5 top tips for safari photography

2016-01-14T17:20:52+00:0013 January 2016|Animals, Guest post, Show me how|

Making holiday plans for the winter? Maybe you’re considering a safari? Then read on! This week on Sophie’s World, Geoff Whittle of The Luxury Couple shares some excellent safari photography tips. Here’s Geoff!

Geoff Whittle safari photography tips - lion

So much is written about the best way to achieve great results with your photography that you can become mesmerised by the hoops you have to jump through in order to achieve perfection – and then actually miss the shot you wanted.

I’ve always sought perfection but been constantly frustrated by minor details that have forced me to find a compromise – and having decided to compromise find that photography is so much more rewarding. So, if you’re happy to consider where to compromise from the outset you’ll be better prepared for what the wild throws at you and hopefully will achieve much better results. On safari you’ll inevitably be in a vehicle of sorts – here are my top safari photography tips.

Geoff Whittle safari photography tips - Hwange sunset

1. People


SOLUTION: Be prepared for the vehicle!

Unless you’re in a vehicle or boat on your own (which means you’ll have to drive and take pix – never ideal) you will be vying for best position for a shot. Don’t get grumpy; get ready! If you’ve got the money, then pay for your own driver so that you can spread your kit out. If you can’t then request no more than three or four to a vehicle (most take either six or nine people in 3 or 4 rows – you need a row to yourself ideally. If you’re stuck with more, sit behind the driver – he always gets best view!

2. Vehicle Movement

PROBLEM: Vehicle Movement

SOLUTION: Stabilise your camera.


There will be unnecessary movement and you need to allow for it before you go. I use a monopod with a quick release head so that I can point the camera anywhere without encumbrance. Bean bags might stabilise a lens if you’re leaning on a door sill but for the most part they’re a pain as the door sill isn’t where the animal or bird is and you don’t need another thing to juggle. If you’ve got long lenses then get neoprene protectors for them so that you can lean on anything.

3. The shakes

PROBLEM: The shakes

SOLUTION: Be sharp; adjust your camera.

If, like me, you’re a real fuss-arse about sharpness, forget vibration reduction technology on lenses – it can actually introduce soft images (plenty online about this). If you’re that into photography you’ve probably got a high-end camera that has ISO sensitivity auto control settings (read your manual).

In effect you set the camera body to automatically reduce shutter speed only to a minimum that ensures sharp images (e.g. if it’s a 400mm lens then the shutter speed is set to a minimum of 1/500th, i.e. one speed higher than the lens focal length) and once this is reached then the ISO setting increases until another preset maximum (I use 6400). When both presets have been reached then the shutter speed starts to reduce – but if you’ve got that low for light then nothing is probably going to give the results you want.

4. Missing the shot

PROBLEM: Missing the shot

SOLUTION: Spend money!

Easy to say but having the right kit for the right circumstances and knowing how to properly use it under all conditions means you’ll be more relaxed and efficient at getting the shots you want. I find that two bodies (camera, not people) are essential as I can set up a long lens and a medium lens beforehand and know I can reach either quickly depending on the opportunity. It also cuts down on wasted time and also gremlins on the sensors as I don’t change lenses so often.

Geoff Whittle safari photography tips - leopard

5. Anxiety

PROBLEM: Anxiety.

SOLUTION: Homework.

Read up about the environment you’re going into – no use going to Galapagos with kit you can’t protect from water – no use going to Africa without dust protection – no use going anywhere without sufficient memory cards and backup. Do all you can to make sure you’re relaxed about your destination and not setting yourself up for unpleasant surprises.

Geoff Whittle safari photography tips - lilac breasted roller

Very few of us go on expeditions where we’re the only photographer and can be dedicated to camping out for days to get the shot we want (my wife has other ideas) – so if you adopt most of what I’ve said above then you stand more of a chance of being creative because you’re not cheesed off with your kit, or someone else.

Hope you’ll find these safari photography tips useful. Happy shooting!

Geoff Whittle safari photography tips - The Whittles, canoeIf you seek luxury travel ideas and experiences and haven’t yet lost your spirit of adventure (or want to discover it), the Luxury Couple will guide you around the globe, sharing their knowledge, ideas, experiences and opinions to help you to create your own.

Geoff and Cherrie have spent much of their lives skimming stones across the globe, enjoying the heady days of Concorde, QE2 and Orient Express; with frequent stops to immerse in a variety of pursuits from sailing, power boating, flying their own aircraft, horse riding, skiing, tennis, golf, cycling, walking and photography, right through to emigrating to India for seven years with their family to concentrate on tiger conservation and to work with marginalised tribal people.

Having always run their own businesses and paddled their own canoe; they’ve tasted both sides of life; the highs and the lows. Having sold the canoe, they still share our experiences in many venues as guest speakers, including luxury cruise ships sailing most oceans. Follow along on their blog, on facebook or twitter.

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  1. Valen-Eating The Globe 14 January 2016 at 1926 - Reply

    Great tips!! I went on safari in Sri Lanka and noticed the same issues. You got some great shots!!

  2. Corinne 14 January 2016 at 2135 - Reply

    Great tips. That darn camera shake gets you everytime! I love the shot of the bee-eater!

  3. Life Images by Jill 15 January 2016 at 0109 - Reply

    thanks for these great safari photography tips.

  4. Ruth - Tanama Tales 15 January 2016 at 0304 - Reply

    I believe these tips apply to many situations, not only safaris. However, I understand how difficult it is to take pictures of animals. Recently, I was trying to get photos of hummingbirds and that wasn’t easy. Appreciate the tips. The photos in here are great!

  5. Brooke of Passport Couture 15 January 2016 at 1741 - Reply

    Great to read these suggestions! Bringing up details like dust and waterproof cameras in certain areas doesn’t always cross my mind, and then after getting somewhere with these conditions and pulling out my camera, I realize what a difficult situation I’ve put myself in! This list is a great reminder to double-check everything before you head out with your camera.

  6. Cat 16 January 2016 at 0803 - Reply

    Gorgeous photos! Animal photography can be tricky. Thank you for the tips 🙂 Happy travels~

  7. Marcia 17 January 2016 at 0640 - Reply

    Great tips, gorgeous shots! Looking at your photos, I relived our safari of a few years ago. Makes me want to go back.
    We were lucky – we never had more than 4 people plus driver/guide when we went out. We switched seats each drive so everyone got a chance for an unobstructed view.

  8. Anirudh Singh 18 January 2016 at 0623 - Reply

    Nice Tips ! I am planning to visit Corbett National Park soon, these tips will definitely help me improve my photography.

  9. Hung Thai 23 January 2016 at 0439 - Reply

    Thanks for these tips! I actually found a few deals on safaris and I’m seriously considering going this year – just in time tips!

  10. Linda March 25 January 2016 at 1438 - Reply

    As you’ve said, always have a backup for all your photos. I’ve had a bad experience on a border crossing once, where they’ve wanted to took my flash card because of something they didn’t like. So I always have a backup SD card somewhere on my jacket, just in case.

  11. Linda March 26 January 2016 at 0831 - Reply

    Some good advices for a amateur like me. I don’t think that I will get to a Safari to soon, but those advices could apply even if you go on a mountain area and want to get a shot of a black goat or even a bear (if it’s in the distance, of course). The only problem would be carrying the gear up there.

  12. Tina 28 January 2016 at 0746 - Reply

    Very useful tips indeed. Thanks a lot.. Great pictures.. Love the bird pic.

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