How to Take Better Pictures at the Zoo

Leopard -Close Up

Close ups will eliminate unwanted backgrounds.
Close ups will eliminate unwanted backgrounds. | Source

Tips on How to Improve Your Zoo Pictures

Everyone loves going to the zoo. There is just a thrill you get when you can see that the animals up close and personal. When the animals are actually looking back at you, you seem to make some kind of connection with them. With many of the animals you can actually look them in the eye and it makes you wonder, just what are they thinking right now? Are they wondering why we are here, or just thinking about having us as lunch! We all like to take pictures when we go to the zoo. We take tons of pictures while we are there, but when we get home, most of the pictures just don’t come out the way we would have liked them to. Hopefully I am going to give you some tips here that will help you take better pictures at the zoo.


Cougar

Puma, Mountain Lion, Cougar. Picture taken through glass.
Puma, Mountain Lion, Cougar. Picture taken through glass. | Source

Take Pictures in Bursts

If you have a digital camera that will take pictures in “bursts”, more than just one picture when you push the button, that is a great option to use. The animals are usually moving around and you may just catch that perfect shot that you weren’t really expecting. A lion may all of a sudden yawn or roar. A mother may nuzzle her little one or give it a lick of love. Use the auto focus option on your camera and it will keep the animal in focus as it is moving around. Remember, if you are using a digital camera, you can always delete the shots that don’t come out.

Naughty Giraffe

Giraffe sticking his tongue out for food.
Giraffe sticking his tongue out for food. | Source

Lighting

If possible, try to catch the animal when it is either all in the shade, or all in sunlight. You don't want shadows on part of the animal. If shooting in the sun try to keep the sun on the side of the animal that is nearest to you. This will help with your light balance and will help you get good color and sharp focus. Visiting the zoo on what you know is going to be an overcast, (not rainy) day is a great idea. Not only is the weather going to be cooler while you are out walking around, but you won't have to deal with the shadow issues.


Close-Up of Zebra

Zebra - Taken from angle to remove unwanted background.
Zebra - Taken from angle to remove unwanted background. | Source

Eliminate Background Junk

Be sure and look for the “junk” in the picture. Look through the viewfinder and really see what else is in the picture. Try to move around if you need to, to eliminate some of the background. If you have a zoom lens, you can use it to zoom in on the animal and eliminate most of the background. Using a zoom lens will also blur out the background, which will make your subject really stand out. You want the animal to be the main subject on your photo, not the rocks or trees. See how much better the zebra picture above looks, without all the junk.

Zebra with Bad Background

Zebra with "junk" in the background.
Zebra with "junk" in the background. | Source

Personality and Habitat

You want to capture the personality of the animals, so zoom in! Be sure that you are focusing on the eyes (not the nose), the eyes and the windows to the soul. And, yes, I believe that, at least mammals, have a soul. Take several shots, some close up of the face, then back up and get a full frame of the animal. If the habitat is natural looking, get some of their “natural” habitat in some shots also. You want to document where and how they live as well.

Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee close-up to capture personality.
Chimpanzee close-up to capture personality. | Source

Fencing

If possible, you don't want the fencing to show up in your pictures. When taking pictures through fences or caging, it is going to work best if the animal is about middle of the enclosure. Then get as close to the fence as possible. (Of course, stay within the safe boundaries set by the zoo.) Put the lense right up to the fence, be careful not to scratch it, but this will let you zoom in on the subject and blur out the fence in front of you. There may be a little distortion, but it will be minimal. If there is a fence or cage behind the animal and they are not too close to it, zooming in will also blur it out. The photo below of the caracal, was taken through a chain link fence.


Caracal

Caracal - Shot through chain link fence.
Caracal - Shot through chain link fence. | Source

Shooting Through Glass

Be sure to take some type of glass cleaner wipes. Windex has small packages of window cleaner wipes. Children and going to have put their little hands and probably noses, against the glass and you need to clean the glass to get a good, clear shot. (A small bottle of hand sanitizer wouldn't be a bad idea either, just because!) When taking pictures through glass, a gradient lens will really help adjust your pictures. Either with or without the lens, you want to put your camera lightly against the glass at about a 25 degree angle and shoot the picture. (Remember to have wiped the glass clean first.) The photo below was taken through glass.


Serval

Serval - Phot shot through glass.
Serval - Phot shot through glass. | Source

Get Their Attention

"Rattle their cage." You can call the animals, talk to them and make all the little noises you want to, to try to get them to either turn around or come towards you. It's not going to work. They hear these types of noises all the time and have learned to just ignore them. What they do pay attention to is either the sound of the cage being opened or the sound of keys. When I say, "rattle their cage", I don't mean to get aggressive with it, just try to make it sound like you are opening it. Jiggle your car keys. All these gates and enclosures have locks on them. They are used to hearing keys rattle when their food is coming in. These are usually the best ways to get their attention.


Hyena

Hyena coming towards me.
Hyena coming towards me. | Source

Well there are a few thing I hope will help you take better zoo pictures. and make your picture- taking trip to the zoo a little better! Remember, above all, make it fun. Oh yeah, be sure to watch the monkeys closely, because they like to throw poo! Have a great trip!


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Comments 46 comments

Robert Sacchi profile image

Robert Sacchi 11 months ago

Thank you these are some great tips. To state the obvious your pictures are very good.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 3 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Breautiful pictures they are all gorgeous. Great helpful article too


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Patricia! I am just like a big kid with a camera when I go to the zoo! I love taking pictures of all the animals and of course I have to have a little conversation with them too. I actually felt a little sorry for the chimp. She was sitting there by herself looking rather sad I thought, but then I usually feel sorry for the animals in zoos.

Thank you for stopping in and your kind comment. As always, I appreciate your pin, share and of course your angels! Have a wonderful day! :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Great tips, Sheila. And you critiqued your zebra photo...that is helpful.

These are awesome creatures and your photos amplify their beauty. The chimp was a caution, wasn't he (she)?

Thanks for sharing

Angels are on the way....Pinned and shared ps


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Resident Weevil. I'm glad you enjoyed my zoo pictures. Critters are my favorite subjects to photograph. Thanks for stopping by and your kind words. Have a great day! :)


Resident Weevil profile image

Resident Weevil 3 years ago

I really enjoyed looking at your zoo pix. They are excellent, critters make great models.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Suhail! Sometimes you have to think like the animals. They are so used to hearing people calling to them, that they don't pay any attention to it. What is important to them is food. When the attendants come to feed them, they hear the sound of the keys opening their enclosure. Jingling keys has worked well for me. I love taking pictures at the zoo and I hope you have a pleasant and successful trip. I would love to see the pictures to take! Thank you for stopping in and commenting. I appreciate your vote and share. Have a wonderful day! :)


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

I liked the technique of 'Getting Their Attention'. I will certainly try it next time.

Overall, all suggestions made sense to me. I was thinking of visiting a zoo soon to take some pictures of animals that I can't take shot of in the wild, at least for now with my limited resources lol - snow leopards, wolves, other endangered animals.

Voted up and shared!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello photostudiosupply! Thank you for your kind words. I love animals and am just like a kid at the zoo! I love taking pictures of the animals. Since I can't bring the animals home with me, this is the best I can do. LOL I use the pictures for decoration for my home or give as gifts. Sometimes I may sell a few here and there. Thank you for your kind comment. Have a wonderful day!


photostudiosupply profile image

photostudiosupply 4 years ago from Rochester, New York

Helpful hub and very beautiful pictures...


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello ignugent17! I am just like a child at the zoo. I love taking pictures of the animals. Thank you for your kind comment and vote. It is always appreciated.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

Love the photos ! Thanks for sharing voted up.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Maggs! Thank you for such a kind comment, and votes! I hope you get to try my suggestions soon. You will have to show me your pics when you do, I would love to see them! Have a wonderful day!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain

What an interesting hub Sheila I can't wait to put some of this into practice. Your photographs are outstanding I have really enjoyed looking at them and reading this hub. I am voting this up and hitting buttons on my way out regards maggs :D


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi CassyLu! I LOVE going to the zoo, sometimes more than the kids! It is a great place to take pictures of animals that you will not normally get to shoot. (With a camera!) :) You will have to post your pics after you to, I would love to see them. Thanks for voting and sharing! Have a wonderful day! :)


CassyLu1981 profile image

CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

Incredible tips! Thanks so much. I can't wait to put these to use when we go to the zoo the next time! Voted up and shared :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello dahoglund. I too had a gap in my photography for several years. I have to say that I am hooked on digital. Mainly because I can take as many pictures as I want with no worries. It is a little different but once you get used to it, I think you will like it as well. Thank you for reading and commenting, it is always appreciated. Have a wonderful day! :)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Very good photo tips. I had been away from photography for a number of years and I am sort of re learning. I like digital but it also takes some getting used to.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Why thank you Debra for your very kind words, you made my day! I would have loved to see your Savannah, I bet she was beautiful! I am glad you enjoyed my hub. Have a WONDERFUL day! :)


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 4 years ago from United States

Absolutely loved this hub, especially from a photographer's viewpoint! You are an excellent writer and photographer! I'm impressed with both! I especially love the big cats. In particular, the Caracal and the Serval. I used to own a Savannah, which is a cross between a Serval and a domestic house cat. She had the big ears like a Serval. She was also extremely smart, and would scale walls to find her hidden mouse. She actually sniffed it out like a dog! Amazing animals. Thanks, for the good tips!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Jenna! Thank you. I am glad you found this information useful. Maybe you can use this information the next time you take a trip to the zoo. I am planning one for my family this spring! Thank you for your kind comment. :)


Jenna 4 years ago

This was VERY useful! Thank you!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello vespawoolf. I am glad you found my tips useful. I love going to the zoo, but taking good pictures of the animals can sometimes be a challenge. Thank you for comments on this hub! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you livelonger! I have tried to take some pictures of family with my phone, but they just aren't going to do well. I'm glad you had a DSLR now! You will be so much happier. The best thing you can do is just read your manual and practice, practice, practice. I hope you get some really great pictures!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Jessi10! Thank you so much for .... everything! :) I'm glad you find it useful. Have a great trip! :)


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

These are great suggestions. I especially like the tip about taking photos in bursts as it seems the animals always move before I can snap the shot!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Peggy W. Thank you for your kind words! I have not been to the Houston Zoo yet. I have a brother-in-law that lives at Lake Conroe. We plan to visit this summer and I will have to make a trip to the zoo there! Thank your for your comments, vote and sharing! Always very much appreciated! I hope you have a very happy Valentine's Day! :)


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

Great advice. I just bought a micro four-thirds DSLR, and am anxious to try to capture zoo pictures. When I was at the last 2 zoos I visited (in Dallas and Seattle), all I had was my phone camera, and the shots turned out lousy. Had I used some of the techniques you mentioned here, the pics would have conveyed the incredible natural majesty of the animals better.


Jessi10 profile image

Jessi10 4 years ago from Lancaster, CA

This is a fantastic Hub! I'm going to bookmark it! I'm definitely going to take these tips into consideration next time I visit the ZOO.

VOTED UP, USEFUL AND SHARING!

Good job!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Nice tip about taking disposable windex wipes to clean the glass before taking photos. Your other tips were good as well. Good examples shown with your zoo photos. I need to revisit our Houston zoo one of these days. Up and useful vote and SHARING with followers.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi nifwlseirff! Thank you for your comment. The best time to photograph the big cats is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. That is when they are the most active. Thanks for stopping by! Have a Happy Valentine's Day! :)


nifwlseirff profile image

nifwlseirff 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

Great tips, especially about rattling keys! I would never have thought of this! Beautiful photos as well - I love the big cats, but they often are in difficult to photograph positions (or sleeping).


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi thumbi7. Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you liked my hub. Thank you so much for voting and sharing!It is always nice to hear from you! Have a wonderful day! :)


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 4 years ago from India

Great tips! Amazing pictures!

Voting up and sharing


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Eddy. Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed by hub. Have a great day also! :)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

An amazing hub which has to have that 'up up and away' !!!!!

Truly beautiful !!!

Take care and have a great day.

Eddy.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Injured lamb! You're quite welcome. Thank you for commenting and sharing my hub. I hope you find it useful. Have a great day! :)


Injured lamb profile image

Injured lamb 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this with us sgbrown, would share this with my kids as well...take care!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Faithful Daughter! Thank you for your kind words. Yes, it is very true about the monkeys...last time we were at the zoo, my husband noticed one of the chimps about to toss some my way. We got out of the way just in time... Thank you for your comment. Have a wonderful day! :)


Faithful Daughter profile image

Faithful Daughter 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

Great tips! It's true about the monkeys too. I usually stay away from them because of this. Thanks for sharing!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Brett! Thank you again for viewing one of my hubs, you know I appreciate it! I'm glad you found it useful. Thank you for your kind words and sharing! Have a beautiful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Philbert. I am glad you found my hub helpful. Thank you for your kind coments! Have a great day! :)


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Some useful tips, the burst technique is great with digital cameras, as is just taking random shots throughout the day ... sometimes you catch a gem.

Voted up and of course...SOCIALLY SHARING.


Phillbert profile image

Phillbert 4 years ago from The Ozarks

Very helpful! I love taking pictures but I am really bad at it! I appreciate the helpfulness of your hub! Great pictures!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello RTalloni! Thanks for commentig on my new hub. Enjoy your trip this spring! Have a great day!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Interesting tips--thanks! I hope to take advantage of them this spring.

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