Seven Tips for Taking Stunning Photos on a Safari Holiday

POSTED ON 8th October 2015 BY

Seven Tips for Taking Stunning Photos on a Safari Holiday

The most amazing experience of your life deserves to be remembered…

A safari holiday will take you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes on Earth. Places like Zambia, or Tanzania. Along the way, you’ll be closer than ever before to wildlife in its most pristine state.

You already know that you’d be remiss not to capture your safari on camera.

But how do you take photos that are beyond the ordinary? Photos that do justice to your remarkable journey? Tactics are everything. So today I’ve compiled seven of the most essential guidelines for creating an unforgettable safari photo album.


1. Composition is Key

We’ll get into the specifics of your equipment in a moment, but your overarching concern should be the composition of your photos. You could have the best gear in the world, but if your photos are poorly composed, not even the most advanced technology can help you. In fact, per Jeff Meyer on

“Poor photo composition can make a fantastic subject dull, but a well-set scene can create a wonderful image from the most ordinary of situations.”

The beauty of a photo always comes primarily from how you use your camera, not your camera itself.

Keep in mind a few basic elements of good composition as you shoot. The rule of thirds, covered in the video below, is a simple and classic paradigm to work with; instead of placing subjects dead-center, position them in the outer thirds of your frame. The offset image is much more interesting, and encourages the eye to wander throughout the rest of the photo.

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9 Photo Composition Tips (feat. Steve McCurry)

There are a few things to avoid. Foremost, the insidious “telephone pole” effect, in which background elements like trees or poles appear to be projecting out of your subjects’ heads. Take care to frame your subjects with a clear background. Also be mindful of light blowing out the corners of your frame and of shadows obscuring the best parts of your image.

Finally, shoot as much as you can during the “golden hours” just after sunrise and just before sunset. This kind of light makes colours vivid and saturated, instilling everything with a magical warmth.


2. Set Up Your Camera Before You Leave

When you’re shooting, you want to be in the moment so that you can catch that incredible gazelle’s leap or a tender moment between a lioness and cub. You certainly don’t want to be fumbling with your camera settings, trying to figure out why every shot is blurry.

David Bristow of Bushtracks recommends that you explore your camera settings well before going on safari. That way, you’ll waste no time on your trip. He also recommends that you pre-set your white balance to daylight, colours to vivid and ISO to auto for the best results.


3. Bring Backup (Lots of It)

Stock your camera bag with several memory cards, says Peter West Carey of, and bring more than you think you’ll need. With plenty of memory, you won’t have to fret over whether your photos are wasting valuable space. A backup storage method like a hard drive provides extra security for your images in the event that you lose or damage your camera.

As long as you properly protect your gear, it’s unlikely that it will malfunction. But just in case, bring along an auxiliary digital camera. Even if it’s an inexpensive point-and-shoot, the resulting photos will be better than none at all.


4. Do Your Research

Being conscious of your surroundings is key to taking amazing photos on safari. As you plan your route prior to your holiday, also mark down interesting landmarks or sites that you want to photograph.

While we’re on the subject of mindfulness, be respectful of local cultures. In some parts of Africa, it’s considered offensive to take photos of other people (not to mention, it’s ill-mannered to photograph anyone without their permission). If you’re taking photographs in a populated area, tread with caution and deference.

Finally, expect the unexpected – that’s the fun part. However, the capricious nature of the wild can also make for risky situations, so be alert. You’re among wildlife. Don’t sacrifice safety for a great photograph. Trust us, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get an incredible shot along your trip.


5. Bring Some Extra Support

While you don’t want to overload your camera bag with accessories, a telescopic lens and tripod (or monopod) are essential.

A 55-300mm telephoto zoom lens is one of three lenses every photographer should own, says Chris Folsom of It will give you a greater range of vision and capture details that an ordinary camera zoom won’t pick up.

Extreme zoom will also exaggerate the normal shakiness of your hands, so a tripod is absolutely necessary to stabilize your camera. A sturdy tripod (or bean bag rested on the car window frame) will also help you to capture fast-moving animals with minimal blur.


6. Don’t Stop After Sunset

The absence of light pollution in the African heartland makes for stunning nighttime skies rarely seen in more densely populated areas of the world. When the sun goes down, keep shooting.

This is where understanding your camera’s various settings will come in handy. If you’re a nighttime photography novice, spend some time in your backyard practicing. Find the right settings for capturing details in low light. This is also where you’ll most need your tripod, since low-light photography requires longer exposure times.

Nothing comes close to the splendour of nighttime photos shot on safari. At night, you’ll have the opportunity to capture nocturnal wildlife in action and create breathtaking panoramas of a savannah under a star-studded sky. Set your camera on a tripod with a long exposure for a whirling shot of stars as they trace the heavens.


7. Tell a Story

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Holiday Snap Torture! -Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie - BBC comedy

There’s an old Fry and Laurie sketch (see video, above) in which one man shares his vacation photos with another, in great detail — as a form of punishment. We’re all familiar with politely stifling yawns as someone drones through countless shots of the same scene. However, not all vacation photo albums have to be tedious.

On an African safari, in particular, you have the opportunity to craft an intriguing narrative. To do so requires some thoughtful time away from the viewfinder.

If you’re a more advanced photographer, experiment with different lenses or filters to capture a unique view of what has been photographed many times.


Ready to Get Started?

Not only do amazing photos give you something to share once you return from safari, but they shape your memory of your African safari for a lifetime. To learn more about safari holidays in Africa, including spotting and photographing all manner of amazing wildlife, download a free copy of the African Safari Field Guide – a useful 37-page book we wrote on the subject.

Or to discuss your safari ideas and get the benefit of our expertise in helping you design your safari, get a free safari consultation with one of our team.

Photo by James Hale

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