Taking photos at a zoo is a lot of fun but can present some challenges. I had the opportunity to visit Animal Ark recently. It is a non profit organization located in Reno, NV that is a sanctuary for animals that cannot be released back into the wild. My trip there was my first time visiting. I was impressed with how well the animals are taken care of and how knowledgable the workers are about the animals. I saw a black bear playing with a tether ball- so cute, a jaguar, mountain lion, and a white tiger. There were also foxes, a tortoise, and birds to see as well. While I was there, I got some photos of the animals. This was the first time I had taken photos of animals in a zoo/sanctuary environment and wanted to pass along the following tips that I learned:
1. Make eye contact with the animal. Taking a photo where your viewer can make eye contact with the animal is very compelling and makes for a personal connection. You can see the animal’s facial expression and body language. Taking this photo of the jaguar was quite an experience. El Santo, the jaguar made eye contact with me for a moment but it was something I won’t ever forget.
2. Try to make it look like the animal is in it’s natural habitat. Get up as close as you can, shoot through any gaps in the wire or fencing, choose a wider aperture to focus only on your subject that will fade the background, and wait for the animal to position themselves so you can minimize the cage. Many zoo habitats mimic the animal’s natural environment. When editing photos crop out anything or minimize any element that looks as if the animal is in a zoo. That can help with the photo’s look immensely.
3. What draws you to this animal? Think about any unique features that you can emphasize when you are taking photos. Does your subject have a beautiful coat? Are they very large or small? Is there a feature that really stands out? What do you think people would like to see in the photo you are shooting?
Hopefully, these photo tips will be useful on your next visit to a zoo or animal sanctuary!