Zoo Photography Tips

Fullframe vs. Crop Senor with Respect to Apparent Focal Length:
This is a great article detailing the difference between the two. The short of it, is that when using a crop sensor Canon camera you have to multiply your focal length by 1.6. So if your using a 100mm lens on a crop sensor camera, your actually seeing what a 160mm lens would be on full frame camera. When shooting wildlife, this is actually an advantage because you can use smaller, lighter and cheaper lenses, while still getting the same field of view.

Great Crop Sensor Wildlife Lenses for the Budget Minded:

Great Wildlife Lenses for either Crop or Full Frame:

Great Wildlife Lenses for Big Budgets:

Tips for better photos when going to the zoo:

  • The best time to get photos at the zoo is right when they open: the animals are most active and the light is usually the most interesting. You are also more likely to catch them feeding the animals in the morning.
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  • Shoot with a lens that has a focal length of at least 200mm or equivalent to. This help to give you that blurred out background which will isolate your subject.
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  • Use the largest aperture your lens is capable of, smaller F numbers mean larger apertures. This will also help in blurring out that background and isolating your subject.
  • There will most likely be a fence between you and the animal but if you combine the above two tips and place your camera as close to the fence as possible, it will in most cases blur so much that it will completely disappear. You may lose some contrast when doing this but this can be easily fixed in post.

    This was shot through a grid like fence and there is almost no trace of the fence left.

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  • I will usually try to use shutter speeds of at least 1/640s to avoid any motion blur introduced by fast moving subjects. With a such a fast shutter speed, you will likely need an iso in the range of 400-1600 to ensure a correct exposure.
  • Always try to shoot from the same eye level as whatever you are shooting and keep the eyes in focus. If the eyes are out of focus your brain will tell you that the rest of the picture is out of focus.

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  • Always by aware of your backgrounds. Try to avoid distracting elements and always keep out anything that might give away the fact that the image was taken at a zoo.
  • Most important thing is being patient. Sometimes you may have to stay at one exhibit for 10-20 mins before you really get a shot worth keeping; so don’t be discouraged. Try to learn the patterns and behaviours of your subject. If they do something interesting and you miss it, they will probably do it again and next time you’ll be ready for it. I may take 400-500 photos during one trip to the zoo but only keep/show 4-5 of those.

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