Whether you’re an absolute beginner in photography or a seasoned pro, a wildlife photo holiday is an amazing and creatively inspiring experience. But all photo tours are not created equal, so there are some factors to consider when planning your dream wildlife photography holiday. Here are some tips on what to look for.
– By Juliana Connors
KEEP IT PHOTOGRAPHY FOCUSED
First and foremost, for the best wildlife photo tour, find a trip that’s fully focused on photography. This may sound obvious, but many safaris and tours offer the promise of a photography focus when their itinerary isn’t fully built around it. On a photography-focused tour, getting the best images is the main priority, and you will be sure to maximize the photographic opportunities available; you will visit the best photography spots at the best times of day, and stay as long as it takes to get the right shot. Also, traveling with a photography-focused tour will ensure that you and your fellow travelers are on the same page. It is a more enjoyable experience for all when everyone’s goals align.
Photo Credits: Alan Hewitt
MAKE SURE IT’S GUIDED BY A PRO
To get the most out of your wildlife photo tour, you will want to be accompanied by an expert photo guide. An experienced photographer can help you get the most out of your photo tour; he or she will help you hone your skills throughout the trips, which can include helping understand your camera, assisting you while photographing, and instructing you on the post-production process. Make sure your trip is guided by a professional photographer whose work and style you like, and who ideally has experience in teaching photography too – as helping other photographers sharpen their skills is a great skill in itself. It’s also ideal for your guide to know the area you’re visiting and understand your photography subject. For instance, it is important to understand the behavior and habits of the wildlife you are trying to photograph; predicting what an animal will do will help you prepare to photograph it in action. Having intimate knowledge of the wildlife will set you at an advantage to get the most out of your wildlife photo tour.
Photo Credits: Samuel Cox
GO FOR AN INTIMATE GROUP
Make sure there is a good ratio between participants and photography guides; ideally no more than 6 travelers for every professional photographer hosting the photo tour. This will allow for one-on-one tutoring, which is particularly important if not everyone is at the same level with their photography. Having enough individual tutoring will ensure that everyone will have similar learning opportunities.
Photo Credits: Tyrone Turner
FIND A SPECIALIZED DESTINATION
When planning your wildlife photo tour, choose a prime location fitting your photography goals. Make sure to do your research, as there is a huge variety in the quality of game viewing and photographic opportunities. For instance, if you’re going on an African photo safari, look into privately owned game reserves rather than national parks, as you’ll generally find that wildlife is much more relaxed around game drive vehicles, allowing you to get amazing angles. It’s also good to avoid places with mass tourism, where your view is likely to be blocked by other vehicles.
Photo Credits: Lucia Griggi
SUBSCRIBE TO ETHICAL PHOTO TOURISM
Consider a tour company that operates ethically and considers the safety and well-being of the wildlife you’re photographing. It comes down to being respectful of the animals’ instincts and habitat. For instance, using recorded animal calls to get a reaction from the animals: maybe it only stirs the animal from resting, but perhaps it takes an animal away from its young or alerts a predator of their presence. A knowledgeable guide will help to avoid innocent mistakes in ethical wildlife photography. You can capture excellent images without disturbing the animals or their habitat.
On a photo tour, it’s generally good to have a level of flexibility in the itinerary. Photography, especially wildlife photography, can be unpredictable; you may want to spend a little longer at a particular location working on the right shot. Not having a rigid itinerary will allow you to take your time and adapt to the circumstances. Additionally, some itineraries may call for early rises to photograph when the light is right or when the animals are more readily seen. Make sure you are satisfied with the itinerary offered on your wildlife photo tour.
DON’T FORGET COMFORT
Consider finding a tour with an itinerary that suits your photography expectations, and provides you with the holiday you’re craving too. Photographing wildlife on safari or in remote locations does not mean you need to sacrifice comfort, but be sure you understand and are prepared for the conditions of the tour. Your wildlife photo tour is meant to be a holiday after all. You should be able to enjoy yourself and your photography, working at your own pace.