Regardless of your skill level, I truly believe that you can benefit by spending more time studying the art of photography at zoos and safari parks. Practicing with your gear, working on composition, testing new modes, creating custom settings, etc.
Just taking photos is not practicing although it is a big part of it. Using a single lens all day, or a single shutter speed, or a single aperture, these are things that could help you get a better feel for what is possible.
Also, watching training videos produced by more experienced photographers is a great way to increase your knowledge, and with practice, your skill set.
I found that the videos on KelbyOne.com have really helped me step up my game. Moose Peterson has great wildlife classes, and I suggest you watch them all. Rick Sammon is another great instructor when it comes to wildlife.
But while they have great beginning wildlife classes as well as great safari classes, I noticed that there were no classes on how to photograph animals at the zoo. So as my skill level increased, and my zoo started using more and more of my photos, I began to think that maybe I was the right guy to teach the class. After a couple of years gathering my portfolio, becoming a docent for the zoo, and finding the guts to approach KelbyOne with the idea, I finally sent in the suggestion and received a positive response.
On February 13, 2020, my class “The Art Of Zootography” was released on KelbyOne.com. So if you are at all inclined to try out a great online training site, start by watching “The Art Of Zootography”!
If you are a member of KelbyOne, I will be supporting the class in the community forums. Some of the very best questions or ideas will be things I can also discuss in upcoming posts here on this site.
Keep your eye out for more of my posts and I promise to do my best to keep them interesting.
4 thoughts on “Welcome Photographers”
Thanks for this much needed class. I learned a lot from it. There seems to be an attitude out there that zoo photography is “not real” or maybe less than professional. Thanks for helping dispel those prejudices. I will be going to the Indianapolis Zoo soon to try some of your suggestions.
I see you were using flash at your zoo. Do most zoos allow this and are some animals frightened by flash?
I am glad you enjoyed the class.
It may not be as “real” as going to Alaska to photograph bears, or Africa to photograph the big 5, but it is a great way to practice. Besides, the zoo needs photographs. They might as well get great shots from us rather than using mediocre shots that a zookeeper shot on the way to do something else. Right?
As for flash, it will depend on the zoo. While I know that only one animal has ever objected to my flash, and it was only one of the three of that species in the habitat, zookeepers may not know that and might possibly object.
If there is no sign stating otherwise, give it a go. If asked to stop, then apologize, stop immediately and honor their wishes, regardless of what you know that they do not. They are responsible for the animals at their zoo and they take that responsibility extremely seriously.
I love going to the San Antonio Zoo for photography practice! I really enjoyed watching your new class! I have taken notes to help me on my next visit, which I hope will be next week. I was wondering about the rubber lens hood. I noticed that you used it for some glass but not for other glass barriers. Just wondering your reasoning behind that technique.
I am glad you enjoyed the class.
Good eye. I don’t have a rubber lens hood for my larger lenses, only for my Macro lens. At my zoo, all of the outdoor glass is under a cover and I don’t use a flash. So I don’t worry about glare.
That said, my 70-200mm has a scalloped lens hood and I have been known to drape the black towel over it to keep reflections at bay. My 200-500mm can be placed directly against the glass without letting in any light.
But when I use a flash in the reptile and amphibian room, the flash can really cause a problem, so the rubber really helps.