If you are planning a photography safari, it’s only fair you get beautiful snapshots. It would be a shame to travel to the Serengeti in Tanzania, Amboseli in Kenya, or Lake Mburo in Uganda, then fail to take quality shots.

Photographing wildlife is tricky because your subjects won’t cooperate, spook easily and could even attack you. If you are an amateur photographer, then get ready for some challenging times. You could have the best equipment and still end up with lackluster images that you can’t show to anyone.

All is not lost, though. A few tricks can help you take stunning pictures you can proudly showcase to anyone who listens. Below are some rules to guide your wildlife photography endeavors.

1. Learn the Art of Stalking

One thing you will do a lot as you try to capture those superb shots is stalking your subjects. The perfect images require you to get close. Of course, some animals will run at the slightest distraction. Therefore, you have to be cautious about how you approach them.

Have the mentality of a hunter. Watch how predators stalk their prey and learn to do the same.

While stalking your subjects, you might have to get on your hands and knees, or even your stomach. If you have ever photographed children, then you know the best images are shot when you are at their level. The same goes for wildlife.

A successful stalker must be patient. You have to learn to move at an animal’s pace. More importantly, though, you have to blend into the surroundings. Never let the animal view you as a threat.

2. Fill the Frame

Great wildlife photographs showcase subjects in all their glory. Whether it’s a small bird or an elephant, let it take up the entire frame. Anyone who looks at your pictures should see the magic you captured.

For that, you have to provide as many details as possible. Getting close to the subject is the only way to achieve that. Admittedly, you will have to work hard. Hence, the need to learn how to stalk wildlife.

3. Focus on the Eyes

A point of focus guides you when setting the autofocus. The eyes tell you a lot about a subject, so they should be the primary target. Do you know how you are drawn to a person’s eyes when looking at photos? The same applies to animals.

In some instances, though, the subject’s face might not be the primary feature. For example, you might be shooting a lion to highlight its mane. In such a case, you can pick a spot that’s close to the eyes as your focus.

4. Avoid an Overpowering Background

With the gorgeous landscapes in different East African destinations, you can easily get tempted by the background. 

Picture shooting a rare bird sighting in the Aberdares with the magnificent waterfalls as a backdrop. It would feel almost unfair not to include those cascading jets in your shot. However, that would be a mistake.

The beauty of a captivating animal image is to keep the background as simple as possible. It should not take away from the main subject. A powerful backdrop distracts from the features you are trying to highlight.

Thus, learn to choose quality backgrounds that are not too distracting. A plain blue sky, plains stretching in the distance, or a tree can make your subject stand out without causing chaos within the frame.

5. Time Unique Circumstances

Almost everyone who goes on safari takes photos of the wildlife. The internet is filled with animal images from professionals and amateurs. So, what makes yours different?

Even if you are shooting wildlife for your private collection, you want to make certain you get awe-inspiring snapshots. Exceptional images come from unique situations. A shot of an elephant dipping into a spring for a bath, for instance, would be spectacular.

Any decent wildlife photographer should learn to wait for those photo-worthy moments. Don’t be too eager to snap away at a subject when you see it. Give it time to get comfortable with your presence and its surroundings.

Try to take as many uncommon pictures as the situation allows.

6. Know Your Subjects

If you are to photograph special moments, it helps if you understand how particular animals behave. Research is vital in wildlife photography.

Learning about wildlife makes it easy to put it in context when taking pictures. Additionally, knowing the behaviors of a particular animal enables you to wait for unique moments. You will also know where to find your subjects for the most natural shots.

Fortunately, wildlife research is not complicated. Numerous resources are available online, allowing you to learn as much as you need. You don’t have to be an expert, though. Only get the most crucial information.

Also, take advantage of your guide to learn what you couldn’t before the trip. Safari guides are locals with a wealth of information that comes in handy when shooting wildlife.

7. Don’t Mind What You Cannot Control

It’s the wild; you can’t dictate how it behaves. One minute a gazelle might be grazing majestically in front of you, and the next, it’s running into the forest because it sensed danger.

One rule you should never forget in wildlife photography is that you can’t control everything. Your task is to be creative about the circumstances that present themselves. Control what you can, like how to frame a subject, use light or highlight features.  

8. Have Fun!

With all the rules you have to remember, you can easily forget to appreciate the wonders at your disposal. Even as you strive to shoot amazing images, don’t be too rigid.

Relax and enjoy the place. You can’t be sure you will return in a while, or ever at all. Therefore, make the experience an adventurous one. As you slow down to capture the wildlife, take a breath and appreciate everything else going on.