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How to Photograph Exotic Animals and Get Unique, Salable Digital Images

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/9/2009

If you've never really made a delve into the many aspects of animal photography, this article will help you to explore the possibilities and techniques of digital photography of exotic animals. You'll learn what exotic animals are, where to find them and types of photographs that will sell.

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    Digital Photographs of “Exotic" Animals Always Make Sales

    Jurubida December 2005 337 Without a doubt, detailed, attention-grabbing exotic animal digital photos will sell well in almost any economic climate. But if you’re not bush-whacking your way through the jungles of Africa, Asia or the Amazon Rain Forest any time soon, where can you find “exotic" animals to photograph? Hey, it’s no problem...really! In the article “How to Photograph Dangerous Animals without Risking Your Life", more than two dozen locations for capturing dangerous animals for digital photography are noted. Some of these very same ones which may well suffice for exotic animal photography as well, include:

    · Zoological parks

    · Wildlife Refuges and Game Preserves

    · National and Regional Parks

    · Petting Zoos

    · Hatcheries

    · Aquariums

    · Pet stores

    · Markets

    · Flower and Botanical Gardens

    · People’s personal pets, like 7 year-old Kenia’s pet “Iggy" (pictured)

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    Photography of Exotic Animals

    Now let’s get to a bit of the “how-to" of photographing “dangerous" or exotic animals. Both categories of “dangerous" and “exotic" animals will nicely fit the bill for reams of salable digital images. Why? It’s because these two “categories" in particular open up a huge range of animal photography possibilities. What exactly is an “exotic" animal? Well, it’s simply one which doesn’t live in the region or country that you do. This means that potentially most animals are considered “exotic" somewhere in the world. This is really good for you because whatever you’re able to shoot locally will likely find several eager and willing paying markets. So much for the Amazon Rain Forests then, unless you live in Brazil or Colombia.

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    Photography of Exotic Animals Living Near You

    Take the most pesky, fun and cute exotic animal, the squirrel. Excuse me? What! A squirrel! Hey, a squirrel isn’t an “exotic" animal! Yeah, I can just about hear you shrieking now. But hold on there Hoss. Maybe a common gray squirrel isn’t hot stuff where YOU live, but it’s cash-in-your-pocket-all-the-way-to-the-bank where I live now.


    Just take a wild guess.

    Aw, you guessed it – it’s because we don’t have any squirrels here, that’s why.

    From here I could profitably flood the local digital photography market with cute, funny, eye-riveting images of squirrels, Cocker Spaniels or raccoons and opossums for the very same reason. I sure wouldn’t hold my breath though, trying to locally market digital images of iguanas, Three-toed sloths, piranhas, pythons or anacondas. There’re just much too “common".

    Cartagena APH Conference August 2005 241 Case in point: Could you run out and take a good close-up view of a Three-toed sloth right now (a sloth is pictured holding onto Jenny)? Okay, how about some good iguana pictures? No? Well certainly then you can quickly snap a few close-ups of flesh-stripping piranha or its water-boiling cousin, the cachama, right? So now I think you see what I mean. I could get these digital images quite easily where I live, but for some good gray squirrel photos, man, I’d need to do a really extensive search on the internet. Do you have any good squirrel photos you could send me? Videos would be great too. Get my point?

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    Animal Photo Types in Demand

    Jurubida December 2005 279 Get close-ups whenever possible, head shots and animals-in-habitat scenes. Strive for well-composed, unusual angles and don’t forget those hard-stare, blood-chilling eyes, many predators, like this Sierra, have (Check out those teeth too, would ya!). Be sure to get those one-in-a-million shots that only you can get using your “special status" access. Staff members “interacting" in some way with their animal charges are always welcomed digital images. Don’t forget to give complimentary copies to the people who help you. It can pay future dividends you can’t imagine.

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    Wrapped by Pythons, Feeding Porcupines, Stroking Skunks

    Python Cali ZOO Aug 2007 059 Remember to ask about “docent", specialized or animal handling short courses which may be offered locally. I availed myself of a three-month-long, weekends-only course offered at the Philadelphia Zoo many years ago which later paid huge dividends in access to the animals and special events held there all through the year. I got to wrap pythons (pictured) around my neck, hand feed spiny porcupines, stroke de-scented skunks and toss fresh fish to playful otters, barking sea lions and Arctic seals. We watched poisonous snakes being “milked" for deadly venom and nervously witnessed the savagery of African lions tearing whole animal carcasses apart (from a safe haven, of course). Once I was even called upon to help capture a two-and-a-half-foot long non-venomous snake which accidentally got loose during a visitor’s tour. Many animal species are nocturnal, or become especially active – and vocal - after dark, so having access to photograph them during that period could be a tremendous boon to any wildlife or exotic animal photographer.

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    Get Unique, Salable Digital Images of Exotic or Dangerous Animals

    James Daniel Steele 104 Again, there’s absolutely no question about it, detailed, action or close-up wildlife digital photos, especially ones of “dangerous" or “exotic" animals will sell again and again. Try using these ideas to get yourself some unique, highly salable digital images of animals without getting your “knickers in a twist". Be sure to consider taking digital images of exotic insects, both common and unusual flowers and plants that can be found in animal habitats too. While you’re at it, don’t forget to film a few short videos like this example I filmed of a live Colombian Rhinoceros Beetle, either.