Six Tips for Photographing on Safari

In this regular column I share photography tips illustrated with some of my favorite photographs from my worldwide travels. My goal is to inspire you – and to motivate you to travel more and to make more pictures with your digital camera. What could be more fun!

This column: Photographing On Safari

Away we go.

Many travelers dream of going on a photo safari to Africa. I’ve taken a
few myself, most recently to Kenya’s Masai Mara, where I stayed at Bateleur Camp.

If you plan to go, here are my top tips.

Photographing on Safari Lion

1.Use a telephoto lens for tight shots of the animals.
You might be surprised how close you can get to them. Pack at least a 100-400mm lens and a 1.4x converter. Because you’ll be shooting from a safari vehicle (in most cases), keep an eye on your shutter speed. Folks moving around in the vehicle can shake your camera, which can result in a shaky shots. Use a shutter speed at or above the focal length of the lens, that is: 1/400th of a second when your lens is set at 400mm. Multiple that by 1.4x when using a converter. Also, focus on the eyes. If the eyes are not well lit and in focus, you’ve missed the shot (in most cases).

Photographing on Safari Giraffe

2.To tell the story of your safari, also take wide-angle shots of the animals.
Here I used my Canon 24-105mm lens set at 24mm to take what’s called an environmental portrait – the subject in the environment. When an animal is moving, leave some space in the frame into which the subject can “move.”

Photographing on Safari Masai

3. Photograph the people, too.
For best results, take a portrait in the shade or on an overcast day, where there is less contrast than when the subject is posed in bright sunlight. Take a shot with the subject looking at you, and then a shot with the subject looking away.

Photographing on Safari Masai 2

4. As with your animal photographs, take environmental portraits of the local people.
I took this photograph on an early morning walking safari. Place the subject off center for a more interesting photograph.

Photographing on Safari Landscape

5. Take landscape photographs, too.
Get up early and stay out late to capture what pros call the “golden light. Use your telephoto and wide-angle lenses. In landscape photography, try not to place the horizon line in the center of the frame. When shooting wide, try to get the entire scene in focus: use a wide-angle lens, set a small aperture (f/11 or f/16) and focus 1/3 into the scene.

Photographing on Safari Rick Sammon

6. Don’t forget to get a photo of yourself.
When you hand over your camera, make sure it’s set on “P” for program, which is the setting for point-and-shoot photography. Ask the picture taker to place your heads near the top of the frame. That will avoid lots of dead space above the heads, which I have seen many, many times. And, check the shot to make sure your eyes are open!

Well my fellow travelers, that’s it for now. Have fun making pictures on your next trip. Until then, stop by here from time to time for more photo tips and advice on where to go to make great photographs.

Rick Sammon is our regular and intrepid photo columnist here on Adventure Collection. To see more of his work, and to learn about his photography workshops, check out his web site: You can send questions to Rick at

Ready to put your new-found safari photography skills to the test on one of Adventure Collection’s Africa Tours and Safari Packages? Check out these options offered by our Member Companies:

Southern Africa DC-3 Private Air Safari | Bushtracks

The Stanley Wing Safari | Micato | Micato

Treasures of Zambia | Geographic Expeditions

Secluded Botswana Photo Safari | Natural Habitat Adventures