Do giraffes work well as subjects for various photographic techniques and styles?
Giraffes are excellent subjects for getting creative with photography. For example, if they are framed against the sky (without distractions), they are beautiful when high-keyed in black and white due to their spots. You can shoot this in landscape (horizontal) or portrait orientation photo, which generally works best when leaving a negative space around the giraffe. You can get an incredible high-key effect when you overexpose 1 to 2 stops with a giraffe in the shade.
As mentioned earlier, giraffes are classic animals to photograph as silhouettes in the sunset. They also tend to kick up dust as they walk, which makes the backlighting even more dramatic. In addition, they often walk in a line, and this separation and repetition work very well from a compositional point of view.
When giraffe bulls challenge each other and fight (necking), this makes for great behavioural photography – they hit each other using their necks, and even though it is often only “play-fighting”, it can also get quite serious. Try getting a close-up of this interaction as their unique patterns fill the frame beautifully and create an incredible abstract photo.
Also, remember making large animals look small is an effective photo technique. See how far back you can go, and photograph them as small subjects with a cloudy or dramatic sky behind.
Do you have any tips for creating unique photographs?
Giraffes have a particular way of lowering themselves to get to the water and make for great photos when you catch them at a full frontal view. They form a triangle with their legs out (and in photography, we like triangles!). Once they are down, see if you can catch their reflection.
The moment to catch is when they lift their heads after drinking – there is almost always a great big swirl coming from their lips. Use a fast shutter speed (1/2000s) to catch the droplets! As mentioned before, necking make for great photos and interaction between an adult and a little one. You can also try creating a bokeh effect to create a soft and subtle photo with giraffe.
Is there anything to keep in mind when it comes to lighting?
Giraffes have light and dark patches, which can be tricky when it comes to exposure. When it comes to camera settings, I suggest using matrix/evaluative/ESP/multi-metering, as you will get inconsistent results when using spot metering.
Then make sure to look at the background – giraffes are light in general and will look overexposed/too bright against dark foliage. You would need to underexpose in this case. When the giraffe is against the sky, you will have the option to create a silhouette with camera settings of 0 exposure compensation or a high key (+1 or +2 exposure compensation). However, always keep looking at the highlights on the giraffe when you overexpose and make sure you don’t blow them out.
Best places to photograph giraffes?
It is important to mention that there are four types of giraffes, and they can be found in sub-Sarahan Africa. They are the northern giraffe, southern giraffe, Masai giraffe and reticulated giraffe. The northern, Masai and reticulated giraffes are found mainly in East Africa, Kenya’s Masai Mara, and Tanzania. The southern giraffes live in the savannahs and woodlands of northern South Africa, Angola, and northern and central Botswana, like the Okavango Delta and Kalahari, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions! Or join us on one of our photographic safaris in Botswana or Kenya to photograph these unique creatures.