Golden Rules for African Wildlife Photography

Golden Rules for African wildlife photography

On an African Wildlife Photography it is not the time to test that old saying “rules are made to be broken”.   The consequences might be dire, after all, no one wants the impending doom of an irate rhinoceros charging in their direction, do they?
By following a few simple guidelines, an invisible code, you will get the best photographs and memories from your experience, and the wildlife and its environment need never know you’d been there. We want to make sure your ready and prepared to visit all the wild places and National parks.

The best piece of advice we can offer you is to take a camera! A dSLR camera is best but most modern digital cameras will do a fine job. Take just enough gear to take the best shots, a telephoto lens, tripod, etc., but not so much that you get laden down. Accessories such as space batteries, chargers, and spare memory cards should be considered essentials. And don’t forget some Ziploc bags, you will not believe the ability that sand and dust have to get into the crevices of your equipment.

Never Feed the Animals

No matter how tempting, even if you think you’re being kind, you should never feed nor leave food behind for the animals. Doing so is not only unethical but is also considered baiting in some countries and is an illegal offense.

When wild animals are regularly fed by humans it robs them of their desire and urges to hunt and explore for their food. Their natural diet is compromised and they will be tempted to get closer to man.
Sadly, it is these animals that often become problems and have to be shot by the rangers, the absolute last thing they ever want to do.

A hungry and desperate wild animal will act erratically and in a threatening manner. This might put both you and the beast at risk.
Most people prefer to return home from an African safari with all of the limbs they took with them…

No Selfies!

As amazing as you might look, save the selfies for the sundowner drinks. Firstly, you will need to keep your wits about you at all times. Secondly, if you’re close enough to an animal to attempt a selfie…you’re already too close. He might become distressed and react violently.

No Littering

Leave the environment just as you found it, leave nothing behind that would interfere with the natural habitats. It’s that old saying, ‘leaving nothing behind except foot prints.’
Takes photographs and make memories, not souvenirs. Leave rocks and stones in place, you never know, you just might be disturbing a creatures home.


On safari, you won’t just be taking African wildlife photographs; you will undoubtedly come into contact with locals. They are fascinating people with a colourful and varied culture. It is deemed disrespectful just taking a quick snap without first seeking their permission.
Say hi in the local language, ask your tour guide how, and you will warm their hearts.

Don’t assume that they want you to buy gifts for their children, or offer them cash in return for pictures. Often the way to get the best photographs is by polite, human kindness.

Know Your Subject

Speak with your tour guide beforehand for tips on what you might see. Understanding their behavior and habitat can help to get the best shot. Work the angles, get down low for maximum effect, some of the most impressive African wildlife photography shots are taken at eye-level. From a distance you understand, if you find yourself eye-to-eye with a herd of Cape buffalo, you’d better hope you can run!

Be Patient

The best photograph’s occur organically when the animal is behaving naturally. Remain quiet but be alert and don’t disturb them.
You may need to grab your camera for the briefest interaction, can you imagine missing a cheetah chasing its prey because you weren’t ready?
If you’re confident in your ability with the camera, you could get an awesome photograph with little notice. Similarly, taking the time to get the perfect composition of an animal at rest, and knowing how to wait for the perfect moment to take the shot, also requires immaculate patience.

Sit still and quiet, no sudden or jerky movements, and you should blend into the landscape. Observe your surroundings and their natural beauty, don’t disturb anything.
There may be days when you see few animals, the following day you might be inundated with multiple species, and spoilt for choice.

In the downtimes, look around, look upwards, there is plenty to be seen in the sky and the trees. Even cloud formations, trees, and sandy tunes have a story to tell.

Be Prepared What to Wear

You will need to dress for the occasion, by which we don’t mean dress to impress, you should blend into the surroundings so as not to alert the animals.
Take plenty of thin layers, early mornings are cold, as are evenings, however, midday can be blazing hot. A hat, raincoat, and a scarf to protect from dust are all advisable, prepare for all eventualities. Sun protection cream and a raincoat all in one trip!

You will need to be comfortable, there will be periods were sitting still and quiet for hours is called for, and others where you may need to dive from one side of the vehicle to the other with a moments notice.
Cover your legs – you may get the chance to walk in the wilderness and there are countless species of insects just waiting to dine out on your bare flesh.

Keep Your Distance

Believe it or not, it is frowned upon to carry cuts of meat or baby rabbits in your pocket to entice the lions towards you, we can’t imagine why!
If you get too close the animal may react violently as you are invading their privacy and making them feel threatened. Please watch in awe of their splendor from a safe distance. Keep your arms and legs inside of your vehicle at all times and pay heed to your guide. They will know when it’s safe to let your guard drop.
No photographic safari is worth the terror a scared wild beast can inflict on a human.

The Main Rule for African Wildlife Photography

Use the light to your advantage. Each day has 2 golden hours, the first is as the sun rises and the second is as it sets. Grab these opportunities to get the magnificent colours, shadows, and effects into your shots.

Many animals are active at these times of day, they want to avoid the mid-afternoon heat. Therefore, they routinely look for shade and cat-nap. As most photo tours go out during the golden hours, you might also want to relax in the shade and edit your photographs at these times.
Get some variation into your shots, zebras grazing on the Savannah plains and lion cubs tumbling through the long grasses taken at different times of day can look very different due to the tones in the natural lighting.

Our Best African Wildlife Photography Locations


Botswana is an excellent country for wildlife photography. The Chobe National Park is the best place on the African continent for getting great images. The Okavango Delta, Savuti Channel and Hunting Dogs are among the greatest places to go for wildlife photography in Botswana.


Tanzania is one of the most popular destinations for photography safaris. The country is home to a wealth of wildlife, including lions, elephants, and giraffes. Photography safaris in Tanzania often focus on the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, where large herds of wildebeest and zebras can be found.


Zimbabwe is a photographer’s dream for animal and scenery photography. For the best chances of capturing swarms of animals – especially elephants in Hwange National Park – assemble near waterholes, go during the dry winter months of July to October. The greatest time to visit for bird photographers is from November to April, when hundreds of migrating species can be seen. When the river is low and the skies are clear, August to November are the finest months to photograph Victoria Falls. You’ll have the best chance of capturing this natural wonder without the spray and mist of earlier in the year, when the river is higher.


Thinking of heading out on a walking safari, or do you prefer a safari vehicle? Zambia’s safaris and wildlife lodges provide excellent photographic opportunities. Select an early morning or late evening game drive or hikes.
Several photo safaris tours cater specifically to the amateur or hobbies photographer. Grab your camera bags and let’s head out. Some operators supply bean-bags and dust coverings. South Luangwa National Park has photography hides where one can sit and wait for that ideal opportunity.


The Serengeti National Park  is a place of vast plains and teeming wildlife, where predators and prey fight for survival in a never-ending drama. For this is how I’ve always envisioned wild Africa. Witnessing the Grand Movement, the world’s largest migration of land animals, is breathtaking. Predators are as plentiful here as they have been anyplace else I’ve been. It’s the best location for a photographic safari in Africa.

Final thoughts

African wildlife photography is the perfect opportunity for novice and competent photographers to take amazing pictures.
By taking advantage of magnificent settings and glorious lighting you can capture images that belong on the front of National Geographic. From Landscape photography, nature photographs and maybe some fine art as well.
Our golden rules are a simple guideline to enable you to get the most from your amazing African Wildlife Photo photography adventure, and to go home with all of your  arms and legs!

Frequently asked questions

How do you photograph African wildlife?

Photographing African wildlife can be quite difficult. A lot of factors go into making an image unique and impactful. For instance, the light has a huge effect on the way your images turn out, as does what season it is during your trip. Even how you position yourself with the subject and their surrounding.

Unique Wildlife Safari Photos

An African Wildlife Photography Safari is a unique opportunity for anyone not just seasoned photographers who want to create memorable images. However, they need to know that a safari has a lot going on and you should not stick with the same photographic methods throughout the trip. The idea of shooting the same style in different locations is not recommended, repetitive can kill your experience, and this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. An African wildlife safari is full of opportunities to show off your skills and learn or practice new photographic skills. One of the best way to make unique wildlife photos is by choosing your subject matter wisely and including it surroundings. Location and lens choice will also help decide the uniqueness of the final product.

What is the best shutter speed for wildlife?

As Rick Sammom would say, “It depends” Definitely a good question, there are a few things you have to understand before we can answer “what is the best shutter speed for wildlife” would be A) what is the type of light Morning, mid afternoon, night? B) what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to do a panning photo? Were you trying to photography a bird in flight or freeze a lion in full run or is it an elephant’s reflection at the favorite watering hole?

On average, I would always try to keep my shutter speed at least 1/125 or higher. Of course, if you’re panning or if the sun has set  this may or may not be possible.