How to photograph wildlife at the zoo: It’s not just about taking photos of animals


Photos By EDDIE CHUA

Capturing the expressions and interactions of these deer will give insight into the animal’s character or lifestyle.

Photographing animals in the wild is a thrill, photographing them at the zoo is a skill.

The zoo, like the wild, offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards.

It’s not just about taking pictures of animals; it’s about capturing moments that reflect the essence and beauty of wildlife.

A trip to the zoo can also be a learning experience, allowing for experimentation with various techniques and settings to create stunning images to catch the diversity and wonders of the animal kingdom.

As zoos are controlled environments, photographers can get closer to wildlife than in the wild.

However, capturing these animals requires more than just a camera.

Take snapshots that tell a story about the animal or its environment, capturing expressions to give insight of its character or lifestyle. Take snapshots that tell a story about the animal or its environment, capturing expressions to give insight of its character or lifestyle.

For example, timing is crucial. Early morning, when the light is soft and animals are often more active, is one of the best times for this activity.

Additionally, zoos are less crowded in the morning, providing a less chaotic environment with more space to focus.

A DSLR or mirrorless camera is ideal for this type of photography. While pocket cameras or smartphones can still do the job, the quality and sharpness of these images are generally less impressive.

A good lens for zoo photography is a 200mm or greater telephoto, which allows capturing animals from a distance, while a wide-angle lens is suitable for habitat shots.

Focus on the eyes to draw viewers into the photo and create a connection with the animal.Focus on the eyes to draw viewers into the photo and create a connection with the animal.

Composition is important in zoo photography, especially for creating a narrative with the images.

Look for unique angles and perspectives, and always focus on the eyes.

Sharp eyes draw the viewer into the photo and create a connection with the animal.

Lighting can also make or break the photographs.

The soft light of early morning or late afternoon gives a warm, natural look, while overcast days provide diffused lighting, reducing harsh shadows and highlights.

In the harsh midday light, seek shaded areas or use natural cover to soften the light.

Soft light in the early morning or late afternoon gives a warm, natural look to the animals.Soft light in the early morning or late afternoon gives a warm, natural look to the animals.

Anticipate and capture natural animal behaviours for dynamic shots. This requires patience, observation, and preparation to wait for the perfect moment, whether it’s a yawn, a stretch, or an interaction between animals.

Zoos also present other challenges like fences and glass. To minimise these distractions, get as close to the glass as possible to reduce reflections.

Use a wide aperture to blur out bars or fences, look for openings, or use the environment to frame the shots creatively.

Use a fast shutter speed to freeze motion, especially for active animals.

A rule of thumb is 1/500 sec or faster, up to 1/2000 sec for quick mammals and birds.

A wide aperture (low f-number) helps keep the focus on the animal while blurring the background, which hides the tell-tale signs of captivity.

Use a wide aperture (low f-number) to blur the background, hiding the tell-tale signs of captivity.Use a wide aperture (low f-number) to blur the background, hiding the tell-tale signs of captivity.

Higher ISOs are useful in darker environments, but be mindful of noise.

Using zoom lenses allows maintaining a safe distance from the animals, and using flash can startle and stress the subjects.

The photos should tell a story about the animal or its environment, capturing expressions, interactions, and behaviours that give insight into their character or lifestyle.

Zoo photography can be rewarding for both amateur and professional photographers alike.

It’s not just about taking pictures; it’s about the connection, conservation, and storytelling through the lens.

Happy shooting!

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StarExtra , Outdoors , Photography

   

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