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Photographing Penguins

Updated on February 21, 2014
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. | Source

OK, with a title like pretty perky penguins it's probably not very hard to get your attention. But before anyone gets any idea that this is about a Hollywood movie or any other animation film, this is nothing more than a photographic project involving these very attractive and almost regal looking sea birds.

These creature seem to always be ready for a gala. Their plumage is always apparently spotless and elegant and photographing them can be a very fun experience since they seem to be always standing around just casually observing their environment and each other. They also seem to elegantly move about in the water yet often seem at odds on land.

The main problem with conducting this particular project is location . Most penguins, live by nature, in very inhospitable and very frigid areas of the world so your best opportunity to record images will probably be at a zoo or nature preserves where they are kept as attractions.

Since most of these locations are man made and this will show in your images the best lens to use will be a zoom lens capable of bringing them in close. A 200mm to 300mm should prove to be more than enough and you should avoid using anything much larger due to space constraints and running the risk of having too powerful of a lens. By virtue of being attractions they are usually well light so flash use should not be required.

Pay attention to your camera readings; you are mostly photographing the two opposites; black & white. To make the penguins white plumage show up in your images as truly white try to over expose by at least one stop, otherwise their white feathers may show up as a very light grey coloration.

Do try not to include parts of the enclosure if at all possible but do include them if you feel that it adds to the scene. However I have found that adding the enclosure often detracts rather than helping. One thing to remember, if you submit your images to any publication, stock house and so on, you should definitively identify them as being of captive animals.

Emphasize their faces and their eyes. Also take photos of their plumage. Do attempt to record interactions of family members and these should be essay since most family groups tend to congregate close to each other. Great subjects are those that have eyes that are colored in any other hues besides black as some penguins have jet black yes and these are difficult to set apart from their also black faces. Emperor penguins for example have bright red eyes.

On nature preserves you are not likely to see young specimens since these attractions usually keep them separated from the adults until they are sufficiently mature to be able to fend for themselves. Feeding times should provide great shots but to record such images you may need to arrange special viewing times.

One of the best things about photographing penguins on a zoo or preserve is that these usually have several different species of penguins in the same location, something that is often not possible in the wild. Do record images of various species if they are present.

A good idea is to photograph two or more different species interacting with each other as due to their rarity of naturally occurring in the wild they are always sought after images.


Keep in mind that unless you are photographing them in the wild, your captive subjects will tend to be rather stoic and not move that much.

You therefore should exercise patience if you want to record various instances of penguin behaviors instead of only static images.

Pay attention to feeding stations that are sometimes available. Some attractions uses these feeding stations to get funds which they in turn uses towards the upkeep of each exhibit.

However the majority of zoos and nature preserves do not offer them. If they are available however, then use them to attract your subjects closer and perhaps elicit some movement.

Submit your images to photographic stock houses and to greeting card publishers as they are mostly welcome.

These photos have many uses not only during the cold winter months but pretty much year round as is any image of popular subjects. In other words images of penguins much like so many other wildlife subjects are "evergreen" and never go out of style.

But any image regardless of the subject matter must be technically flawless and grab a viewers attention because this is what any editor of any major publication is looking for.

Always share your photos with friends and family and ask for their honest opinions and criticism. If the images past their test then it may as well pass an editor's test too.

These images also lend themselves for making personalized gift cards which you can use with your holiday cards and which you can turn into framed images to give as gifts.

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Theses photos are beautiful and capture the lesser seen features of these birds. You are right in saying that if you photograph them in captivity you will most likely just get still statues. I did notice the last time I visited an aquarium the penguins were active just before feeding time. They were jumping into the water and making quite a noise. Another great hub!

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 5 years ago from Central United States

      Interesting choice of subject. Not any penguin's close to where I live even in captivity. Your ideas tend to lend themselves to any animal groups though.

      Going to share this on my facebook fan page. That is where those interested in Photography are sent.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      skymaster: Thank you

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thanks Lynn

    • profile image

      skymaster 5 years ago


    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

      Beautiful photos and fun looking critters. I have trouble with the windows and glare. UP and awesome as usual.