There’s a wildlife photographer inside of each of us – all it takes is a smartphone and good technique to bring out the talent. And at Thanda Safari, guests staying at least two nights are now able to reserve a complimentary 30-minute Smartphone Photography Lesson (subject to availability). Christian Sperka, the Resident Wildlife Photographer and Field Guide at Thanda Safari in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, has 5 tips for capturing striking imagery while traveling light on safari. As he’s seen, 90% of people in a safari vehicle have a camera, and for 70% that camera is a smart phone:

  1. Stay on a Private Game Reserve. Destinations such as Thanda Safari are great for smartphone photography, as travelers can usually get much closer to wildlife than at a national park. Professional and experienced guides know exactly how close they can get to animals – safely – for you to snap a good picture. Get as close to eye-level with your picture subject, and you will create some great shots.
  2. Smartphones are excellent for macro-shots. Everyone wants to bag an image of a lion, but some of the best shots will come from something smaller scale. Anything from plants to small creatures can be captured very well with a smartphone. Just be sure to check with your guide to be sure it’s safe to get close.
  3. Clip-on tele-focus lenses are available for very little cost. Speaking of lions and the like, having a tele-focus lens for your smartphone will make it possible to get good shots of faraway targets. Binoculars can also serve the same purpose – just be sure there is a small distance between the camera lens and the binoculars’ ocular, and focus first with the binoculars before using your smartphone camera.
  4. Smartphones are great in difficult light situations. Sunsets, sunrises and interesting cloud formations over beautiful scenery are often easier to capture with a smartphone than with a regular camera. Combined with a good ‘enhancement app’ – such as the excellent Camera+ for iPhones – can yield amazing pictures.
  5. Smartphones are very good for wide-angle pictures. Focus on beautiful scenery with wildlife and you will create great memories. Zooming in on pictures (a.k.a, ‘pinching’) should be avoided as most smartphones only provide digital zoom (equivalent to picture cropping). Better to take the picture ‘un-zoomed’ and crop it later. Some very advanced smartphones – including iPhone 7+, 8+ and X – have a second tele-focus lens, which provides optical zoom capability.

Sperka has traveled the world photographing animals in wild game reserves in South Africa, Namibia, Costa Rica and Yellowstone National Park, as well as in zoos across Europe and the United States. His work has been featured in wildlife magazines, zoo publications and books, including Thanda Cats (2014), his tribute to the felines that make the wilds around Thanda Safari their home.

For more information contact Brooke Berlin,, 720-226-4545.