A day at the zoo can be a fun day for taking photos

You can’t always go where the wildlife roam, but you can still get some great shots at your local zoo. Here are some tips for getting great shots.

Pack some lenses: Bring your longest lens and a macro. The long lens can be used to try and fill the frame with the subject. It can also be used to throw foreground bars out of focus when placing the lens right up to the bars and shooting with a wide open aperture.

The macro comes in handy for the smaller animals residing in the indoor exhibits behind glass. If zoo rules allow you to get right up to the glass, press the lens against it to eliminate as many reflections and as much glare as possible. The closer the subject is to the glass, the better it allows you to fill the frame.

Use a tripod: Most zoos don’t have tripod restrictions for shooting outside exhibits, but they may set limitations for the indoor exhibits; a monopod may prove to be a good alternative. The tripod not only helps stabilize the lens, it also keeps your arms from getting overtired while waiting for the animal to display photo-worthy behavior.

Tripods are especially helpful for using long lenses. At the far end of the zoom, every little movement is magnified, so the steadier the camera, the sharper the image.

Settings: Keep your ISO as high as possible, so you can use faster shutter speeds. (Be careful, though, a shutter-speed higher than 1600 can cause your pictures to look grainy.) If you can control the aperture of your camera — even some compact cameras let you do this — you can “defocus” a foreground fence by placing the lens right up to it and opening the aperture as wide as possible.

Be patient and ready: As with photographing any animal, it’s often better to wait for it to do something interesting or to display emotion. The resulting image will be more intriguing than just a recording of the subject lying down in its cage. Look ahead for feeding times. Animals tend to be more active in the hour or so before they’re fed.

Go back: Revisit the exhibits at different times of the day, as each time nets different lighting angles. If the zoo is open late, note which exhibits get bathed in sunset light and make it a point to be there to take advantage of the sweet light. Try different times of the year. If you live in a cold-weather climate, go right after a fresh snow and head to the polar bear, arctic fox, or bighorn sheep exhibit.

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