Wildlife Photography Tips

Posted on November 1, 2023

The beauty of wildlife photography lies in its spontaneity – you can’t ask your subject to pose for you. (Well, you could try, but lions don’t take direction very well and giraffes are notorious divas…) Animals, especially those in their natural habitat, are without pretense, and this alone makes for wonderful subject matter.

At Leopard Hills, you will be presented with many opportunities to photograph some of the world’s most beautiful animals, from the elusive leopard to the mighty elephant.

Each encounter has presence and potential – it’s down to you to interpret these moments through your lens and remember that, at the end of the day, there is no ‘wrong’ way to take a photograph. However, there are some basic wildlife photography tips that need to be mastered.

Here are a few tips to get you started!

1. Know Your Subject

Knowing your subject helps when it comes to managing expectations. For instance, if you’re looking to photograph birds with extravagant plumage, it’s crucial to know when their mating season is and to plan your trip accordingly. Most migratory birds at Leopard Hills return to the reserve during ‘Green Season’ between November and April when we have our summer rains, making this the ideal time for birding photography.

Alternatively, knowing that leopards are nocturnal and hunt in the early evening can help you plan your day around the time you’re most likely to get the shot you’re looking for.

Luckily, our guides at Leopard Hills have intimate knowledge of the Sabi Sand, cutting your research time in half and enabling you to sit back, relax, and entrust your sightings to their care. They will always do their best to track down the animals you’d most like to see.

2. Choose Your Gear Carefully

Decide on what kinds of photos you’d like to take before heading out (portraits, establishing shots, etc.) and pack your equipment accordingly.

You might think it best to have all your gear at your disposal, but often, fumbling around for an alternative lens can lead to you missing out on a beautiful moment.

If you’re out on one of our walking safaris, lugging all your gear around can also be cumbersome and detract from the experience.

So, decide what you need and stick to it. In this case, less is more.

3. Camera Settings

When it comes to camera settings, we each have our own style, but a good rule of thumb is to shoot your images on RAW.

RAW files contain more pixel information than JPEG files. Yes, they’re larger and take up more space on your memory card, but you’ll also have more to work with when the time comes to edit your pics in post processing.

Other rules of thumb:

  • Use a low ISO. ISO refers to a camera’s light sensitivity. In good lighting conditions, such as early mornings and late afternoons, it’s best to use a low ISO to avoid noise in your image.
  • Auto-focus is your friend. Wild animals move suddenly and in unpredictable ways. By keeping your finger half-pressed on the shutter button, you’ve activated your camera’s built-in auto focus, perfect for a quick fire image when the ideal moment presents itself.
  • Tripod it. There are so many nifty little tripods on the market today, and they really help with camera shake, especially if you’re taking a photo at slow shutter speed.

4. Respect The Animals

Always bear in mind that being in this environment is a privilege.

Your guide is trained to respect and understand these animals, and so, trust them when it comes to positioning you appropriately for your shot.

Animals are not to be manipulated or interfered with in any way, and we’re fortunate to host guests at Leopard Hills who firmly align with this ethos and love our wild spaces as much as we do.

Apart from respecting the animals, also be mindful of your fellow guests who are sharing this experience with you.

5. Anticipate

A good wildlife photographer is patient and understands the nuaced art of anticipation.

It takes practice, but with time (and your guide’s help) you will be able to predict an animal’s behaviour. This will enable you to set up for a shot and, when the moment is right, snap away!

We all know, from watching wildlife documentaries, that hours of footage are required to make a programme that only runs 90 minutes or so. The same is true of photography. Out of 100 photos, only one might be ‘brilliant,’ and so exposing yourself to the kinds of environments and animals you’d like to photograph as often as possible is crucial when it comes to capturing that one stand-out image.

We create our own luck!

And finally…

Enjoy the experience.

When it comes to wildlife photography tips, we could carry on until it comes out of our ears, but at the end of the day, the experience of being out in the bush counts for more than the perfect shot.

Make mistakes, laugh at yourself, relax, breathe, practice, play, and, when the time is right, fire away!

Stay With Us

If you’ve got a passion for wildlife photography, then Leopard Hills on the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the ideal place for you to hone your craft.

We offer both game drives as well as walking safaris, bringing you closer to the animals you’d most like to capture through your viewfinder.

Many of our experienced guides are also talented photographers, often entering local and international competitions – feel free to pick their brains and ask them for advice and wildlife photography tips, should you need it.

Take a look at our website and book your stay online. Alternatively, contact us directly via

We can’t wait to share the wonders of the South African bush with you!

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