Africa can sometimes make the photo look cluttered. So, take a lot of photos so that, within the hundreds, there will be many good ones. The South African sky is a beautiful one, and often adds depth to your photograph. Try to achieve a balance in terms of the landscape, people and animals so that your safari pictures represent the variety of beautiful South Africa.