How to photograph a zoo

May 07, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

How to photograph a zoo

Introduction

There are at least twenty pure zoos dotted around the UK so there is no excuse for not going to a zoo for a photoshoot. Like most fields of photography, planning and forethought can contribute greatly to the results that are achieved.

Planning

Look at the website for the zoo that you are planning to visit and make notes about opening and closing times.There will almost certainly be a number of talks and other events taking place during your visit so try to make some kind of itinery rather than just wandering around. Look out for talks that include feeding as most animals tend to be docile for most of the time but hunger and the prospect of food is a great motivator. Get to the talk a few minutes early to allow time to find a good viewpoint. Take some test shots thinking about the kind of images you are looking for. Choose the lens that will give you the best results. Other things to think about are colour balance, direction/quality of light and the background elements you want in the shot.

Quick tips

  • Photograph the sign or info board on the enclosure or cage, this will enable you to easily identify the species later.
  • Shoot perpendicular to glass to cut down reflections. Pressing the end of the lens flat against the glass will also stop reflections.
  • Talk to the keepers. They know the animals very well and will be happy to assist you
  • Have plenty of patience. This is a key factor.
  • Walk around your "route" more than once. Animals out of view or inactive may be come out to play
  • Wire mesh cages can really spoil things but it's better if you use a long lens. If the metal is still partially visible try to "frame" key features

Equipment Checklist

  • Camera with at least a telephoto zoom
  • A teleconverter
  • Tripod or monopod for low light situations
  • Off camera flash can be used if required to illuminate dark areas or provide fill in
  • Polarising filter to cut reflections from glass, water and leaves
  • Spare memory cards
  • Spare batteries

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