Tips for taking pictures of Zoo animals by Jeffrey Hall Photography
Points of Interest – Before you start photographing an animal ask yourself ‘what is it about this animal that interests me? Does it have great color, is it doing something funny, etc?
Get in Close – as with many styles of photography, if you’re able to get close to your subject you create a feeling of intimacy with it and are able to capture details that you would not otherwise have been able to see.
Get down Low – photographing an animal down at their level is another way of creating a sense of closeness and intimacy with your subject. This might mean you need to get down on your knees (and get a little dirty or look a little silly).
Shooting through Cages – there’s nothing worse than trying to shoot through the wire or bars of a cage. On occasions you’ll be able to find a wider opening (look for the bigger gaps around gates) but when you have to shoot through cages get up as close as you can to them, use a longer focal length, choose a wider aperture and wait for the animal to move back from the cage. In many instances when you do this you’ll not even notice the distraction of the cage at all.
Treat Animals as Moving Subjects – to overcome the problem of your subjects always being on the move consider shooting with a fast shutter speed. You might like to switch to shutter priority mode at a fast shutter speed or let your camera do the work by shooting in ‘Sports’ mode. You can also help with this by shooting in continuous shooting mode so that when your subject is on the move you capture a burst of shots quickly one after the other.
Patience – occasionally you’ll stumble upon an animal in the perfect pose for a shot when you first see it – but in many cases you’ll need to wait for it. Once you’ve picked the animals you want to capture give yourself extended periods of time to camp out at their enclosures. This way you’ll hopefully see them in a variety of positions and with different expressions. This is what often takes your zoo shots to the next level.
Think About Context – the beauty of zoo photography is that you get relatively close to animals. The challenge is that the environment is not a natural one and that on many occasions there will be distracting elements in the background or foreground. Where possible try to shoot from angles where ‘natural’ looking elements are included – but where there are distractions you might like to try using wide apertures (small numbers) which narrow depth of field and throw foreground and backgrounds out of focus.
Don’t forget to visit the Jaindl Penguin Pavilion at Lehigh Valley Zoo to photograph our African penguin feedings: November 1 to March 31 at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM (weather permitting) and April 1 to October 31 at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.