5 Beginner-Friendly Tips For Capturing Better Photos & Videos on Safari
Whether you’re a photographer or videographer, newbie or seasoned shooter, getting Insta-worthy shots on safari can be challenging to damn right frustrating.
Capturing the perfect wildlife snap and/or clip out on safari usually means having to make the most of a small and often cramped vehicle space, not to mention you’re usually looking at a limited window of time to get your shots in (because as every non-ahole knows, hogging the “best view” in the safari vehicle is major game drive no-no).
But not to worry my fellow safari-goers, because after plenty of missed shots, blurry photos, and shaky video from my many safaris I’ve certainly learned a thing or two… and I’m about to share my top 5 Beginner-Friendly Tips For Capturing Better Photos & Videos on Safari.
When you’re on safari chances are you won’t only have a limited amount of space to work within but also a limited amount of time to snap your best shots — this is especially true if you’re going on a group game drive.
So do yourself (and anyone that might get stuck sitting next to you) a solid by leaving the tripod, fixed window mount, and any other bulky, set-up-heavy camera accessories at your lodge or campsite and bring along a camera bean bag instead.
If you have the budget, spring for bean bag with a removable gimbal/ball head mounting plate like THIS one from LensCoat ($199.99). If you don’t own a gimbal or ball head mount for your camera, you might consider splurging on a bundle like THIS one from Movo ($299).
Looking for a camera bean bag option that’s a little easier on the wallet? Check out THIS SafariSack by Kenisis ($23). While it doesn’t have a fancy removable mounting plate like the above options, it still gets the job done (and very well I might add). In fact, this ended up being my go-to camera bean bag on my most recent Africa trip.
After months on the road and more game drives than I could count, I’ll be honest, I got pretty lazy about my safari camera setup towards the end of the trip. And the last thing I wanted I didn’t want to deal with any more balancing of gimbals, mounting and unmounting plates to differnet lenses, etc.
Instead, I just wanted to be able to point and shoot out my window as quickly and easily as possible with as much camera stabiliazation as a lazy shooter deserves, and this allowed for that.
Simply throw the bean bag over your vehical’s open window, place your camera on top of it, and start snapping away.
Filling Your Bean Bag
Whatever camera bean bag you ultimately choose, filling it is easy (and cheap). be filled with uncooked dry beans or rice and/or other playable filling like sand, etc. that you place your camera on top off for when you need extra stability and something like a monopod, tripod or stabilizer.
The best thing about camera bean bags is how travel-friendly they are as most come empty, making them easy to pack away until you reach your destination.
When you’re ready to fill it, simply use uncooked dry beans or rice and/or some other playable filling like sand, soft dirt, etc. (all of which should be easily to find in most tourist-friendly safari destinations).
Personally, I like using uncooked dry beans in my camera bean bags as I find them less messy and easier to mold than rice or sand. An added bonus is that I can cook and eat them when I done and/or give away the contents to someone who will!
If you take nothing else from this list of safari photography and video tips, please, for the love of God, at least DOUBLE CHECK that you have enough battery life and storage space to get your through the whole safari BEFORE you set off on it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a game drive with other people and mid-safari one of them panics because their batteries have either died or they have run out of storage space, which, of course, almost always happens at the most inopportune of times (and yes, it’s happened to me once… or twice).
Please, save yourself from the self-loathing and devastation that you will almost certianly feel if you allow either of these scenarios to happen by simply double checking that you’re all charged up AND have enough storage space to capture all the amazing wildlife photos and video your heart desires.
Since I have been that person who’s ran out of camera power and/or storage on a safari, and never EVER want to be that person again, I now make it habit to always roll with at least two, fully-charged extra batteries and spare SD card.
I also use battery grips on all of my camers and can’t recommend this investment enough. Not only do camera grips hold multiple batteries (when you count the spares I also bring it means I’m usually rolling with at least four, fully-charged batterys on every safari) but they also help to provide a more solid grip on your camera.
Speaking from experience, the slightlest bit of shaking, rattling, or other movement can pretty much ruin a great photo and/or video opportunity, especially when using a telephoto lens (as many do on a wildlife safari).
Turning off your safari vehical’s engine when shooting is one easiest ways to ensure the quality of your shots, ’cause ain’t nobody got time for blurry photos of cheetahs or shakey clips of adorable baby elephants doing adorable baby elephant things.
While turning off your safari vehical’s engine is certainly easy to make happen when you’re doing a self-driving safari, there’s a good chance youthere’s nothing wrong with politely asking your driver/guide to shut-it down when you stumnble upon a worthwhile photo or video opportunity (if they don’t automatuically do so anyway).
An added bonus to this tip? The quieter you are on safari, the less likely it is that you’ll scare off wildlife around you, and the more likley you’ll get some wild shots.
When you’re out on safari you can bet there’s going to be plenty of dust, dirt, mud… you name it. And if super you’re lucky (I love me a good rain storm in the wild), maybe even a little, or a lot, of water.
That said, you will defintley want quick and easy ways to not only protect your camera gear but also clean it if (but more like when) the elements get to it.
Two musthaves are:
• Something to cover your camera with — a towel, scarf, or resuable bag will do just fine in most “dry” cases. But if there’s rain in your safari forcast you may want to pack something more protective like THIS Movo Storm Raincover Protector ($24.95).
• Something to clean/wipe down your lenses and camera body with — a pocket-sized microfiber cloth is usually all you’ll need to take care of smudges and other minor grime-related issues while out on safari. However, I always keep a travel-size lens cleaning kit like THIS one from Altura Photo ($16.99) in my lugguge to give my lenses and camera bodies a solid wipe down after a particularly dirty safari.
If you can find one, try using a compressed air canister like Dust Off (commonly used for cleaning computer keyboards, etc.) for a quick and easy way to rid your camera gear of hard to reach safari dirt/dust particales.
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk camera presets.
These days, most entry level DSLR cameras and above allow you to create different presets (aka settings) and assign them to specific buttons or menu items on/in your camera.
Using them makes it super quick and easy to switch between different camera settings on the fly, which — as you probably know by now — can be extreamly helpful when out on safari (’cause the last thing anyone wants is to miss ‘the money shot’ because they were too busy fumbling around with thier camera settings).
If you have the option to create different presets and it’s your first time using them, I would recommend starting out with one for low-light situations, one for fast-moving subjects (ie. shutter priority mode), and for all you videographers out there: one to easily record slow-motion video (personally, I love me a nice 60fps).
Extra Tip For Videographers
Once you’re comfortable using your camera’s primary presets, start exploring more stylistic and creative camera settings.
Nowadays, a lot of mid-level DSLR cameras and above come with cool features such as picture profiles, which help give your footage a stylized/cinematic look and feel.
I hope these beginner-friendly photography and videography tips come in handy on your next safari and help you capture some amazing wild moments. If they do, I’d love to check them out! You can share your favorite photos and/or video clips with me on Instagram at @marlinamoreno by tagging my account or by sending me a direct message!