Pin Me

4 Tips on How to Take Pictures Through Bars and Cages at The Zoo

written by: Mayflor Markusic•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/22/2008

Taking pictures of animals at the zoo through bars or cage wires is unavoidable. The bars and cages, however, make the pictures less appealing. What can a zoo photographer do?

  • slide 1 of 10

    Bars and Cages

    There is a trend among zoos these days to reconstruct the cages of animals to make them appear similar to their natural habitats. Thus, cages and bars are fewer today than a decade ago. This is good news for zoo photographers who bemoan the fact that they always have to take pictures of animals through bars and cages. Bars and cages, however, can never be completely removed because of safety reasons. It is not a good idea for photographers to jump inside the cage just to take pictures of wild animals without the distracting cage wires. But there are four safe strategies of taking pictures of zoo animals that will reduce the unappealing effect of bars and cages.

  • slide 2 of 10

    Animals behind bars

    The fence detracts the eye from te pronghornsThe wires made the Alaskan moose appear trapped
  • slide 3 of 10

    1 - Get Close

    The easiest way to reduce the unappealing effect of bars and cages is to get as close as possible. When the camera is close enough, the cage wires will become blurry and can no longer be recognized. Of course, this technique will just reduce the distinct shape of the cage wires but will not completely eliminate them. Sadly, the zoo photographer could not take award-winning pictures with this strategy.

  • slide 4 of 10

    Closing in on the zoo animal

    The African lion when shot from the regular distanceThe African lion when shot closer and at a different angle
  • slide 5 of 10

    2 - A Little Ingenuity

    If the bars are too big, a closer proximity to the zoo animal will make the bar look less like a bar. Again, it will not produce pictures fit for the National Geographic. But there might be interest groups that will adore that picture. At the same time, the bars can be used as a frame or if the camera is set at the highest resolution, it will be easier to crop the bar off when editing the picture.

  • slide 6 of 10

    Ingenuity at work

    The Asian elephant behind barsThe same picture with the bar cropped
  • slide 7 of 10

    3 - Using Backgrounds

    If the bars or cages are too far, the zoo photographer needs to move around and find an angle that will make the cage wires less prominent. Usually, a darker background will blend with the cage wires and make it less obvious.

  • slide 8 of 10

    Backgrounds against cages

    The bald eagle in a mesh of wires, shot against the sky backgroundThe same bald eagle shot against the dark leafy background with wires less obvious
  • slide 9 of 10

    4 - Manual Focus

    The best way to eliminate the unwanted lines of the cages is to take matters into your own hands. That is, the zoo photographer must set the camera to manual focus. The camera does not have any aesthetic sense to decide which object needs focus. Thus, the zoo photographer must manually set the exposure settings in order to blur the cage wires and focus on the zoo animal.

  • slide 10 of 10

    Pictures of zoo animals with the camera in manual focus

    Black bear. Squint to see the wires.The okapi behind the blurred cagesThe okapi with blurred cage and zoomed lens