How and Where to Photograph Birds in Southern Africa

When I started reading this book, I felt that it will not be of any value for ‘average’ photographers like me. Isak makes it clear that if you want to be a bird photographer, you need the best equipment: a good DSLR camera body with expensive lenses plus all the accessories that go with it. Some of the equipment I have are not in the recommended category. But the easy reading and good structure of the book made me read further. Along the way, I realised how much I can learn from the book, irrespective of the equipment that I use.

Isak justifies his recommendations with understandable and good explanations. There are also valuable tips how to obtain better equipment over time without breaking the bank.
The simplified descriptions with excellent illustrations of all aspects of photography, are among the best that I have came across in books and/or the Internet. The cornerstones of exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) are a good example of this and will enrich the understanding and application for all levels of photographers.

Other topics that I found extremely valuable include how to use flash in daylight, use of golden hours and other daylight hours, rule of thirds, auto focus modes.
Each chapter starts with an introduction to the specific topic. Then follows a list of key points that are about to be covered before the detail descriptions with excellent illustrations and examples of results with stunning photos. In between are practical tips how best to apply what was explained. The exact settings how to achieve the results are indicated for specific cameras, mostly Canon and Nikon, although a generic reference is included for other cameras.
The first half of the book is about the technical aspects of photography as described above. The second half focus on the other aspect of photography, the artistic side. Composition, bird portraits, birds in action, bird behaviour and more. You will learn a lot from this part of the book even if you do not have all the equipment that professional photographers have.

The book ends with details descriptions of several hotspots for bird photography. Isak’s view is that the best places for birding are not necessary the best places for bird photography. You will have to read the book to understand why.
Isak’s structured approach and excellent understanding and explanations of the technical aspects of photography are probably due to his engineering background. As a professional wildlife photographer, he applied this to become the winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for the Bird Behaviour category – the first South African ever to win this award.
I strongly recommend this book to all wildlife and bird photographers, from aspiring amateurs to professionals. I endorse the wording on the back: “This is the most comprehensive guide on bird photography available. Whether you are new to bird photography or are already a passionate hobbyist, this guide will teach you all the tools, techniques and creative ideas required to take your bird photography to the next level.

Insider’s Guide - How and Where to Photograph Birds in Southern Africa – by Isak Pretorius
Release date: October 2014

Fourth impression: 2016
Distributed by Jacana Media (
Isak Pretorius website: