A herd of zebra seen on African safari.

Capturing the African Wilderness: African Safari Photo Tips

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Niarra Travel

Capturing an African safari is a dream for photographers of all skill levels. The continent’s expansive landscapes, rich cultures, and unparalleled wildlife offer a unique canvas for amateur and professional photographers alike.

Safaris in Africa are among the most photogenic experiences on the planet. Spending time on the lush savannahs and vast open plains capturing the movements, behaviours and habitats of the majestic animals that live there allows you to relive the excitement of the African wilderness. To help you capture the allure of the African wilderness, we’ve put together a list of African safari photo tips.

People riding elephants on safari.

Bring the correct gear

The first and most important African safari photo tip is bringing the correct gear with you. A DSLR or mirrorless camera works best. It is also advised to bring at least two lenses with you: a wide lens and a telephoto zoom lens of at least 300mm.

When packing for your African safari, make sure to include additional memory cards and batteries with you - you wouldn’t want your camera battery to die just as you stumble upon a pride of lions. It is a common occurrence on safari that you will end up taking more photographs than you thought you would. Pro tip - a camera bean bag can also be an effective way to balance your camera while on a game drive.

A man taking a photograph on an African safari

Understand the lighting

The lighting changes drastically throughout the day and the best time to shoot the African wilderness is in the early morning and evening. Capture the flurry of activity as a leopard awakens from its slumber or a flock of birds takes flight, bathed in the day's first or last light. Most reserves operate game drives around this time, as the animals are often more active while it is cooler.

Golden hour, where the sun paints the landscape stunning hues of amber and gold, is a sublime time in the bush and creates incredible photographing opportunities.

A giraffe staring directly into the camera.

Be ready

The only predictable thing about wildlife is that it is unpredictable. An important tip to remember is that if you want to take high quality photographs on safari, you need to have your camera out and ready at all times. It’s worthwhile having your camera set on a fast shutter speed or even on burst mode to capture spontaneous moments, such as a stealthy lion jumping out of the bush or an eagle swooping down on its quarry.

The wildebeest migration at Angama Mara, as seen on an African safari.

Respect your surroundings

One of the most important African safari photo tips is to respect the animals and the environment around you. It is important to remember that you are in the animal's home and that they should remain undisturbed at all times. We recommend wearing neutral colours as to blend in and to keep noise and movement to a minimum.

Lone lioness spotted on safari.

Utilise your guide

If you have a guide with you, share your photography goals with them. They have extensive knowledge of the landscape, animals’ movements and the lighting throughout the day and can help you to get that magical shot that you are after. This might include manoeuvring the vehicle around to capture the silhouette of a buffalo in the setting sun or framing a leopard in their favourite jackalberry tree.

Play with composition

Be creative with your approach to taking pictures. The best African safari photo tip is to experiment with your composition to construct visually appealing images. Include negative space into your photographs. The landscapes can frequently be used to tell a story. Photos taken on safari highlight how the ecosystem is dependent on one another and showcase the behaviour of wild animals in their environment. Take advantage of frames such as rocks or acacia trees that can add depth to your photographs.

Playing with the rule of thirds is a common African safari photo tip. Try to position the animal off-centre, thereby creating a more visually appealing image. Another African safari photo tip is to focus on the animals’ eyes. Wait for the animal to turn to look your way and then capture the image while focusing on their eyes; this creates captivating images by giving the impression of the animal looking through the photograph.

Rhino spotted during a Mount Kilimanjaro safari

Get a different perspective

Game drives are the most common way of seeing animals while on an African safari, but you also have other options which can offer you interesting photo-taking opportunities.

Guided walking safaris through the African bush allow you to notice things that you might not have otherwise seen. Dung beetles, leopard tortoises, and all the other small pieces that contribute to the wonderful landscape around you.

Embrace textures and patterns for nuances which will help compose unique images that truly reflect the beauty of the safari. Guided walks also provide interesting angles, such as getting down to eye level to capture the graceful height of a giraffe.

Small red bird on a tree trunk.

Be patient

Wildlife photography requires patience. Give yourself time to observe the animals in their natural habitat, and this can help to anticipate their movements and actions. This is where the real magic happens: from a big cats’ yawn to the moment two elephants entwine their trunks, anything is possible. Patience pays off with shots that capture the raw essence of wildlife behaviour.

Sibella yawning cheetah cub samara karoo south africa

Enjoy the experience

Whilst everyone wants to capture beautiful photographs on safari, it is sometimes important to put your camera away and simply bask in the magnificent scenery and animals around you.

From the untamed Serengeti in Tanzania to the rolling ochre dunes of the Kalahari in Namibia and South Africa or the Great Migration on the Mara in Kenya, there is a wealth of untapped beauty to photograph in Africa. Let the wild call to you, guide you, and inspire you, as you capture its essence through your lens.

So if you are looking to immerse yourself in the African wilderness and capture the wildlife and sun-drenched landscapes then get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353(US), or at explore@niarratravel.com to begin planning your once-in-a-lifetime safari experience.

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