A group of six Club members met up at the Zoo on Saturday 20th February to take on a portrait challenge with a difference – to shoot portraits of zoo animals. We started with a quick briefing from team leader, Anna, who gave us a few tips to get help us on our way.
The tips for taking quality portraits of animals don't really differ from those of people portraits. The three top tips would probably be:
- the eyes have it! Try and capture the animal's gaze, and (ideally), the catch lights in the eyes;
- composition is equally important. Try and maximise details and minimise distractions by taking a tight shot of the subject (or play with cropping in post production to get the best result); and
- think about lighting. In a studio, soft lighting will help to minimise deep shadows on the subject's face; in a zoo there is less control. So it's essential to think about the position of the sun and how it's falling on your subject.
Putting these principles into action with animals – which are clearly not natural models – is challenging to say the least. This is particularly the case with fast moving animals – for example, seals darting around underwater. Depending on your skill level, you may want to look for easier targets (though it's fun to try and shoot the seals).
Once inside the gates, the first stop was, predictably, a coffee stand. Caffeine now starting to kick in, the group moved to the wild dog and lion enclosures (where the animals were all resting), stopping along the way to take some photos of the giant tortoises (best models of the day!).
We then took a quick walk to see the ring tailed lemurs as we heard they were being fed. The lemurs were happily scampering around and climbing into their raised nests, their distinctive striped tails waving in the air. They are entertaining and easy to watch; less easy to photograph.
Another exhibit where we spent a lot of time was the seal pool, where you can see the fur seals both from above and below the water.
No tour of the Zoo is complete without a visit to the Butterfly House. It never disappoints both in terms of the display and the photographic opportunities it provides.
And so the morning progressed, with visits to most – though not all – of the exhibits before it became too hot, and the sunlight a little too harsh, to continue.
Time to head home and download the hundreds of images to look for a few pearls. The only way to take a good photo is to get out and take photos – and lots of them!