Three main things I find that have helped me create stronger wildlife photography are patience, practice and anticipating behavior. You work on all three when you have animals in front of your camera.

Get thee to a zoo

Many times I don’t have the subjects which to study and photograph in my neighborhood. A zoo or wildlife park is a target rich environment. There are lots of opportunities in these environments. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to capture “keeper” images. Even animals in captivity give you the chance to learn wildlife photography skills.

Eye contact and/or catch lights

Photographed at the Phoenix Zoo a Hamadryas Baboon makes eye contact. All images made with the Lumix G9 and Leica 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 lens.

Learn to wait for expression, which I feel comes with eye contact. Watching and waiting for that movement takes patience. I’ve photographed the baboon named ‘One’ at the Phoenix Zoo on many occasions. Sometimes spending an hour or more with fruitless results. The image above shows how patience can pay off with ‘One’ in soft light and looking as if he could see into my very being.

Raven at the Phoenix Zoo. Original capture was ‘technically’ overexposed in order to show detail in the dark feathers.

All creatures look more alive with a catch light in the eyes. The smallest movement of the head or a slight change in position in relation to your prey makes the difference. Look for theses small changes when practicing to be aware when you get to the wild.

Sequence of Raven images with small changes in the bird’s head position. In the final photo (above) a slight move to the left removed a branch covering the subject

Credit your images properly

Please do not represent your captive animal images as being taken in the wild. Images made in a zoo, animal park or game farm should be labeled as such. Note that each image was credited to the Phoenix Zoo.

Share with me

Share some of your efforts with me if you get a chance (whether made captive or wild) on our Flickr group or in the comments below. If you have some tips on learning wildlife photography you would like me to share, I’d love to hear them!

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

PS — Check here to find some of my tips on outdoor photography