Tips to Shoot Safari-Style Photos

Now that zoos and wildlife parks are open again, here are some tips to take photographs worthy of a safari.

Unlike safaris, where there’s no guarantee of seeing your favorite animals, wildlife parks offer assured access to these incredible creatures – but the drawback is that there’s a physical barrier between you and them. Though that’s no bad thing, considering these are predators that could consider a photographer to be a snack! 

By following these steps, you can take brilliant and natural-looking images that look like they could have been shot in the wild – but you’ll need to try to get closer access than a regular zoo can provide. 

01. Lens choice

We used a Canon EF 100-400mm telephoto-zoom – but as we got close to the animals, we could get away with a standard zoom too. Longer focal lengths and faster apertures enable you to achieve a shallower depth of field – all important for that ‘on safari’ look. 

02. Exposure and aperture

Shoot in aperture priority or manual and start with an aperture of around f/5.6. This will ensure that the animals’ facial features are sharp, with their bodies slowly falling out of focus – and distracting backgrounds, such as fences that give the game away, will be blurred.

03. Spot metering 

It’s crucial that the animal is properly exposed – set spot metering so that the exposure is weighted towards the selected focus point, which will be on the cat. The center-weighted metering mode would try to expose the entire scene, but the subject is more important.

04. ISO and shutter speed

The big cats we were shooting weren’t running around, so we didn’t need a super-fast shutter speed – just enough to avoid camera shake. Aim for at least ‘one over’ the longest focal length of the lens – so, 1/400 sec for a 400mm. Increase the ISO, if needed, to achieve this.

05. Continuous focusing

Set continuous autofocus mode to track the animals, combined with a low-speed continuous burst mode. You don’t need to be shooting at 10fps for these cats, so avoid high-speed continuous to avoid filling up the memory card. 

06. Pinpoint focus

Set a single AF point mode and position this at one side of the frame, so that there’s negative space for the cat to move into. Keep focus on the animal’s nearest eye so that it’s sharp as you follow it around. Zoom in and out to capture a variety of body shots and close-up portraits shoots.

07. Set-up: zoom in close

The combo of wide aperture, telephoto focal length and your focusing distance will mean your depth of field is so shallow that the bars on the cage will vanish. For the best results shoot as close to the fence as you possibly can, then be bold with your composition and fill the frame with these strong animals. As we discovered up close, male lion’s heads are huge – so it’s easy to get a tightly framed portrait even when shooting at 100mm.

08. Set-up: exposure compensation

Big cats come in all colors, from near-white lions to black jaguars, and spot metering will ensure that your camera biases its exposure to the subject. However, your metering system will still try to expose for a mid-tone, so you will have to dial in negative exposure compensation for cats with dark fur, and positive exposure compensation for animals with lighter fur (if shooting in manual mode, increase or decrease the ISO and/or shutter speeds).

09. Set-up: better backgrounds

Try lots of compositions, and try placing your subject to one side of the image and leaving space for it to look or ‘move’ into. Look to avoid man-made objects in the frame to maintain the natural ‘safari’ feel to your shots. If you can’t blur out the fence at the end of the pen, try composing with some more natural elements positioned behind the animal.

10. Set-up: capture behavior

Look to take dramatic photos that capture the big cats displaying emotion – and their impressive teeth! This can help show a powerful predator on the prowl, rather than a captive cat. These beasts love to climb up high, and this offers a great chance to zoom in with a super-telephoto to capture them against the sky. A good tip is to find out from your guide which cats are likely to show off, then be patient and sit ready with your lens raised and pre-focused on them; it may be a fleeting display, so shoot with a fast shutter speed.

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Photography business

How To Easily Set Your Photography Price List in 2021

Determining a feasible pricing structure is one of the most daunting tasks a new photography entrepreneur faces. There’s not a magic formula when deciding how much to charge for your work, but there are some helpful guidelines you can follow.

Pricing strategies

The proliferation of digital media has made it much harder for photographers to charge for prints in the traditional way. So rather than adopt a “nickel and dime” pricing strategy where you charge for each print of an image (or photo shoot, proofs, photo album, and/or prints), consider charging only for what clients really value — your ability to capture moments.

One way you can capitalize on that is by offering specials on your social media

accounts. For example, many family photographers offer “mini-sessions” themed to various holidays or times of year via their social media channels. Sign-up is available to social followers only, and the price is a set one — usually a basic sitting fee for a small package of photos.

A photographer’s estimate is usually based on two elements: creative fees and expenses. On the creative side, you need to think about the quality of the image and what value you place on it. Photographer Jerry Clement says his formula for gallery prints includes the cost of production and what he calls an “intrinsic, artistic value,” with some profit margin on top of that. “You also have to take into account the gallery’s commission,” Clement says, “which usually averages 30 to 40 percent.”

You might also want to charge a sitting fee when working with clients. The sitting fee should cover your time as the photographer, editing of images, and, if you offer one, an online gallery of the client’s photos they can share with family and friends.

As part of your fees, factor in labor, supplies, and materials. Will the images be shot on location or in a studio? If you’re operating a studio, take a long, hard look at your local competitors to see what they’re charging for similar services, then start your pricing somewhere in the middle.

Wedding, portrait, and event photographers have an easier time scoping out the competition because it’s easy to stop by and pick up a price list and other information from competitors or simply visit their respective websites. Although it’s simple enough to pick up the phone and call a commercial photographer about their fees, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a standard rate because fees are usually developed on a project-by-project basis. To cover yourself, be sure to pad your fee a bit to include unexpected issues.

Location shoots are more complex and involve considerations like site logistics, travel, special equipment, lighting equipment, props and additional personnel (e.g., models, assistants, technicians). In addition to the complexity of the project, you also need to consider the number of finished images needed, scheduling and pre- and post-production time.

Pre-production responsibilities may include client meetings, site location and/or visits, and set arrangements. After the shoot is over, post-production tasks may consist of restoring a site to its original state, returning props and equipment, and more client meetings — along with image editing, selecting, and finalizing the images.

Many commercial or location photographers charge day or half-day rates, with fees adjusted to weekly for long-term shoots or hourly for shorter projects. Don’t forget to add overtime (hourly rate plus 50 percent) for days that go longer than eight hours or for weekend assignments.

Whenever in doubt, use the industry standards found through different photography associations and organizations, like American Society for Media Photographers (ASMP) or Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Local chapters have monthly meetings where members can network and learn a wealth of information, including local marketing and industry standards.

Expenses

The other part of the pricing equation is expenses. Many photographers — especially in the beginning — try to absorb minor expenses, like supplies, postage and basic camera gear. But these little things quickly add up and chip away at your profits. Your fee structure should cover these incidentals. For example, if you decide $50 is a fair hourly rate, charge $75. Then use the hourly charge to calculate daily and weekly rates.

Overhead should also be a calculated expense that includes rent, utilities, insurance, gas, mileage, and anything else that you’re not billing clients separately for. Big ticket expenses for individual assignments, like travel, equipment, or personnel, should be billed separately, depending on your — or the client’s — preferences.

And don’t forget to include your own salary in your cost of doing business — if you do, then you’ve made a grave business error. Pay yourself first, then consider the rest of your costs as overhead. Ultimately, if your business can’t cover its payroll and expenses, you’ll need to charge more for your work, find other ways to increase revenue and/or cut costs.

After factoring your costs into your pricing structure, find ways to reduce those costs and increase profits. Monitor your progress each month by using profit and loss reports, which your bookkeeping or accounting software should allow you to generate with ease if you’re using it correctly.

If you want to become successful and grow your business, you’re going to have to handle tasks you don’t like, including bookkeeping and accounting. Many photographers think of themselves as “creative types” who don’t deal with numbers. However, if you don’t understand the finances related to your business and maintain proper records using accounting or bookkeeping software, you’ll quickly find yourself in financial crisis.