zoo photography help?


TPF Noob!
Mar 26, 2008
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Broward, FL
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Okay guys, I haven't been to a zoo since I was 12. I was just wondering what advice the seasoned zoo pros may have. I have a 70-300mm and a good monopod. Anything else I may need? What are some of the tricks you guys use to get interesting shot? Thanks in advance...
advice from me::

1) try to go on a school day/weekday if you can. Holidays and weekends many zoos will fill up with loads of kids and families which can make things a lot harder and a lot more noisy. Though I will say many people do respect someone going to take a shot and will try to keep out of you frame, but you still have to let them past at some point ;)

2) Don't be afraid to use your flash - though I ma guessing that you only have the popup flash on your camera even that can be a help in getting shots if the light is poor - just make sure to have a few folds of white toilet paper held infront of the flash when you use it to diffuse the light (you can use some elastic bands to hold the paper on).
But do watch for the animal reactions when you use flash - some will ignor, others will be disturbed and might try attacking or such - if the animals show distress in any form stop using the flash and revert to normal shooting

3) Use your monopod with your lens definatly - 70-300mm lenses tend not to be the strongest of lenses and can get quite soft at the 300mm end so any support is well advised. (it might also be advisable to try to frame shots in the 70-200/250mm area to try and avoid the long reach softening)

4) To get bars out of shots get your lens as close to the bars as you can and try to keep your lens as straight onto the bars as you can - if you start to change angles the bars can have a greater impact on image quality and AF performance. Also if you find your AF locking onto the bars drop it and shift to manual focusing, slower but more accurate if the AF can't get a lock on to the animal

5) Try to keep your shutter speed as fast as you can - underexposure can be corrected in editing (to a limited extent) and can also be part of a style to a shot - but blur is much harder to work with and cannot be edited out of a shot -- try to avoid motion blur unless you are making it an intended part of the shot

6) set your AF to the middle point only - its generaly the best way to shoot since it lets you define the subject by pointing the camera at it - rather than relying on the camear to choose (because the camera will always pick the closest thing to it since that is how AF functions)
Overread... Seriously... THANK YOU!!! That is some great advice. I noticed what you said about the 300mm getting soft at 300 last time I was out shooting gator photos in the glades. Between 200 and 250 will keep it razor sharp. Luckily I am going next Friday so hopefully the crowds will be thin. Again, a 1000 thanks for the info, and hopefully I'll have some good pics to post next week.
excellent points by Overread. Also, try to wear dark clothes. Sometimes animals are behind glass and that can reflect the white/light clothes you are wearing.
Overread gave you the only cool tip I know (getting close to the bars/fence).

Excellent post by overread! I will add, watch out for glass reflections when shooting through the glass. It took me a while to figure that one out ;-)
ohh I forgot about glass - there are a few workarounds;

1) again get your lens as close as you can to the glass - often there are marks (on both the animal and the human side) so its best to get as close as you can to minimise the effect these have on your shots.

2) A circular polarizer can remove most refections from glass, however it stops one stop worth of light getting into your camera so its best only used on a bright day

3) Flash can cause reflection problems with glass if your using the flash - however it is possible to use it without getting reflection problems (my lumiquest softbox seems to do a good job of reducing the flash glare from glass)

4) A big black bit of card placed around the end of your lens and the both placed right up against the glass - the card stops light comming from behind you and thus stop reflection problems in the glass from affecting the lens.

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