Anyone Can Be a Zoo Photographer
When customers view my photos in the Shadows of the Zoo collection, I often hear “Did you take this photo in a studio?” or “Did you get a trainer to pose the animal?”. The answer is always absolutely not. All of my photos are shot from the same point of view as every other zoo visitor. I pay the same admission ticket and connect with the animals from behind the same glass as everyone else. The difference between my photos and everyone else’s is one ingredient… PERSISTENCE.
Getting the perfect shot at the zoo can be tough but is totally achievable. Whether you’re a zoo tripper fanatic or just a lover of animals that just wants a good experience during your next zoo visit, these are my top 5 zoo photography tips for visiting wildlife parks and getting great shots.
Research Your Target Zoo
Whether you’re about to pop in at your local zoo or you’re about to venture into a new park, a little investigative research can go a long way. I often Facebook and insta-stalk the zoos and aquariums I plan to pay a visit to. A good active social feed will tell you a lot about the highlights, upcoming events and even habits of key critters at your target zoo. If I know a zoo has just had a baby added to the ranks, I follow their social feed to learn when they are letting the newborns out on exhibit for prime picture taking. Not only does this keep me current with my favorite places, it also keeps my feed filled to the brim with adorable faces.
This is a big one- prime time for attendance at most zoos starts around noon and tinkers off just before closing. I like to get in right when the gates open- this means prime parking, smaller crowds and cooler temperatures during the summer. The bonus here is that most of the animals will be more active in the morning hours before the heat kicks in. Big cats especially like their afternoon naps and I personally prefer to capture my subjects when they’re wild and awake.
I know this one can be tough but the payoff is so worth it. While most visitors stop to look at each exhibit for a few seconds, photographers should expect to linger and find the right angle and the right moment. Remember, animals aren’t like people and they don’t smile on command. Waiting for the elusive moment when they tilt their head just right or give a big toothy yawn is key in capturing that winning shot that makes your whole trip worthwhile.
Allow Your Camera to Beep
This isn’t a requirement in order to get a good shot but I have found that it really helps grab your subject’s attention. Most cameras have the option to give a quiet beeping sound before you take the photo. I’ve found that animals within earshot often cock their head or look directly at the camera the first few times I signal the beep. It’s my way of telling them “Smile for the birdy!”
Go More Than Once; Learn a Traffic Pattern
Often times your first visit is a bit overwhelming and you’ll miss a few photo opportunities. If you can, visit multiple times and learn traffic patterns. Find out when the park is at it’s peak season, when animals are most active and when do keepers schedule feedings or enrichment activities for the animals.