Today, we’ll take a look at eight helpful zoo photography ideas. When it comes to zoo photography, the first question we need to answer is probably, “why would I want to photograph in the zoo?” Zoo photography is a contentious topic among photographers. Some people think it’s a terrific way to picture animals they wouldn’t otherwise be able to view up close, while others think it’s “cheating.” Zoo images are prohibited in many wildlife photography competitions, and passing off an image of an animal taken in confinement as an image taken in the wild is cheating. Zoos, on the other hand, are a terrific place to photograph animals you wouldn’t normally have access to for personal work.
I also believe that many photographers are put off by the prospect of photographing zoos because they’ve seen it done horribly too many times. Photographing animals in zoos is a different difficulty than photographing them in the wild. The zoo animals are eager subjects, and creating the photograph entails dealing with the environment and isolating the animals from their less-than-natural settings.
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|Lens||60.0mm ƒ/13.0 ISO 6400|
|Resolution||4141px x 3456px|
|Camera||Canon EOS REBEL T5|
Choosing the Best Zoo:
My three animal-loving children insist on visiting the zoo whenever we visit a new city. After visiting dozens of zoos over the years, it is clear that not all zoos are created equal when it comes to photography. Animals vary from zoo to zoo, but more importantly, the ecosystems in which the animals reside differ substantially.
The easiest zoo displays to type for natural-looking animal images are safari-style zoo exhibits. The disadvantage is that you are frequently escorted by a large group through the display. As a result, you have no control over the shooting position or the amount of time you spend looking at the animals.
Open exhibit varieties, where the enclosure is encircled by lower walls and there are no bars or nets to contend with, are becoming increasingly popular in zoos. The disadvantage of this exhibit design is that it frequently (but not always) relies on elevation to keep the animals contained. The animal enclosure is lower than the viewing area, thus the viewing area’s walls are waist height but the animal enclosure is lower. This gives you an unrestricted but only top-down view of the animals.
Glass-enclosed zoo exhibits may provide close-up and relatively uninterrupted animal views, but reflections and glare create their own issues. In a moment, we’ll look at ways to address those issues. Exhibits surrounded by bars may appear to be a challenge, but if the bars are spread widely enough apart, you should be able to fire across them without difficulty.
Exhibits surrounded by fencing, mesh, or tiny bars are my least favourite to photograph. While photographing a fully enclosed display like this involves some significant problems, it does not mean that capturing a decent image is impossible. Later in the tutorial, we’ll look at how to deal with this enclosure type.
The type of enclosure affects a lot, but so does the type of show the animals are in. Many zoos design exhibits that are nothing like cages, instead providing a beautiful, natural environment for the animals to dwell in. The nicer and more natural the animal’s habitat is, the more probable you will be able to capture a natural-looking shot of it.
Another item to consider is the types of behind-the-scenes tours and experiences that your zoo provides. Often available for an additional fee, you may find that the experience is well worth the money if you get a close contact with an animal you wish to capture. Also, while most zoos welcome and encourage photography, there are frequently laws prohibiting (or requiring special permission for) photos used for commercial purposes.
Use a wide aperture and a long focal length:
To capture good zoo photographs, you don’t need fancy (i.e. pricey) equipment. In general, the animals do not move very quickly and are kept in an enclosure that is meant to allow for optimal viewing. As a result, you won’t require the same focus lengths as if you were photographing on the African savannah. Long focal lengths and large apertures, on the other hand, offer a considerable advantage in zoo photography. They enable us to take pictures with a shallow depth of field.
Shallow depth of field helps you to blur the background, maybe concealing an unrealistic animal enclosure. Shallow depth of field is also beneficial since it allows you to shoot an animal through the fence or enclosure that surrounds it. Use your longest lens and widest aperture to focus on an animal that is enclosed by fencing, netting, or bars. The fencing will become “invisible” in your shot if it is far enough out of the camera’s focal zone.
The depth of field is influenced by the focal length and aperture of your lens. The narrower the depth of field, the longer the focal length and the broader the aperture. (To obtain an understanding of how focal length, aperture, and backdrop distance effect depth of field, use an online depth of field calculator.) The shallower the depth of field, the better your chances of keeping the enclosure out of focus while the animal is in focus.
It’s critical that the animal is far enough back in the enclosure so the fence does not fall outside of your attention area when you’re focused on it. The less distance between the animal and the fence required for the fence to be out of focus, the shallower the depth of field. This won’t work if the animal is leaning against the cage’s front, but I’m always astonished at how often I can photograph an animal through the cage without it being a problem.
As a side note, the cage in front of the camera will often confuse the camera’s autofocus system, so you may need to manually focus your lens on the animal.
|Lens||250.0mm ƒ/5.6 ISO 800|
|Resolution||3456px x 5184px|
|Camera||Canon EOS 700D|
Keep an eye on your surroundings and keep your shooting angle in check:
Controlling your shooting perspective is the simplest (and most obvious) approach to create beautiful, natural-looking zoo photographs. Although a full 360-degree view of an animal enclosure is uncommon, most exhibits provide a number of viewing locations, and shifting to the side or slightly changing postures might mean the difference between a fine image and a photograph that screams “caged animal.” Moving your shooting position up or down might also make a significant difference. Rather than a fence, you can often picture the animal with grass or the sky as the background. Another reason why a zoom lens can be advantageous is that cropping in tight on the animal is sometimes the only way to avoid the image looking like it was taken at a zoo.
|Lens||200.0mm ƒ/4.0 1/320s ISO 1600|
|Resolution||4928px x 3264px|
Use a Polarizing Filter:
Many zoo displays are covered in glass, allowing you to get a close look at the animal in its natural habitat. The disadvantage of exhibitions with glass fronts is that shooting through glass may be more difficult than it appears. Your camera may have problems autofocusing if the glass is particularly thick or dusty, and you will have to manually focus on the animal. The long focal length and large aperture we described before can also aid in blurring dirty glass. Glass, by far, is the greatest challenge since it introduces the possibility of glare and reflections.
A polarising filter can be used to reduce undesired reflections. Wear basic, dark clothing if you’re going to be photography through glass. A black t-shirt will absorb light instead of bouncing it back onto the glass in front of you, reducing reflections and glare dramatically. You can’t control what other people are wearing, but if you wait for the youngster in the bright red t-shirt to walk by, your darker clothes won’t add any fresh glare or reflections to your photos. These tips for photographing through glass are also applicable to aquariums.
(Translucent Jellyfish Inside Huge Aquarium)
|Lens||24.0mm ƒ/3.2 0.01s ISO 2000|
|Resolution||5051px x 3648px|
|Camera||Canon EOS 6D|
Carefully consider the time of day (as well as the weather):
Photographing sooner and later in the day, like with most outdoor photography, can result in more pleasant light. Of course, unlike most landscape photography, you are constrained by the hours of operation. If you’re stuck photographing in direct sunlight, look for shady spots. The overhead light will be less of an issue in exhibits with strong tree cover. One thing to keep in mind is that bright sunshine reflecting off of bars and fencing might make photographing them difficult.
Overcast days are ideal for visiting the zoo. You won’t be dealing with intense, high-contrast light when there’s a lot of cloud cover, and crowds are usually lighter as well. Cloudy, overcast days offer the advantage of bringing colder temperatures, and animals are most active when the weather cools down.
|Lens||127.0mm ƒ/5.6 ISO 1600|
|Resolution||6000px x 4000px|
|Camera||Canon EOS M3|
Look for Gesture:
Getting a good portrait of an animal is enough of a task when you first start photographing zoo animals. Finding animals in good light, with an acceptable angle to shoot them from that eliminates any evidence that they are in a cage, and finding a way to picture them via bars, fencing, glass, or other impediments takes a lot of time and effort! However, after you have the animal “portrait” shots down, it’s time to focus on getting images with good gesture. Gesture comprises anything that makes an image more than merely a close-up photo of an animal’s face, including the appropriate head tilt, the posture of the torso, or the wings. Free flying bird exhibits are a great place to start when it comes to capturing gesture. Patience is the key to successful gestures. Wait for the animal to position itself in a way that allows for a decent shot.
When the weather gets a little cooler, animals become more active. You’ll probably only get photographs of animals napping in the sun if you go out in the middle of the day on a sunny, 90-degree sunny day. On an overcast day with temperatures in the 70s, though, the creatures will be much more active. Winter days that are warmer are also ideal for photographing busy animals. Everyone will be out enjoying the (relative) warmth on the rare 50-degree day in the middle of a 30-degree winter. Active animals are also more likely to engage in intriguing behaviour and gestures that you can photograph.
Being flexible with which animals you aim to photograph is the easiest way to come home with good animal images. You’ll probably walk past a monkey playing sweetly, which would be a wonderful image if it wasn’t pressed up against the cage bars. Because of the intense light and great dynamic range, the lion will be resting half in sunlight and half in shade, destroying an otherwise wonderful photo. If it weren’t for the bright red fence in the background, the elephant would be perfect. The penguins are also busy, as they play in front of a vividly painted mural and fake pebbles.
Eventually, though, you’ll come across the creatures where everything comes together to create a stunning image. You’ll be disappointed if you came expecting to catch the ideal image of the elephant (or the monkey, or the lion, or the penguins) that day. There are several enclosures in most zoos that would never make for a good zoo photograph. If there’s an animal you really want to picture, you might want to try a different zoo. There will be enclosures in every zoo that are more difficult to photograph than others.
If that’s the case, and the animal is one you really want to photograph, you might opt to be patient and wait until all of the elements come together to create a fantastic image.
In most circumstances, though, staying flexible is the best strategy to zoo photography. Make it your mission to bring home a few good animal images rather than deciding which animals to photograph. With practise, you will be able to quickly pass by the animals that will not make good shots that day, instead focusing your attention on the cages where all of the components align to create a good image.
Think Beyond the Animals:
So far in this post, I’ve assumed that the purpose of zoo photography is to capture good-looking, natural-looking animals. However, this isn’t the only option for photographing a zoo. Turning your camera on the watchers may provide for interesting and distinctive photographs. Zoos are full of interesting people. Instead of photographing animals in a way that makes them appear “wild,” you might wish to document the storey of their confinement. Many zoos feature fascinating flora and foliage, as well as interesting objects and exhibits to photograph.
While photographing at a zoo, taking detail shots, textures, or abstract photographs (of the animals or otherwise) would be an intriguing self-assignment.
I pushed myself for a year to photograph in zoos with only the Fuji x100 series camera and its built-in 23mm lens. This is the polar opposite of how I generally approach zoo photography, but it drove me to search beyond the photographs I would normally make, the ones that required a telephoto lens, to uncover completely new and distinct images.
|Lens||135.0mm ƒ/8.0 0.0025s ISO 100|
|Resolution||5184px x 3456px|
|Camera||Canon EOS 700D|
Whatever your subject, style, or equipment preferences, I advise you to visit your local zoo this summer and see if you can capture some stunning and unique images. What are your thoughts? Is the zoo a place you love photographing, or one you avoid because it’s too cliché? Please leave your opinions in the comments section!
Thankyou , Stay Home Stay Safe!..