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Zoo Photography Professional Etiquette - Rules You Should Follow When Taking Pictures at The Zoo

written by: Mayflor Markusic•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/25/2009

Taking pictures of wild animals at the zoo is one of the best ways to build a photographer portfolio and showcase your skills and talents. To be welcome at the zoo, it is best that you practice professional etiquette.

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    The Basics

    Photography at the zoo is probably the simplest and most affordable way to build the photographer portfolio.This is why it is important that photographers maintain a cordial relationship with the people who work at the zoo. It does not matter whether you aretaking pictures of animals in a big zoo or a small zoo, a photographer should always display professional etiquette. And it does not matter whether you are practicing photography at the Philadelphia Zoo or photography at the Cape May Zoo, the greater part of zoo photography etiquette is ruled by common sense and courtesy. Common sense usually involves following the defined rules inside the zoo while courtesy is simply ensuring that other people of the zoo will also enjoy their visit. Specifically:

    • Avoid blocking the view of other visitors. They may not be intent at capturing the best zoo picture but they have as much right as the photographer to see and admire the animals.
    • Heed warnings posted by the zoo. If the zoo cautions visitors against climbing a fence, there is obviously a good reason for it. The photographer should not assume that he is exempt from such warnings. Crossing the safety barrier may give that once-in-a-lifetime winning photo opportunity but the photographer may just get his last picture – the last one in his lifetime.
    • Respect the animals. Courtesy must also be extended to the animals. They are, after all, the subjects or models. The zoo animals should not be disturbed, harassed, or screamed at. Zoo photographers should also avoid using their camera's flash. Although some of these animals are already “jaded" to the raucous behavior of zoo visitors, these animals also have their limits.

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    Professional Protocol

    If the photographer intends to sell or commercially use the pictures he has taken from the zoo, there are certain professional protocols or rules that must be observed. Each zoo has its own particular set of rules for commercial photography. But here are the basic ones.

    • Foremost among these rules is informing the zoo management of the commercial purpose of the pictures. Some zoos charge a fee while others simply ask for information, such as the publications in which the pictures will appear, the part of the zoo that will be used, and the time needed for the photo session.

    • A photographer will not be able to treat the zoo as his studio. This means that the zoo photographer will not have access to the zoo’s electric outlets or automatic admittance to every building.

    • And finally, the pictures should ideally depict the zoo in a positive light and should be aligned with the zoo’s goal, which is essentially the protection of wildlife. Good publicity of the zoo will make the management more inclined to allow more commercial photography in their premises.