Thursday, March 31, 2016



With spring here, all around the world, except for those of you in Australia and South Africa, and those in the Southern hemisphere, we are all tired of winter, excited about spring, and we feel the urge to get out and do something fun.  Fun things with the family.  One of the many fun things we have always done with our family is take our kids to the Zoo.  The animals are getting more active too, and they seem to be enjoying spring as well.  I always bring my camera along to not only get pictures of the family, but, of course the animals there.  There are some very strange animals at zoos.  And it is great to get those pictures of them.  And some of the animals do some pretty crazy things.  So, with that, the only thing that has been frustrating to me is how do you take pictures of all these wonderful animals without it looking like you took them at the zoo?  Fences, cages, weird habitats, tons of people.  It just wasn't fun to get a great picture of the animals, and then want to hang up these pictures in your kids room, and then you got that ugly chain link fence with it.  BLAH!  So, I have put together a quick "photo tips" on how to take pictures at the zoo, from PictureCorrect, and then I will add a photo gallery at the end of some of the great photos found at the zoo!  So, we can all enjoy what is there, and we can try it too!

So, let's get started:

Where else can you go and spend a day photographing wild and exotic animals without leaving the city? The zoo, of course! You can take your time to get the perfect shots in a relatively safe environment. Keep in mind you are dealing with wild animals. And, if you choose to take the opportunity to get up close for that terrific shot of the llama, don’t be surprised if she spits at you.
tips for zoo photos
“Beautiful Lion” captured by J. Benedetto (Click Image to See More From J. Benedetto)

Go early in the morning, this is when the animals are the most active and there are fewer people to have to shoot around. If you haven’t done it ahead of time, when you arrive, check out the zoo activities. Feeding times and any exhibits you may especially want to photograph are good to have planned out. If your zoo has an aquatic exhibit with performances, schedule your day to be in that area to catch the show. You should be able to get some great action shots. But be careful where you stand. If the zoo has large animal displays, people in the front tend to get pretty soaked and we all know water and cameras don’t mix. You’re better off positioning yourself up and back and using your telephoto lens.

Have your camera bag ready to go with all the equipment you’ll need for an easy day at the zoo. Consider using your rolling backpack camera bag to make maneuvering through the zoo effortless. Besides your camera and telephoto lens, take along a tripod, if your zoo allows them. If not, ask if a string tripod would be allowed. They’re not as effective, but they will offer some stability. Have plenty of memory cards and batteries. If you have a lens hood, take it along. Since you won’t necessarily be able to have the sun where you want it and you will also be taking shots through glass, you’ll probably be able put one to good use.

Be polite. Don’t forget that the primary purpose of the zoo is for everyone, especially families, to enjoy a day together viewing and learning about the animals. Don’t spread out and restrict the view of other visitors for extended periods of time. If your zoo does allow tripods, be courteous in setting it up. Choose a location where you can get your shot without inconveniencing others. Don’t set up on the sidewalks. Follow the rules, and be considerate of the other visitors.

You can get phenomenal shots and still operate safely. Again, follow the rules. Never cross barriers to get a closer view. The animals don’t understand you’re just trying to take their picture. To some of them, you could be breakfast. Safety always needs to come first. With the right equipment and techniques, you don’t have to climb fences to get that awesome polar bear picture. You’ve packed the right equipment in your camera bag to photograph safely.

You can use a shallow depth of field to blur any unwanted background and produce a great wildlife photograph. Many of our nation’s zoos are housing their animals in more natural settings, without the use of bars. There are still, however, many zoos with animals in cages. To photograph through a cage try to find a wide opening, if there is one. To take a picture through the bars, use a longer focal length and a wider aperture and get as close as you can, safely. Be patient and take your shot when the animal moves towards the back of the cage.
zoo photography
Photo captured by ahmad reedzuan (click image to see more from ahmad reedzuan)
When photographing in glass enclosed exhibits, use your lens hood to reduce any glare. If you don’t have a lens hood and see glare in the glass, just move slightly until the glare disappears. If you’re in a dimly light, glass-enclosed exhibit and need your flash, use a diffuser and angle your camera to the glass to avoid glare from the flash.
If you follow these simple tips, you should end the day with a memory card loaded with fabulous wildlife images. Just remember; be prepared, follow the rules, stay safe, be polite, and have a great day at the zoo.
About the Author
Suzanne VanDeGrift  has developed this article for, manufacturer ofbackpacks.
Thanks to PictureCorrect and Suzanne VanDeGrift for this timely article on how to take pictures at the zoo.   I totally agree with everything that was written here.  We have found that the best time to take pictures at the zoo is first thing after it has just opened.  The feeding of the animals has just started, they are much more active, and the lighting is good, too.   Every zoo is different.  I know our zoo has some different animals than the zoo in California.  So, it doesn't hurt as you travel, to go  and visit the different zoos.  They are all very entertaining.  The incredible thing I am seeing, at least here in the United States, is that the zoos are trying to get away from the "caged" look and creating more of a habit similar to what the animals live in naturally.  So, taking pictures of these animals is becoming nicer and easier to do.  The "caged" effect is going away.  Our local zoo here where I live is under constant construction to help the animals have more of a natural habitat, and still keep the public safe.  
Now, I want to take the rest of this blog and show some pictures that I have found from various zoos.  I hope you will find them entertaining as well as inspiring as you go to the zoo this year.  Here we go:

* All photos courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park
So, hopefully, looking at these photos will give you an idea of how to be patient and wait for the perfect photo.  What I have found as I go to the zoo:  don't take pictures of the sleeping animals, wait until next time.  Get pictures of the animals that are awake and up and moving around.  Who wants a picture of a sleeping animal?  Right?  I know you are thinking of you may not get that chance again to take a picture of this rare animal, but, no one wants to see that picture either.  It looks like a zoo picture then.  The goal is to make it look like it's not a zoo picture, right?   So, have fun, enjoy the family, and enjoy the animals too.
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