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A quick guide to wildlife photography for beginners

These 5 tips will help you capture the perfect shot on your mobile device.

Most wildlife photographers will tell you that the secret to being a great photographer requires a love for nature and a lot of patience. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to have high-tech equipment but if you’re still an amateur, do you really need it or will your smartphone do the trick? Don’t be mistaken, mastering the art of wildlife photography can be challenging even for the most experienced individuals but it’s certainly possible for you to get started using just your smartphone.

Last year, wildlife photography expert, Rogan Kerr, travelled to Kruger Gate Hotel and used this luxury accommodation as his base from which to explore the Kruger National Park – a wildlife photographer’s paradise. With an abundance of animal and plant life, the Kruger National Park boasts over 2 000 plant species with 336 tree species as well as 500 bird species, six of which are known as the Big 6 and are native to the area. And, of course, it is also home to the beloved Big 5. The Park not only has a variety of living species but also contains evidence of prehistoric life, too, dating back over 500 000 years. Beyond the impressive biodiversity, the Kruger National Park possesses 254 known cultural heritage sites, which includes 130 rock art sites.

The best part is that Rogan didn’t have to travel too far for this particular adventure. This is because the upmarket 4-star hotel is situated in a tranquil riverine in the Greater Kruger Conservancy, just 100 metres from Paul Kruger Gate, and on the banks of the iconic Sabie River. The property boasts a range of elegant accommodation, all with refined Africa-inspired décor. Additionally, wildlife lovers will be pleased to know that there are a number of safari options available to guests, ranging from intimate guided game drives for couples to more interactive group game drives as well as self-drive access. Perhaps even more exciting, is that the hotel has a dedicated on-site safari concierge who will assist you in booking your perfect safari experience.

In the case of Rogan, he opted for an intimate couple’s game drive, which was led by the hotel’s knowledgeable game ranger. During this drive, Rogan captured rare Kruger Park sightings. The results were awe-inspiring.

Whilst Rogan used his professional gear to capture his experience, he also created the below list of 5 smartphone photography tricks:

  • Mix up your perspective – Try mixing up the way your camera sees things. Getting a low angle makes for much more dynamic content than shooting straight ahead of you. The same goes for high angles. Try using reflections or shooting through foliage for added nuance to your image.
  • Under-expose – It’s a lot easier to brighten a dark picture than it is to try and darken a bright one. If you overexpose you will lose any details that burn out with the light. Underexposing allows you to shoot so the bright areas are appropriately captured, and then brighten up the dark areas in post-production.
  • Use the right camera – Smartphones these days come with several camera lenses. A wide, a standard, and a zoom. All of these work better for certain scenes. For example, shooting the architecture of a room is often better on a wide angle. Play around with the different cameras and check out the “Pro” or “Professional” settings in your camera. Many modern smartphones come with these.
  • Use your features – Smartphones offer different camera features. For example, the iPhone offers standard, portrait and panoramic camera features. Use the pano setting for wide, epic scenes or large spaces; use your portrait mode for food and people. You can also make use of additional features such as night mode for scenes shot in low-light. Play around with these and see what you can get out of it.
  • Edit your pictures – The latest smartphones’ in-camera editing facilities are pretty good. You can do a lot to make your image pop with more vibrancy, contrast, noise reduction, vignettes and much more. If you are posting to Instagram, play around with the app’s built-in editing features or investigate free editing tools such as Adobe’s Lightroom app.

Yes, a high-end professional camera with a long lens will always be the setup of choice for professional wildlife photographers. For everyday visitors who only have their phones on them to capture the memories, however, these tricks should help to make the most of what you’ve got.