Leopard in Madai Mara

Pictures of animals and nature are useful in showcasing the magnificence of different environments that not many people get to see. A photo safari to Kenya, Rwanda, or Tanzania is a chance to capture unique moments and features.

Sharing the pictures you take on photo tours is an excellent way to increase exposure to a particular destination. You can also create awareness of the dangers facing wildlife in various regions. For some people, photo expeditions are simply another hobby.

Whatever category you fall into, one aspect to keep in mind at all times is to be ethical. Some photographers forget they are operating in a natural setting that should be respected. When on safari, you are sharing the environment with other living beings. Therefore, anything you do should have their best interests at heart.

When learning about the rules of wildlife photography, don’t forget to educate yourself on ethics as well. Although no concrete requirements apply when discussing ethical nature photography, know how to carry yourself in different situations.

In this guide, we provide the best practices of an ethical wildlife photographer.

Be Passionate

Taking pictures of wildlife is not easy. It requires patience and a passion for the experience. You must be willing to dedicate yourself to getting the best images from your tour. It may take you a few hours or even days to get the shots you want, and you must be ready for that. Besides a passion for the craft, you also have to show compassion towards nature. If you appreciate the environment, then you will do everything to safeguard it. Conservation should always be at the back of your mind during photo tours.

Do No Harm

Some photographers might not know it, but certain activities hurt animals. Ethical tourism demands you leave the environment the same or better than you found it. Regardless of how much you desire special images, don’t endanger nature.

Luring males during mating season or using tape lures to attract birds are some practices that are considered unethical. If you need to get an animal’s attention, ensure you don’t interrupt its natural behavior. Although you might get that coveted shot, you could end up messing with the natural flow.

Feeding animals is another way tourists cause harm. You might give an animal the wrong food, or worse, alter its habits. For instance, enticing a subject with food could habituate it to humans, leading it to abandon the safety of its habitat.

Does it mean you shouldn’t photograph lion cubs feeding or bird nesting? By all means, do! However, it should be in a manner that doesn’t distress the subject.

Do Not Interfere

This rule ties into the first one. Disrupting natural habitats is harmful. Thus, endeavor to disrupt natural settings as little as possible.

Never remove wildlife from its environment in an effort to get beautiful shots. Unlike humans, you can’t coach animals to be photogenic.

You are supposed to adjust to your subject’s surroundings, not the other way around. After all, you are the guest. So, behave the way you would if you visited someone else’s home.

Ethics demand that you blend into the environment. Don’t disturb the animals. So, avoid shouting, throwing objects, or sudden movements. Some animals are easily spooked, which not only messes with your shot but also puts you in danger.

Also, don’t:

  • Attempt to restrain animals
  • Force unnatural positions on subjects
  • Corner animals
  • Spray water for artificial rainfall
  • Litter

Avoid Using Live Bait

Not everyone might agree with this rule, but we believe ethical wildlife photography should eliminate the use of live bait.

Setting up an animal to be killed for the sake of a picture is utterly unethical. Yes, predators hunt and kill to survive, but it should be natural. If you happen to catch a leopard in the middle of a hunt, then go ahead and take that shot.

Under no circumstances, though, should photographers interfere with nature. You might get a stunning image, but it doesn’t mean much if you got it unethically.

Watch Out for Distress

Your photos should never be more important than your subjects. An ethical photographer should never pressure an animal to the point of distress.

Decent pictures sometimes require you to get close, but not all animals appreciate human presence. Birds can especially get finicky when shooting them in their nests.

If a subject begins to manifest distress, then leave it alone. Learn how to identify a distressed animal. Your safari guide can help with this.

Respect All Life

Whether migratory, common, or endangered, treat all wildlife with respect. Before you even get to the destination, commit to giving all subjects the same importance. 

Equal respect is how you guarantee some animals are not sacrificed for the comfort of others. For instance, don’t disturb the nest of a common bird species solely to get a shot of a rare sighting.

Learn the Ground Rules

Every country and attraction have laws and regulations about photographing wildlife. Learn the necessary rules beforehand. Note that laws can vary across species.

Regulations are in place to protect the animals and visitors. Therefore, follow them.

Various attractions have rules against feeding animals. Different regions also impose regulations on the equipment you can use. Protected areas are particularly strict about guest conduct.

Hence, educate yourself on what to do to avoid trouble. If you are unclear about the rules, then ask your guide, rangers or other authority before shooting.

Be Considerate of Others

Remember, you are not the only one looking for those perfect images. If you are on a photo tour, then everyone in your group is there for the same reason.

Although your goals might be different, be mindful of other photographers. Give them space to work and respect their projects. Thus, ensure you stay out of the line of sight of other photographers. Accord each person the courtesy you would appreciate.

Stay Safety Conscious 

Don’t forget you are in the wild. You can’t predict how the animals will react. So, proceed at every step with safety in mind. Don’t do anything to endanger the animals, yourself, or others.

Learn about the behaviors of different animals and how to approach them safely. Be careful not to agitate or provoke subjects, such that they are forced to defend themselves.

Photography safaris are growing increasingly popular as more people discover the joy of these adventures. As much as the exposure is necessary, these trips can sometimes place undue pressure on the environment. It’s why sustainable tourism is a big part of Explorer Kenya’s mission. Besides creating lifelong memories through photo tours, we ensure your experiences don’t disrupt nature. The above guidelines contribute to our efforts in providing ethical tourism.