written by: Mayflor Markusic•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/22/2008
Going to the zoo to take pictures of animals seems like an easy task. But as you explore the zoo, you realized that you can barely see the animals with your own eyes. It would be impossible to take pictures. You came in at the wrong time.
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The Dilemma at the Zoo
You’ve taken wonderful pictures of your dog whose playful personality shone through the images. You’ve received a lot of good feedback from your friends about the photos that you took. And you are beginning to visualize yourself as a famous photographer taking stunning snapshots of wild animals during one of your safaris. But safaris are expensive. Zoo tickets, on the other hand, are affordable. A giraffe in the zoo will certainly look the same as the giraffe on the African plains. And so you packed your camera and head off to the nearest local zoo.
However, when you got there, you found that most animals are behind rocks, under tree logs, or inside their caves. You can see tails and that’s about it. The animals that you do see are barely moving, lying on the ground with their faces partly hidden. You don’t need someone else to tell you that your scheduled photo session that day is already ruined. Your subjects are not willing to cooperate. The zoo animals would have been more cooperative if you arrived at a good time. But when exactly are the best times to take pictures of zoo animals?
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One of the best times to take pictures of animals is 30 minutes before and during their feeding times. The animals are anticipating their food and this is why they are more active. They move around. They are extra alert. And they even make noises. Of course, the noise is not important to the lens but the animals’ antics while waiting for their food will make great shots. But when are zoo animals fed?
This will take a little research on the part of the zoo photographer. Animals are fed at different times. This means that if a photographer wants to take pictures of a particular animal, he or she must contact the zoo and ask the feeding schedule. For example, Shamba, the Gorilla at the Denver Zoo, is fed at noon time. The African Penguins, on the other hand, are fed at 10:15 am and at 3:30 pm.
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Morning or Afternoon?
If it is impossible to obtain the feeding schedule of the zoo, the best times to take pictures are in the early morning, about 7 am, or in the late afternoon, about 4 pm. During these times, the temperatures are not too hot and the animals will be moving around their cages. The heat of the sun during midday will drive many animals under the shade. There will be harsh contrasts and the pictures can be overexposed. The animals usually have their eyes closed. Noon time is nap time.
There are several things you can do to prepare yourself for taking the best pictures at the zoo. This series will provide you with tips, tricks and techniques that will have your zoo photos look like snap shots taken directly from the wild.