Carlos Carvalho, 47, was taking closeups of the animal named Gerald when it suddenly swung its neck and knocked him flying through the air.
Mr Carvalho died of his injuries that night after being flown to a Johannesburg hospital, said filming agency CallaCrew.
He had been shooting scenes at the Glen Afric farm in Broederstroom, which is famous for featuring in the British TV series Wild at Heart.
Richard Brooker, whose family owns the lodge, said the bull giraffe would not be put down as he was not considered dangerous.
“When Carlos was standing in front of the giraffe, the animal spread its legs, bent its neck and swung its head at Carlos,” he said.
“Gerald will remain at the lodge. He did nothing wrong,” Mr Brooker told The Telegraph.
A spokesperson for Glen Afric also suggested that Carvalho had “gone off on his own” and ignored safety instructions not to approach the animals.
Drikus Van Der Merwe, a member of the film crew, was standing next to Mr Carvalho when the incident occurred on 2 May.
“The giraffe started chasing the boom swinger who joined our unit,” he told the Sun. “We didn’t feel threatened because he just seemed to be inquisitive.
“We started shooting closeups of its body and its feet. Then while Carlos was looking through the camera eyepiece Gerald swung his neck and hit him against his head.
“It came out of nowhere and Carlos didn’t even see it coming. He wasn’t aware of the danger.
“I knew he had a severe head trauma. But I never thought he would die.”
Mr Carvalho won a Cannes Lion award for a South African Childline public service announcement in 2003 and was the director of photography for The Forgotten Kingdom, the first feature film produced in Lesotho.
Tributes were paid on Facebook to the father-of-two from Johannesburg as a “wonderful human being”.
Chris Roland said: “Deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Carlos Carvalho, a very nice guy and talented DOP [director of photography] I had the honour of working with twice. A great loss to the industry. Farewell Carlos!”
Props master Thabiso Mohapi said: “RIP my brother! Meeting and greeting you that morning at breakfast shooting the first scenes of the morning didn’t know it was our last time together.”