How to Take Fabulous Smartphone Photos on Safari

By Sarah Gold August 3, 2023

It’s little wonder that many safari travellers arrive for their African safari loaded with camera equipment. Capturing fantastic photos is an understandably huge priority for most safari-goers, and powerful DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and their various accoutrements can produce stellar imagery—at least for those wanting to use them.

An increasing number of Micato travellers, however, have been deciding to document their safaris using only their smartphones —and there are plenty of good reasons.

    • Not only are phone cameras lightweight, portable, increasingly sophisticated, and less intimidating to both users and potential photo subjects; they’re also compatible with a host of tools that help simulate the image control and quality of higher-end cameras.
    • The results, according to some Micato guests, are doubly positive: Unencumbered freedom while on safari, perfectly great photos afterwards.
    zebras walk through a lake in amboseli national park, kenyaMicato Guest James Crane took advantage of the panorama feature on his iPhone to capture this group of zebra in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.

If you’re thinking about photographing your Micato safari with a smartphone, the following tips may help you decide. (Of course, you can also contact our advisors with specific questions about safari photography).

1. Consider Your Journey.
Depending on the style of luxury safari you’re planning, you may find a smartphone camera best suits your needs.

  • Extremely active excursions, for instance—strenuous hikes, long walks, horseback or mountain-bike rides—don’t easily lend themselves to juggling heavy camera bags or multiple lenses.
  • Your destination and travel season may factor in, as well, since keeping camera equipment dry, clean, and protected can be more difficult in rainy months or dust storms. That said, safaris that include a lot of game drives during low-light periods, or at night, may be limited by a phone camera’s less-robust image sensors.
  • Smartphones’ limited capacity to zoom in on photo subjects will also make gallery-worthy wildlife closeups harder to achieve (although post-production can go a long way—more on that below).

2. Consider (or Upgrade) Your Phone.
Phone manufacturers are constantly improving the photo and video capabilities of their devices—to the extent that some newer-model Android and iPhones now deliver images whose quality rivals that of entry-level DSLRs.

  • If you already have one of these highly capable smartphones, take the time to familiarize yourself with its various photo settings and tools, so you’re ready to use them when a perfectly photogenic moment arises on safari (there will be many of them!).
  • If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, learn which models have the technology to help you nab your dream safari photos.
  • Many smartphones now have multiple lenses which let you take wide-angle and telephoto shots, for instance; others have larger image sensors and higher dynamic range capabilities, which help you achieve more crisply defined photos.
  • And every phone camera will offer basic editing tools and shooting modes (like panorama or action/burst) that you may find more or less helpful.

Many of Micato’s excellent Safari Directors are also gifted photographers and are happy to trade photography tips along the way. Their keen eye for photography and intimate knowledge of the animals and landscapes also means they’ll help you find the best angle and lighting to set you up for some great shots.

3. Consider Extras.
If you’d like to expand the capabilities of an older model smartphone or boost your late model even further, think about purchasing

  • a small phone tripod
  • a glass optic clip-on lens
  • a selfie stick to give your phone camera extra stability and reach

You’ll also likely find that your camera-phone images get a big boost when enhanced in post-production with a photo-editing app, like Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom. These apps (available for both Android and iPhones) let you crop, zoom, and adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, colour saturation and other qualities of your photos right on your phone screen. The final product? Safari photos that are as vivid and beautiful as if they’d been taken with much more elaborate equipment.

To learn more about Africa’s spectacularly photographable landscapes and residents, speak with one of our Micato safari experts and start planning your luxury African safari today!

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