February 25

Wildlife Photography Tips from an Award-Winning Photographer

February 25, 2021

Africa is teeming with extraordinary animals just waiting to be added to your photo reel – and, who better to give wildlife photography tips than a previous winner of our Africa’s Photographer of the Year competition? Grab a notebook and a pen, because Lakshitha Karunarathna, overall winner of Africa’s Photographer of the Year in 2018, is revealing his top five tips for capturing that perfect shot.

Ein Leopard auf einem Baum hält an seiner herunterfallenden Beute fest - Gewinnerfoto bei Africa's Photographer of the Year 2018
Photo Credit: Lakshitha Karunarathna

Understand that you can’t control your subject.

This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of wildlife photography, but Karunarathna is adamant that it’s the very thing that makes this type of photography so special. “We shouldn’t control the subjects we photograph,” he explains. “Our subjects roam free and wild and it’s the unpredictability behind it that keeps things interesting.”

Be very, very patient.

Remember how, when you were growing up, your parents would tell you that “patience is a virtue”? This proverb is especially true of wildlife photography: capturing the perfect image is often a waiting game. “As a wildlife photographer you need to develop a strong sense of patience and get used to the disappointments that come with it,” says Karunarathna. So, pack some trail mix and settle in for a lengthy labour of love – the results will be worth it.

leopard-with-kill-Lakshitha-Karunarathna
Photo Credit: Lakshitha Karunarathna

Do your homework.

It’s not enough to head outside, camera in hand. You’re not Snow White – wild animals aren’t simply going to flock to you. In your own way, you have to be a hunter. “Study the subject,” says Karunarathna. “Do your homework and understand the animal, its mannerisms and its lifestyle. Karunarathna adds that you can even take it further by learning about the weather patterns and your location of choice. “Be very prepared for everything before you decide to go out there,” he says.

Think outside the box.

Every image has an obvious angle. Karunarathna suggests approaching the image from a different point of view. “Take the leopard incident, for example,” he says. “I didn’t want to go for a picture like everyone else, so I looked at the situation from a different angle, changing position and capturing the moment from another perspective.” There you have it – don’t be afraid to take a unique approach and be creative. It’s an art, after all.

photographer-silhouette-sunset
Photo Credit: Amy HH via Unsplash

Come to Africa!

The number one piece of advice for anyone who wants to get into wildlife photography? Head to the mecca. Karunarathna has visited Africa several times in the past three years, but has only spent time in one place: Maasai Mara in Kenya. Why? There’s simply too much to see. “I planned to visit other parts of the continent – Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa to name a few. But, with such a big area and so much to see in such a short span of time, I’m still in the middle of multiple visits to Maasai Mara,” Karunarathna explains. “Africa has so much happening all of the time. No matter where you go, you’ll see animals roaming in their natural habitats and many more mesmerising sights unique to this great continent.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your camera and let’s go!

Are you a budding wildlife photographer itching to plan your trip to Africa? Start by taking a look at our list of 25 Most Beautiful Places in our Favourite African Destinations.

If you’ve taken a spectacular photograph in Africa, enter our Africa’s Photographer of the Year competition and stand a chance to win an African safari valued at $40 000.

Featured image: James Hendry

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About the author 

Lesley Marchant

Everything Lesley has done has been for the love of language – she studied journalism, spent a few years writing for magazines and followed her wanderlust to South Korea where she taught English. Don’t assume writing is her only talent – she’s also wildly skilled at pairing any reality show with the perfect glass of wine. When she’s not on the hunt for people to beat at her ever-growing collection of board games, she’s seeking beauty out in nature (a very easy pastime when you live in the world’s prettiest city).

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