the zoo is a great place to get some nice animal shots, although the challenge is to capture the beauty of the animals without getting too much of the enclosure they are in. My goal when photographing at a zoo is to compose the shots in such a way that the photos could have been taken of animals in the wild.
These tips I have compiled are some of the techniques I use to capture the animals in the zoo and hopefully will help you next time you have a visit to the zoo too!
Most of the animals you see at the zoo are viewed through a sheet of glass, this can be problematic when you’re trying to get a good angle and the reflection of the glass shows up in your shot. There are a few ways to deal with the reflections though, the weather can play a role in how much of a problem it is. So if you go on an overcast day there is less chance of the glass giving you any annoyances.
One trick is to place the front of your lens right up against the glass and I mean actually touch the glass, this should give a seal between the glass of your lens and the glass of the enclosure and eliminate any light causing reflections. There are downside to this method as you are restricted to the angle of the shot, but I have found you can tilt slightly off the glass and still get good results depending on the lighting conditions.
Another method the deal with unwanted reflection is to use a circular polarizing filter, this is a piece of glass that attached to the front of your lens. You simply rotate the filter around and it will reduce or remove the glare from the glass and allow your to see through the glass easier.
This tip is a bit of personal preference but to me it works well, and that is to fill the frame with the animal. I find that because we mostly see animals and wildlife at a distance that when we are presented with a close up view of one it offers a certain degree of intimacy to the animal and allows us to connect with it by looking into their eyes, it gives it a more human type scale in a photo which I find gives a lasting impact to the photo.
When you’re trying to frame a shot try to avoid getting any fences or parts of the perimeter enclosure in the frame, this will give a more natural looking shot and avoids any distractions of the natural beauty of the animal amongst the foliage.
Fences are another obstacle to deal with because you will likely be trying to photograph and animal but there is a fence in the way. So there are two methods to help reduce the appearance of the fence, firstly is to use a shallow depth of field and the fence in the foreground will blur out of existence and should give you a clean shot. The other option is to use a telephoto lens, and the same effect will occur in that the foreground fence should blur and allow a clean shot through it.
One aspect of capturing some iconic shots of the animals is to have their eyes look directly into the camera, this gives a much more impact to the shot and makes it more memorable. This takes some patience as you sometimes just have to wait until the animal happens to look at you amongst the crowd of onlookers. Or you can try get the animals attention by making some strange movements to get its attention.
You will have happened upon this being at the zoo before, and that is when you turn up and all the animals seem to be having a nap and there’s not much activity going on. Now you can get some nice shots of animals sleeping but it’s always nice to capture them in action or at least awake. It depends on the animal as to their sleeping habits, but often the zoo will post their feeding times so these are the times when they’re likely to be awake and show a bit of action. So try to find out the times they are fed and turn up around then, they will likely be awake and ready to eat and you ay even get a few shots of them having their dinner.
Now if you want to capture some of the animals in action, such as some monkeys swinging amongst the trees and playing it is good to have a fast shutter speed set up as to give yourself a better chance of capturing sharp images of the action. So this will require you to have a fast lens or play around with your settings, balancing aperture and iso in order to find a good compromise. An easy way to o this is to set your camera onto shutter priority mode and then experiment with the settings to see what gets the best results.