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Top Photography Tips By Profesional Photographer, Marlon Dutoit

An African safari is an incredible opportunity to experience a variety of wildlife in their natural environment. In those moments, in the wild African bush, you would want to savour every moment. There is no better way to do this than by capturing these moments with a camera.

We sat down with professional, wildlife photographer, Marlon Dutoit, who gave us some very useful tips for capturing the very best photos with your camera on safari.

Marlon has travelled to many regions in Southern Africa, including Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, and has impressive experience of capturing the most beautiful wildlife photos you can think of.

Top Wildlife Photography Tips From a Professional

1. One key tip for capturing an interesting angle when confined to a vehicle?

Elephants seen on Safari at the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve Botswana

Try and have your camera at the lowest point on the vehicle. Many cameras today come equipped with a flip/tilt screen. Use this screen to compose, so flip it out, and keep visual of your subject whist dropping your camera lower down on to the side of the vehicle. Lower angles give you a far better & more pleasing image.

2. Your advice to avoid ‘missing out on the experience’ while trying to get the best shot through your lens?

The better you understand your equipment, the less time you’ll waste trying to figure the correct settings out. It’s time spent looking at the menu or buttons on your camera, that you lose out on the sighting itself.

3. How do you take photos in black & white? 

I shoot in RAW mode, so my photo’s are never in black and white. I have to do this in post-processing. If you shoot in normal jpg’s then switch your camera to black and white mode. Or, learn to do some creative editing afterwards.

Your Botswana Safari: Our Ultimate Guide

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4. Do you decide in the moment when looking at a scene & setting up the photo or do you decide during your editing?

I see the photograph, I can see what will work for me. I can literally see on the spot if I want it in colour, or in monochrome. It’s something I’ve learnt over time. I then shoot in black and white mode in the field (even though it’ll go back to colour in Lightroom due to the nature of the RAW file). I then process my images afterwards in Lightroom to the desired effect.

5. Low light photography is always tricky. Your top tip for low light?

Botswana Zebra Wildlife

There’s no easy way around this. If your camera can’t deal well with noise at higher ISO’s, then you’ll not enjoy the experience. If you can keep up and your camera is well equipped, then by all means try and keep your ISO higher (3200 – 6400), and your shutter speed respectable (160 – 400). Simpler said than done. Try use a spotlight, it helps. If it becomes frustrating, put the camera down and enjoy the sighting. It’s often when lions and leopards are on their best behavior.

6. Do the same apply for back lit shots?

Back-lit shots are delicate and needs careful consideration. The important part is not to overexpose the rim-lit part of the animal, the sunlit edges. These need to be golden in colour. The trick is to underexpose and increase your shutter speed slightly. This will darken the photo and preserve the colour and highlights in the rim lit part of the animal.

7. Wildlife in action: any pre-settings suggestion to have readily available?

Lion Family Zambia Liuwa Plains

Very simple. Fast shutter speeds, often achieved by raising your ISO settings.

8. Do you recommend a teleconverter using a 100-400mm lens?

Look, you certainly can. It’s not the ideal lens to pair with a teleconverter. I personally try and reserve the teleconverters for fixed focal telephoto lenses such as a 400 f2.8 or 600 f4. The optical quality of those lenses allow for very little loss in quality when a teleconverter is attached. The 100-400 on its own is fantastic. If you do pair a teleconverter, try stick to the 1.4x. It’s best suited for this kind of lens, and try photograph when the light is at its best.

9. Have you noticed the change from old school wildlife photography to new age Wildlife photography? And how do you balance them?

Certainly. Technology brings about many changes and we are currently progressing from DSLR to mirrorless. Cameras are becoming better at dealing with different conditions, shooting better quality images, shooting faster, capturing more data, built stronger yet lighter and more. Same goes for lenses. It’s truly exciting and opens up doors for many more to get better images.

10. Your favourite animal to photograph? Why?

Somalisa Expeditions Zimbabwe

There’s a few. I love spending time with large elephant bulls. They are incredible and especially when they have large tusks. I love big male lions, something about photographing one active and on the move. I also love female leopards, those big eyes and long whiskers just can’t make a bad picture.

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