Taking better zoo photos

We went to the zoo today as a family. It was a good day, and we had (for the most part) good access to look at the animals. Which is, after all, the point of going to the zoo. 

There were some people, though, who seemed to be there to take photos of the animals. People who had spent a significant amount of money on camera gear, and would go up close to the glass, or the edge of the enclosure, and try to get the clearest possible photo of just the animal, clearly, in focus, the sole subject of the photo. 

That’s a laudable goal if you’re on safari, but if you’re just visiting already captive animals, how many of these photos are you going to go back to?

When I go to the zoo, I try to capture what the kids were doing, and interested in, while we were there. I vary between taking photos and taking videos, and I try to avoid having the camera out at all, unless I have a plan to capture something. I want to actually have some memories of being present with what I’m doing (and seeing) not just a selection of things I saw through my smartphone while I was walking through somewhere, disconnected from what was going on. 

This isn’t just limited to zoos, but that was today’s example.

Remember why you’re doing whatever it is – probably to spend time with the people you have brought with you. Do that thing, and if a photo suggests itself, take that photo framed in a way that you will want to revisit. Then put the camera away.  

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  1. Good note Dave. I always find it interesting and very often frustrating, to attend our boys school/music/sporting events. I rarely ever take out a camera and usually take a moment to take my eyes off what they are doing to look around and see what I view as sad parents … looking at their children’s lives through a screen. It’s a sad indictment of our time. There are not a squillion photos of my achievements (or otherwise!!) as a child, but I would never swap that for not having my parents truly present and in the moment with me.

  2. I am one those “sad parents” as you describe.
    I film every one of my son’s soccer games and do sometimes miss out on the live action but often my wife can’t make it to his game because she’s attending the other son’s game.
    I don’t think it’s as black and white as you make out Mel and it seems you haven’t really thought of other reasons why people do it.
    We all enjoy watching the games again later that day and are able to analyse the game so that he can improve and understand the game better.
    I’m not filming their games just so that I have an archive of my children’s achievements. There are many more practical reasons for doing it and I am willing to make the “sacrifice” of “living the moment” for the sake of others.
    My son is just happy that “I am present” at his games “sharing” the moments with him.
    thanks for reading.

    1. J

      That’s a fair point: having a deliberate strategy to incorporate the video into your parenting is a different situation from what I was seeing at the zoo. At least you’ve thought it through, and made the decision.

      For me, the screens can be pretty distracting, and I have to be deliberate in putting them away, or I’ll end up thinking about something completely unrelated, or even drifting back to work.

      1. I understand what you’re saying and I agree totally when you are going on an outing to enjoy the environment. Enjoying what the animal is doing when it is doing it is the reason you go there. Going to the beach and taking photos of the waves is the same kind of thing. You go to the beach to swim and enjoy the water. Something you can’t relive in a photo.

  3. I have to plead guilty. I went to the Aquarium on Friday just to take photos completely by myself with camera. Photography is my hobby and I wanted something else to practise on other then the beautiful scapes and wildlife of the Central Coast. The Aquarium was a bad choice with no flash photography and dim lighting conditions and fast fishies. Seeing the Dugong was great, although I felt sorry that they were in there and not out living free. I should have gone to the zoo hehe…

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