Safari Photo Tips

Written by  Rod Wyndham







Going on safari?

Here are ten tips and tricks to help you bring home the visual memories:


KNOW YOUR CAMERA- On safari, you will get up close and personal with wildlife, but, to make each shot count, a good quality digital camera will be necessary. A 35 mm SLR (single lens reflex) as opposed to a compact camera with automatic controls is ideal. If you have a compact camera, there is a slight delay between pushing the trigger and the shot being captured, whereas a SLR is instant 

TO LENS OR NOT TO LENS? – You’ll get extremely close to wildlife so it is not necessary to have huge lenses. If you choose to use a lens, a good all-purpose zoom lens with an F stop of F4 through F2.8 is best to keep your image shar

FANCY FLASH WORK – Each tracker will have a spotlight in your safari vehicle which you can use as your light source - it often creates a lovely effect. A third of the evening safari is near total darkness. A good flash or speed light will help highlight your photos. Most game reserves ask for flashes not to be used when the big cats are actively hunting (at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve there is no problem with the use of flash during safari).

MEMORY – Bring a memory card with you! Many lodges in South Africa do not offer memory cards in their gift shop and have no computers to download the images off their camera to free up space. The more pictures you shoot the more chances you have of getting that prize shot. Eight gigs of memory will be more than enough for your safari.  Sabi Sabi offers memory cards as well a business facility for guests to upload images to a remote site.
KEEP A LID ON IT – The African bush is a dusty place so it would be a good idea to keep your camera in a sealable bag when you are not taking pictures on safari. Also try not to change lenses while out on safari. This will help prevent the digital sensor on your camera from being contaminated by dust particles.  

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – On each Land Rover there are three rows of seats, with each row a little higher than the one before. Opt to sit in the front row or even in the seat next to the ranger. You want to be as low to the ground as possible for a steady shot. The higher you are the less stable you are. 

PRINCIPLE OF THIRDS – Portrait shots with animals filling the screen are great but having an animal surrounded by its natural environment is sometimes even better. For example, try placing the animal in the bottom corner of the image. The idea is to put your subject in one third of the frame. Try it – you will be amazed at the results. 

EYE OF THE TIGER..uh…LION – Most new cameras allow you to move your focus sensor square manually on the frame. Do this and make sure that you place the sensor on the eye of the animal where possible. A sharp eye always gives the image a much sharper look.

SHOOT IN RAW – For those a little more advanced and adventurous, shoot photos in RAW. It may take up a lot of memory, but it allows you to have flexibility when it comes to processing the shot (printing and editing purposes). 

NO FEAR – Many rangers on your safari are also avid photographers themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask them for tips to help with your shot. Shooting in the wild, let alone on a moving safari vehicle, is very different from taking family pictures during a birthday celebration. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! 


Tips provided by Rod Wyndham, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve’s Group Operations Director, is an avid wildlife photographer. Recently, he was sponsored by Nikon South Africa and is very involved in assisting amateur and professional photographers from all over the world when they travel to Sabi Sabi.