Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Making the Most of Zoo Photograhpy

With fall [almost] setting in, my mind has been full of planning fun things to do.  There are pumpkin patches and apple orchards, walks in the park and photography sessions in the leaves, baking pies and festivals and Starbucks apple ciders.  Fall is also my absolute favorite time to visit the zoo!  Sure, it's enjoyable to go in the summer, but after a while all of your pictures start looking, well, the same.  Because the animals look like this... ;)

So! In case you decide you want to take advantage of the cooler season to visit your local zoo, here are some of the photography tricks I've found to make the most of your opportunity to see amazing animals, in spite of the photogenically unfortunate safety measures in our way.

One) Bring a Zoom Lens!

This provides so many options, especially when shooting outside.  I always carry around a prime (probably 35 mm) and some form of zoom (usually a  200 or 300 telephoto.) Not only does it mean you can take pictures of the animals even if they are not close to you, but, as a bonus, can be used as a rough replacement for binoculars for your group.  I am rarely the only one looking through the camera, even if I'm the only one actually taking pictures.

Two) Manual Focus

If you are not used to using the manual focus switch on your camera, I highly recommend using it when going to the zoo.  The autofocus built in most cameras has a tendency to focus on wires, bars, cages, even glass, instead of whatever it is inside that you are trying to take a picture of.  When you are using manual, you have the option of choosing where you want the focus to be.  It might take a bit of practice, and so will sometimes be a bit more fuzzy than you like (as in my bird below), but it will still be better than a picture of a wire cage.

Three) Pay Attention - to all of the animals.

Sure, you may be there to see the lions and tigers or bears (or with kids who either only want to see a single animal or can't stay on one for even two minutes) but try to  pay attention to the other animals there.  You never know what you will see if you're looking outside of the "main attraction."  Like this beautiful black swan situated out of the way.

Four) Don't forget the People.

More than likely you're not going to the zoo by yourself.  Keep in mind that photos of people watching the animals can be just as intriguing as pictures of the animals themselves.

Five) Watch for Reflections

Glass can be a nightmare for photographers.  But if there was no glass, certain dangerous zoo animals would be on the loose, so it really is a necessity.  Still, watch out for reflections.  Try positioning yourself at an angle, waiting for most of the crowd to pass and move on their way, or investing in a polarizing filter.

I'd love to hear if anyone has any thoughts! Favorite animal? More photography insight?! :)


  1. Nice photos, Skyleler! I think either the swan or the other bird is my favourite. :) Those are good tips too - I can really see the need for a telephoto lens; I don't have one, and I often find it annoying. You're right, people can add a lot to a photo - I'd never stopped to think about that before, as I rarely take photos in public places. But I'll be keeping my eye out if I do. :)

    1. Thank you very much! I understand; there have been many times when I have forgotten to bring mine on trips, thinking I wouldn't need it, and it can be quite annoying. The photos on your blog are really good, you should bring your camera with you more often to take pictures. :) Thank you so much for the comment and kind words!

  2. That photo of the fish is so adorable! <3

    I have to admit a horrible fact about myself -- I don't... really like zoos that much? They smell and they're crowded and I DON'T KNOW, MAN. I'd rather go somewhere where I could cuddle little kittens. <-- that is my dream. xD

    But you have such a natural eye for taking picture and I'm so impressed! :D

    // katie grace
    a writer's faith

    1. Aww,thanks! ^_^

      Well, that is certainly a fantastic dream. xD I'm quite fond of places where I can touch and cuddle the animals myself!! <3

      Thank you so much! What an awesome compliment! :)