My Top 10 Photography Tips
Every job can get tedious and tiresome at times, even being a safari guide! Near the end of my guiding career, the main thing that kept me going through the long working stints was a love of photography. The promise of capturing nature’s most beautiful moments every day certainly made the 4am starts worthwhile! Even when I had seen an animal thousands of times, there was always an interesting behaviour or angle that I was chasing.
Today the camera has largely replaced the gun on safari and wildlife photography has become extremely popular. Here are my Top 10 photography tips to help you get the most out of your camera on your next trip:
1. Don’t forget the basics
Make sure that your battery is charged, your memory cards have sufficient space, and that you have a spare of each. It may sound silly, but many great shots have been lost because of these simple mistakes!
2. Pay attention to composition
Cut your frame into nine equal parts with imaginary lines both horizontally and vertically. You should place the focal point of the picture on one of the four points where these lines cross over. Make sure also that there is space in the image for your subject to look into, rather than away from. These simple rules alone will make the difference between your aunty’s holiday snaps and something more respectable!
3. Use a beanbag
Forget your monopod and leave any kind of clamps at home. These items take up valuable packing weight and don’t allow you to move quickly enough to capture much of the action. Make use of a beanbag instead – it will keep you stable enough under low light conditions but will also allow you to pick the camera up to capture flying birds and other action shots.
4. Get down low
Get as close to eye level with your subject as you can, or sometimes even lower. Try getting on your belly if you can! This does two things: Firstly, it reduces the amount of background distraction, which makes your subject pop. Secondly, it creates an interesting angle that we normally don’t see from, and this naturally pulls the viewer in.
5. Don’t fear space
Don’t be tempted to take every shot as a tightly cropped portrait. This can be hard to resist when you have a massive zoom at your disposal, but try to capture some of the animals’ habitat as well. This tells more of a story, which is what photographers always strive to do.
6. Keep your finger on the trigger
When in the field, keep your lens cap off, camera on standby and ready at a moment’s notice. Many potentially award-winning photos have been missed because of cameras on laps or in backpacks!
7. Be on the lookout for interesting behaviour
We all love a good portrait, but let’s face it – they are not difficult shots to take. The truly great images are those that capture interesting behaviours and interactions. First prize goes to those that capture more than one species doing something interesting.
8. Don’t cut off your subjects’ body parts
Be careful of cutting off feet that are hidden in grass or the tips of horns and ears. This common mistake can also happen when animals are moving quickly and you are trying to pan along with them. Rather, give yourself a bit of room and you can always crop the image later if need be.
9. Great silhouettes
When you are trying to capture a subject in silhouette, drop your exposure to –1 or –2. This will make your subject black and bring out any rich colour in the sky, creating a perfect contrast. Aim for subjects that are easy to recognise, such as giraffes, elephants and acacia trees.
10. Spend as much money as you can on your lens
With lenses, you get what you pay for. If you want crisp, sharp images then spend as much as you can on your lens. You will feel guilty at first, but once you see your photos you will forget this horrible emotion! The camera body is nowhere near as important, except for its frames per second.