The best time to take photos is in the early morning and late afternoon; this is when the natural light is best for taking photos, and when the animals are most active. This is also the time of day when most game drives take place.
Make sure that you don't put yourself in danger. Never interfere with the natural behaviour of the animals in order to take a better photo. If you are on a game drive, do not get out of a vehicle to take a photo - animals are scared off by humans as they have been hunted for thousands of years. You are more likely to get a shot if you stay in your vehicle as in many safari areas the animals have become used to the presence of vehicles.
Always make sure your camera is charged and ready to take photos. Have your camera set on automatic or set to the settings best for the current lighting situation. Carry extra memory cards in case you run out of space
Do not let your camera blind you. There is a whole world out there and pictures only capture the images. The sights and sounds of these undeveloped areas are all interwoven, and if you spend an inordinate amount of time peeking through the viewfinder you will miss most of the trip. Be ready with your camera at all times though as animals do not keep appointments - kills happen in a flurry of fur and snarls; and leopards leap from trees in a split second.
Any good digital camera will do to get shots of wildlife, but to get really good shots you should probably invest in a 35mm SLR camera. Your camera should shoot at least 5x a second so that you can capture the animals in motion. A good starting point for wildlife photography is a lens with a 300mm in focal length. Bird photography will require a camera that has a 500mm lens.
Many cameras have good automatic functions these days, but learning how to adjust your camera settings manually is also a good idea. When the subject is in motion, use a shutter speed of at least 1/125, except if you are using a panning method. Some photographers recommend the Nikon SLR cameras as they offer you good low light capabilities.
Most SLR's come with a standard lens. Most of these are good for everyday use. For wildlife photography you might want to invest in a lens with an f stop of 4 through to f 2.8 or a 100-400 f5.6.There is no need to buy really huge tele-photo lenses as they are cumbersome and get in the way of your safari experience.
A standard 50mm and a wide angle lens is good for scenery and people shots. If you are an avid photographer you may want to bring two SLR camera bodies (of the same type) so you will not have to constantly change lenses. You need to bear in mind though that this is extra weight when flying and that with two cameras you will spend more time fumbling in your camera bag, getting dust in your one camera body, and missing the action!
Skylight and haze filters are useful for lens protection as well as picture enhancement. Polarizing filters are useful when taking pictures over water and with wide-angle shots with sky and clouds. Tripods are cumbersome and you will have few opportunities to use them, but if they are light-weight you may want to bring them along, especially if you are planning on waiting awhile for the perfect shot - the more stable your camera is, the better.
A small beanbag is very handy for resting your camera and lens on the roof of vehicles. We suggest that you make the bag at home (approx. 6'x 9') and fill it with beans purchased at a local market (to save weight)
Bring plenty of spare batteries for your camera. If your camera battery comes with a charger, bring it as many lodges will have charging points. If you are relying on disposable batteries, please note that they will be hard to find in Africa, and you should bring extra. It is very handy if all your equipment uses the same size batteries, so that if you run short, you can borrow batteries from your other equipment.
Camera phones and Ipads generally do not have the zoom required to take a decent wildlife shot. However many people travel with their phones, Notepads, Mapbooks and Laptops. You can download your photos onto them and upload your photos onto a sharing network when you find Wi-Fi facilities. Alternately you can put them on a flash drive, thereby freeing up space on your memory card.
There are also several apps that allow you to enhance your photos such as Hipstamatic and Instagram among others which help you create effects usually only achievable with high end lenses.
Many people from Western countries are used to taking photos and sharing them instantly on social networks and sharing sites through their phones. There is limited coverage in Africa and you will not always be able to do this. If you are staying at a lodge or camp that has wifi facilities, it is recommended to upload your digital images to the cloud for safety. In the unlikely event that your camera, phone or memory cards are stolen or misplaced, by uploading your digital photos to the cloud (iCloud, Sync, Dropbox etc), you will never lose the precious memories of your African safari.
The transportation used in these trips is quite rugged, vibration from engines and corrugated roads can play havoc with your camera gear so pack it well in a good well padded camera bag. Always take your camera equipment as hand luggage and keep an eye on it; this is the best way to prevent theft.
Also, on photography safari's it is not uncommon to drop cameras in or out of the vehicle. On some trips you will be on board boats and there is the chance that you and your gear may take a swim. It is therefore important that you insure your equipment. A home owner's policy will usually cover camera gear.
A video of your wildlife safari is a wonderful memento. With today's technology many cell phones and cameras can take video. Remember however if you are using your camera that video takes up a lot of space and you will need a large memory card. You might also want to bring along a small video recorder. Please remember a charger. Many lodges have electricity and charging facilities, but it is a good idea to bring spare batteries. To make the most of your videos - shoot some practice film before your trip.
Frequent mistakes when shooting video footage are zooming in and out too quickly, holding the camera unsteadily, and swinging the camera around in a fast traverse, all of which can lead to sea-sickness amongst your living-room audience. Rather stand steadily and rest your camera on the vehicle for support.
You will find that the slightest noises will be picked up on your video microphone: motor drives, comments, whispers etc. You might want to bring a clip on microphone so that your own voice or that of your on the spot commentator can be heard above the background roars, clicks, zips and conversation.
Binoculars are strongly recommended for every trip member. They are invaluable for observing larger animals as well as birds. A 7 or 8 power binocular works well for most people, but if you are particularly interested in birds a 10 power is best. We recommend that each trip participant bring his or her own pair, as it is most frustrating to strain for the sight of a brightly coloured bird high in the tree, while waiting to borrow a pair of 'Binos', only to have the bird fly away once you finally get the binos.
Well these are just a few pointers, and remember the more you learn about the quirks of your particular camera, the better pictures you'll take. One of the advantages with digital and modern technologies, many photographs can be enhanced with photo editing software! Take lots of photos and you're sure to have some that are really good. Happy snapping!