Posts Tagged ‘clouded leopard’

Tips for taking pictures at the zoo

Friday, June 26th, 2009

On fathers day, I went to the zoo to take some pictures and I thought I’d share some of the shots and some of the things I have learned about ‘zoo shooting’ that might help you get some great shots at your local zoo.


The first tip is the time of day you go.  The San Antonio Zoo offers early entrance (7:30) to zoo members and I take full advantage of it.  I go early in the morning for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost for me, this is South Texas and it gets really hot really fast.  I don’t do well in the heat so the early start time helps keep me from melting.  Second, and probably a more important reason is that the animals are more alert early in the morning.  They are looking for food and expecting interaction with their keepers.  This is one of those things you might want to contact your zoo about, as there are different schedules for different animals.  For instance, this Cheetah has play time every afternoon and she knows it.  The keeper actually teased her with her toy so I could get this shot on a previous trip.

Attentive Cheetah

Alert Cheetah

By the time I got around to her on this trip, she had already been fed and was just laying around relaxing.


Relaxing Cheetah

I had the same problem with the Sumatran Tiger

Sumatran Tiger

Sumatran Tiger

However the Spotted Hyena was still waiting on breakfast which allowed me to get this intent shot

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena


Another thing folks really hate in zoo shots is having the cage bars in the picture.  Most of the time, they really detract from the story you are trying to tell.  But if you’re careful, you can shoot the shot so the bars/ wire don’t show up.  First get as close to the bars as you can and open the camera aperture wide open to get as much depth of field as you can.  For instance:

Black and White Monkey

I shot this one through wire just like you see in the back ground.  Being very close with the wide open aperture makes it disappear.    Some that can add problems to this is if you can’t get close to the bars/wire.  At the San Antonio Zoo, there are often hedges between the shooter and the bars so you are standing back 3-4 ft from the wire.  In this case you can’t get close.  With a little practice, I was able to shoot using a long zoom lens, with the aperture opened wide up and get pretty much the same effect.


Monkey 2

This one and the one after were shot about 4 ft away from the wire and about 6-7 feet away from the monkey.

Monkey 1

And this one was shot about 7 ft away through black cage wire.


Crested Oropendola

Crested Oropendola

Sometimes, however, the bars can actually add to the story, like this.

Jaguar 2



Another problem photographing zoo animals is shooting through glass.  There are two basic issues with glass.  One is dirty glass that’s smudged with finger/nose prints.  I take a small container of wet wipes and, if the smudges are on the outside, simply clean them before I shoot.  If they are on the inside or you don’t have wipes, the only thing I can suggest is to adjust your angle to hit a clean spot.

The other problem with shooting through glass is reflections.  These become even worse if you are having to fire the flash.  The key to getting these shots is to change your angle.  Instead of shooting perpendicular to the glass, adjust your angle to 30-45 degrees and the reflections should diminish.  This may take a little trial and error to find the right angle for the shot, but that’s the great thing about digital.

These were all shot through glass by standing at an angle to the glass.


Monkey 3 in Black and White

Clouded Leopard 1

Clouded Leopard

Jaguar 1


And these were shot through glass with a flash.

Komodo Dragon 2

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon 1

Komodo Dragon


So do a little research, gear up and head out to your local zoo for some great photography!  It’s always a blast.

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