Zoo photography is something we all can do, here are some tips to getting better photos on your trip!
1. Early bird gets the worm. Light gets harsher as the day goes on. Get to the zoo early or stay late at the zoo. If you have specific animals in mind that you are looking to photograph make a beeline there in the early light. Less people are likely to be in your way as well!
2. Dealing with fences and glass- Glass can be tough to shoot through. It’s often dirty and thick, causing glare. Take a small cloth with you to clean up finger prints in your intended photo. This can help you clear some smudges out of your photo before post processing. When it comes to fences, GET CLOSER. You can often remove a fence entirely if you get very close to it and then focus on a distant animal.
3. Come back often and be patient- Don’t assume you will walk up to an animal’s enclosure and get THE photo on your first attempt. Visit the animals at different times of day. Feeding times can be fun but often attract more people who could block your shots. Choose your spot wisely!
4. Pick a good zoo. How is the zoo setup? Is it photographer friendly? Does the zoo even have the animals you are after in your photos? Some zoos are open and have large enclosures. My local zoo has a large wolf enclosure and I know that I will likely need da telephoto lens to see the wolves up close.
5. ISO is your friend at the zoo. Don’t be afraid to shoot at a higher ISO than you normally would. Animals move, I know… crazy. So having a slightly faster shutter and higher ISO can help you not miss a shot you have been waiting on.
6. Be aware of copyright!! Zoos often will not allow you to sell images that you shot there. Know the zoos policy on this if you intend to sell the images you take there.
7. Backgrounds are important. Your background is often as important as the animal you are trying to get a shot of. What’s behind the animal? What is in front of it? What parts do you want to include in your photo?
8. Don’t forget about people. You came to the zoo to see animals but people can add great elements to your compositions.
9. Turn off your camera’s flash. Having it on is likely going to end up causing bad reflections in your shots. Unless you are good with flash photography it is best to leave your flash off, but if you are able to use it correctly, you can add dramatic catch-lights into an animal’s eyes.
10. Just like people, focus on the eyes of the animals. The eyes are the windows into the soul, even on big hairy gorillas.