5 Tips on How to Photograph Lions in Africa

Arguably one of the most photogenic creatures on the planet, let alone during an African safari, the great African Lion is truly a sight to behold.  Thus, when you have the opportunity to photograph one (or several!) here are a few tips for making sure you’re getting the best shot possible.


1) Focus on the eye.

You will likely get the opportunity to “fill the frame” with a beautiful lion.  That is, you will be able to get close enough so that the entire photo is filled with fur, teeth, and eyes.  As you can see from the above, it’s incredible evocative.  But when you’re this close, what do you focus on?  No matter how much depth of field you have, you’ll still need to pick a specific point that is going to be the most in focus and the sharpest.

Focusing on the eye will give the most life to the animal, and in a somewhat cheesy way you can peer into the very soul or personality of the animal.  If the eye is not in perfect focus, it’s probably the first thing the viewer will notice.


2) Be sure to zoom out and get some “wide” shots.

Sure it’s tempting when you’re so so close to get mostly zoomed in shots that “fill the frame”, but that often doesn’t tell the story.  And then of course with more of a landscape shot, be sure to properly compose your photo, using evokative lines, or rule of thirds composition rules.


3) Include the human element in your photo.

While it can be frustrating when another vehicle gets in the shot for your perfect sun set lighting photo of lions strutting your way, adding in a vehicle, or another photographer can be a wonderful way to put the viewer in the shot.  It makes him or her feel like they were there with you – all accomplished by showing something more human-like in your photo.


4) Pay attention to lighting.

Alongside composition, the lighting of your photo is extremely important.  The color, quality, and angle of light can turn a good photo into an extraordinary one.  By going with the best guides, or joining a photo tour, you are ensuring that your guide understands how to position a safari vehicle to get the best lighting on your photos.


5) Think about cropping ahead of time.

Once you take your 300th photo of a lion on safari (which might all be of the same lion!), you’ll want to add some variety to your shots.  One way to do this is to think about interesting crops like the one above.  Sure, this would still be an interesting photo as a typical 3:2 crop ration (the default for out-of-the-camera photos).  However, by cropping you’re directing the attention to the most interesting part of the photo, which is of this cub gnawing on his sibling’s tail.

Go forward and give it a shot,