THE TOP TEN Safari Photography Tips
Gabe Weisert

Insider advice from the pros

Last summer in the Serengeti, a tired group of safari clients sat listlessly in their Range Rover, gazing out on yet another vast herd of wildebeest. The appeal of these particular ruminants was fading quickly; many wildebeest had been seen, and many pictures of them taken.

Then, apropos of nothing, two males from the herd took issue with one another, resulting in a spectacular clash of horns and hoofs. But before the startled observers had a chance to fumble for their Canon Powershots, the fight was over.

A professional wildlife photographer, of course, would have calmly captured the scene with a respectable SLR camera and a telephoto zoom lens, having waited patiently for this moment with the autumnal reserve of a zen monk. Instead, the few images that survive of the incident depict two roughly adjacent blurs...
Gabe Weisert Insider advice from the pros Last summer in the Serengeti, a tired group of safari clients sat listlessly in their Range Rover, gazing out...  more


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The Rule of Thirds

Divide your frame into a grid of nine equal squares, and align your subject with the intersections of those squares. In other words, avoid placing your subject (or the horizon) smack dab in the center of the frame.


Creative Cropping

You can lend your safari photos a much needed sense of proportion during the editing process. The above photograph was cropped in order to a) get rid of the Range Rovers in the distance and b) de-center the subjects.


Experiment with Depth of Field

Adjusting your aperture to wide settings (say, 1.4 or 2.8) causes your subjects to pop in focus against a gauzy background. Longer lenses will do this naturally, so telephotos can be useful in shooting close-ups as well.


Imperfect By Design

Don't delete pictures until you see them on your monitor. The above photograph was initially considered a throwaway for obvious reasons, but on further consideration, turned out to be a tongue-in-cheek keeper.


Look for Moments, Not Just Portraits

This means spending some time behind the viewfinder waiting for points of interaction, and adjusting your shutter button to the “rapid fire” setting.


When in Doubt, Focus on Those Lion Eyes

According to Weise, "Human beings look at an image and look straight into the eye of the subject. If the eye is not sharp, the image is a throwaway."


Let the Scene Dictate the Composition

The instinct with a zoom lens is to keep it fully extended and shoot as closely as possible, but that runs the risk of severing various body parts, and besides, an entire portfolio of close-ups can be boring. Look for trees, mountains, and other nearby features that help create an overall scene.


Get up Early

Photographers are crepuscular creatures – they thrive at dawn and at dusk. A vast majority of the photographs seen in glossy coffee table books are taken during these "golden hours." Take advantage of early morning game drives, and wait until the sun goes down before heading back to dinner.


Adjust Your ISO to Capture Motion

When light is low, you may have to bump up your ISO to 400 or even 800 in order to freeze motion (then again, you may want to keep it at 100 for a more impressionistic, blurring effect).


Keep your Slideshows Short

We've all been assaulted with near interminable online slideshows. James Weis recommends around thirty shots tops.

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