A Day at the Zoo
A fun-filled family trip to the local zoo can offer you a wealth of photographic opportunities. Raj Lalwani lists a few tips to great zoo photography.
You may be interested in shooting animals, but if the idea of prowling in the wild seems a little too daunting, there is an interesting alternative—the local zoological garden. A zoo is a great place to shoot all kinds of animals without expensive equipment and with relative ease.
Select The Best Time to Shoot
Early morning and late evening are great times to shoot because the warm, golden light adds a lovely feel. In zoos, the best time to photograph animals is just before they are fed. This is when the animals are most active. Shoot for an hour before the feeding time and also while they are fed.
Carry The Right Gear
Ideally, zoo photography requires an SLR with a lens that has a long focal length. If you do not have an SLR, a compact with a large zoom can also be used.
The great challenge of zoo photography is shooting through iron bars of the cage. Get as close as possible to the bars. Focus manually and use a wide aperture like f/2.8, to make the bars out of focus. If you are using a compact that does not allow you to control the aperture, use the portrait mode.
Focus on the Eye
It is paramount to focus on the animal’s eye. This establishes a connect with the viewer and makes it seem as if the animal is staring back at you.
Explore Different Perspectives
Walk and explore various vantage points to understand the scope of shooting opportunities. Zoo photography is not just about shooting animals. People make great subjects too. Shoot the candid expressions of people watching the animals. Experiment with panoramas near the large enclosures.
Anticipate the Photograph
Animals do the funniest things. Observe and anticipate photographs. For example, keep your camera ready near the monkeys’ enclosure, so that you don’t miss your shot.
Get an Expert’s Opinion
An expert’s opinion can help you focus on what kind of pictures you can shoot at the zoo. Talk to experts and the zookeepers about animal patterns and the way in which animals react to various things around them. A better understanding of your subject will always lead to better photographs.
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Better Photography.