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Tips for Taking Photos on Safari in Africa

Shooting Wildlife

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Grooming

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© Anouk Zijlma
Wondering what camera to bring with you on safari in Africa? There's nothing more annoying than returning from your safari with hundreds of photos of barely distinguishable blobs of gray and brown, surrounded by grass, shrubs and trees. You will bore your friends and family, you may even bore yourself when you look through them years later. The key to shooting wildlife (with a camera of course) is to understand that they wear camouflage and move around a lot. The lighting is often bright and the roads are bumpy. If you want your safari photos to look good and reflect what you are actually seeing, follow these tips:

Tips for Taking a Good Wildlife Photo on Safari

  • Camera - Bringing the right camera is of course the most important thing. A compact digital camera with a good image stabilized zoom is great for taking decent pictures quickly. Since you are usually taking shots from a vehicle and can't always get closer to the animals, a good zoom is more essential than a good camera with a lousy zoom. For better quality, it's good to go to with a Digital SLR. More on cameras...
  • Beanbag - A beanbag or bag of rice is the perfect thing to rest your camera on when in a safari vehicle. The more you zoom, the more sensitive your camera is to slight shakes and bumps so it pays to keep it steady.
  • Focus - Be patient and wait for the animal to move into more open terrain or do something interesting like yawn. Focus on the eyes of the animal you are taking a picture of. If you really know what you are doing, you can also make sure your aperture opening is on the highest setting, so the background is blurred, and the animal is sharp.
  • Practice - Visit your local zoo, or practice using your camera on animals in your garden or park before you go on safari. Often people buy new equipment for their African safari, so it's important to get to know it before you go.
  • Extra batteries and chargers - Don't run out of batteries halfway through a game drive! Make sure you know how long it takes to recharge and bring the right plugs for your adapters.
  • Flip camera - I brought a Flip with me to Tanzania and Rwanda. It was perfect. Small, easy to use and great to record the sounds and sights of markets, gorillas and any animal close to our safari vehicle. The zoom is not very good at all, so don't expect much from anything beyond 50 feet or so.

The best camera and all the patience in the world won't help you if you are stuck in a vehicle with too many people and cannot get a clear shot. Make sure you book a safari that takes this into consideration as well as making sure you get a good guide to actually track and find the wildlife.

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