5 TIPS FOR TAKING FANTASTIC ZOO PHOTOS

BY OLYMPUS VISIONARY LAURA HICKS
Shot with the E-M1 and the M.Zuiko 300mm f4.0 IS PRO

One of my favorite things to do is pack up my camera gear and head to the zoo. I love being able to capture the diversity of the animals, insects, and birds that are housed there.

1 BRING THE RIGHT GEAR

Bringing the right gear will take your zoo pictures from being good to being great! I have always loved bringing my OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the battery grip to the zoo. The E-M1 Mark II has fantastic image quality and the battery grip allows me to shoot for long periods of time without changing my battery. The size and form of the grip also guarantees that my hands will remain stable and comfortable throughout the day. Olympus’ new M.Zuiko 300mm f4.0 IS PRO lens has now become a staple in my camera bag when heading to the zoo. Pairing this lens with the E-M1 Mark II makes capturing beautiful zoo animal images a reality. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the joy my M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens brings me every time I use it.

Recently, Olympus also added the PEN-F camera to their lineup and I have been blown away by the image quality and the compact design of the camera. The Pen-F paired with the M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 MACRO lens is a fantastic combo for capturing the small details many people overlook at the zoo.

One additional camera I love to bring to the zoo is the TG-4. I love being able to capture a wide range of images with that camera. I can easily take images in the underwater mode, the wide angle mode, and the super macro mode. It easily fits into my purse or my camera bag and it never disappoints.

Shot with an OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO. F2.8, 1/250, ISO 1000.

Shot with an OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO. F2.8, 1/640, ISO 200.

2 SETTING UP THE SHOT

When taking pictures at the zoo it is important to set up your shot for several variables including avoiding other zoo visitors, movement of the animals, and steering clear of the visible enclosures. First make sure to pick a prime shooting location where you can avoid the heads, arms, and cameras of the other visitors. Next, look for a spot that allows for maximum movement of your camera when the animal decides to move. I like to pick a spot that is near the center of the enclosure or I pick one that is close to an edge so that I’m not in the way if it’s a busy day at the zoo.

Here is how I like to set my camera when I am photographing at the zoo:

Aperture priority is my mode of choice for the vast majority of my subjects. I love it when the background is soft and my subject is crisp.

If I have a fast moving subject I will switch to shutter priority and tracking AF in order to stop motion and insure a tack sharp subject.

I like to set my ISO at 200 or 400. I’m a fan of the lower ISO rendering.

Focus stacking is an amazing feature when shooting in macro mode with plant life or bugs. Don’t forget to add the brand new Twin Flash Set STF-8 for beautifully lit subjects.

3 PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Animals at the zoo have times when they are more active, times when they are sleeping, and when they are eating. Being patient and knowing when the animals are more active will lead to a more productive day at the zoo. The temperature also plays an important role in the animals’ tendencies to be more active. Cold weather animals like polar bears will act more lethargic during the hot mid-day sun. Capturing images of them frolicking are harder to get in the summer when they just want to chill on some ice.

In addition to knowing the animals’ most active times, it is also important to anticipate the movement of the animals. Watching their body language will also give you indicators as to what they may do next. Is the animal alert, agitated, showing off, or calm? Each emotion will result in a different type of image.

4 THE EYES HAVE IT

The background, the composition, and the exposure are all important elements of creating awesome animal imagery, but capturing the animals’ expressions is the most important part of image creation when I am photographing them. I love to set my aperture for the widest aperture available and focus on the eyes. I watch for their eyes to reveal what they are feeling. Some of my favorite images are ones that an animal is sharing what we commonly experience as human emotions—like a bug showing curiosity, a bird acting aloof, a mother gorilla embracing her child, or a bonobo moneys clowning around in front of the crowd.

Shot with an OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 300mm f4.0 IS PRO. F4.0, 1/500, ISO 200.

Shot with an OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 PRO. F2.8, 1/400, ISO 200.

5 SHARE YOUR IMAGES

It’s so easy to share your favorite images straight to your social media outlet of choice when shooting with an Olympus camera. Simply download the Olympus Share App and tap on the Wi-Fi icon on your camera. Your images quickly and easily import to your device making the sharing process a snap. There are tons of groups that would love to see your images including Get Olympus on Facebook and Instagram.

Did you capture an image so great you want to see it every day? Take a few minutes to send that image to your local or professional online lab. Being able to view your image hanging on your wall will elicit positive comments from friends and bring you joy every time you look at it.

SEE MORE OF LAURA’S ZOO PHOTOGRAPHY

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