How To Take Beautiful Photographs On Night Safaris

How To Take Beautiful Photographs On Night Safaris

Most of our stunning luxury safari lodges in South Africa offer guests night-time game drives. This thrilling experience offers safari-goers a different perspective as many camera-shy animals come out when the sun goes down! Genets, civets, aardvarks and many of the big cats are nocturnal creatures and prowl around in the cover of darkness.

Yes, it’s much easier to capture beautiful images of your safari sightings by day BUT capturing stunning images on evening game drives is not impossible. Now evening game drives are a very different experience that could have you on the edge of your seat (in the best way possible, however!). The wildlife tends to be more active and noisy at night so expect to hear a lot of sounds emanating from the surroundings.

It’s also pitch black out there with the only light source being your safari vehicles headlights and a sweeping spotlight. While animals may be cloaked in darkness by night, they give themselves away by their bright, beaming eyes glowing back at you in the dark. It’s exhilarating wondering who those eyes belong to!

Now, as we mentioned, your guide will be wielding a spotlight and shining it on the animals you spot for a short period of time. Your window of opportunity to get that money shot is a lot shorter than during the day, so we highly recommend having the following default settings on your camera so you’re ready to pick up and shoot at a moments notice.

  1. Shutter Speed: 1/80th to 1/150th is a suitable setting to let a little light into the shot while offsetting any shaky photography. A small tripod can be handy to keep your camera stable and help prevent blurry images.
  2. Aperture: go for a low aperture setting, around f2.8 or f4 to allow as much light in as possible. Focus directly on your subjects eyes to bring the animal into as sharp a focus as possible.
  3. ISO: set your ISO setting to a minimum of 3200 and be prepared to crank it up to as high as 6400.

Remember you can make edits to your images after your game drive so don’t try adjust white balance or any other fiddly settings while you’re on the move.

An important consideration when on any game drive is respect for the animals. Sure, we’d love to get as close as possible to take some amazing photographs but this should always be done while respecting boundaries. We must ensure we do not disturb the animals in any way or get too close to them. If a lion is looking at you and you miss the shot, it is never appropriate to make noises to try and draw the lions attention back to you. This is irresponsible and dangerous, especially at night when visibility is poor. Safety comes first – for you and the animals.

In this same vain, it is generally not acceptable to use a camera flash at night. The spotlight is more than adequate and multiple flashes can give the animals a fright or cause them to become aggressive towards the vehicle, putting everyone in danger. So remember to turn that flash off before you depart the lodge!

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