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Taking Zoo Photographs That Don’t Look Like The Zoo

Every photographer is planning to go on an African safari some day, even those of us who know we’re probably never going to go on an African safari.

But dreaming is fun, and if you don’t really think you’re going to ever get out there in that zebra striped jeep chasing elephants and watching lions take down wildebeests, there’s a next-best thing.

That’s right! It’s your local zoo. And if you play it right, your photos might look as if you actually went out on safari.

Zoos come in many varieties.

There’s the well-funded, big-city zoo, where the animals are separated from the public by cleverly designed moats and ditches rather than glass and wire fences.

It’s much easier to get a nice shot at a zoo like this, because with a decent zoom lens nothing stands between you and your subject.

Then there’s the low-budget local zoo that probably gets a lot of its funds from donations and may not have the staff and money needed to design, build and maintain natural-looking enclosures.

Your “I took these pictures on safari” look isn’t going to go very far at these kinds of zoos, but there are things you can do to draw your viewer’s attention away from those obviously man-made backgrounds and foregrounds.

Your Enemies: Glass and Wire

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Taking Zoo Photographs That Don't Look Like They Were Taken at the Zoo

Your two biggest obstacles in this type of zoo are glass and wire, both of which present challenges for photography.

The glare/reflections are a distraction from this otherwise great action shot.

In this shot there is virtually no reflection or glare, though there is obviously glass between the bear and the photographer

If your zoo has a lot of glass-faced enclosures, you will need to invest in a circular polarizing filter to help cut down on the amount of glare coming off of the glass surface.

You’ll also need a rag. When you find an animal you want to photograph, whip out that rag and use it to wipe down the glass, because there will undoubtedly be fingerprints, sneezes, face-smears and probably spilled cokes or melted ice cream on those glass surfaces.

On second thought, bring some windex and a roll of paper towels, because you probably don’t want to have to pocket that old rag after you use it to wipe off all that nastiness.

Once your glass surface is clear, look through your viewfinder and twist the ring of the polarizer until most or all of the reflections have disappeared.

Taking Zoo Photographs That Don't Look Like They Were Taken at the Zoo

If you aren’t familiar with polarizers, the twisting action lines the polarizer up with the angle of the glare, which blocks it and effectively erases it from the scene, while letting through the light that you do need.

If you would like to read the rest of this article, click here: Taking Photographs in a Zoo

Taking Zoo Photographs That Don’t Look Like The Zoo