Emily and Ben are huge animal lovers, and for their Bronx Zoo wedding I wanted to capture the humanity of these animals in a set of portraits. Check out my portraits and get some Bronx Zoo photo tips as I take a walk on the wild side in today’s blog.
There is an adage in showbiz: never work with kids or animals. While I am a fan of the unpredictability of children, animals at the zoo pose a much greater challenge. No one takes direction well when you are behind a glass enclosure. Since I knew that time would be tight on the day Emily and Ben’s wedding, I decided to come to the zoo one week prior to the event to take a series of animal portraits. And it is a good thing I did, because on the wedding day the animals — and crowds — were less than cooperative.
If your wedding will be held at the Bronx Zoo, there are a few details you should know. While the zoo will be closed for your actual ceremony and reception (the zoo officially closes to the public in the summer at 5:00 p.m.), the public will still be on the grounds if you plan to take portraits prior. The Bronx zoo is kind enough to provide a golf cart and driver to transport you and your photographer from location to location, but tourists are still enjoying the exhibits at the same time. And if you are getting married on a Saturday — the busiest day of the week for the zoo — then expect high-volume crowds. This means the golf cart will take longer to get from point A to point B, and you will have to wait longer (if it is even possible) to get a clear spot for a photo. Furthermore, if you are all squeamish about having strangers gawk and yell out, ‘Congratulations!,’ then you have selected the wrong venue. Essentially the bride and groom become part of the zoo exhibits. Note that scheduling portraits after the crowds have gone is not an option because the animals are put up for the night at 5:00 p.m. And if you are at the zoo, you might as well have some animals in the photos, no? With these details in mind, here are my top Bronx Zoo photo tips.
Shoot ahead of time. I will have more details about Emily and Ben’s Bronx Zoo wedding in my next blog, but in short, their portraits turned out superb. Time was at a premium, and we ended up shooting in less locations than previously planned. Also, the time it takes to wait for a gorilla to look into the camera just wasn’t there. And thus, I am so pleased I took these portraits ahead of time. If you are shooting a wedding at the Bronx zoo, and your clients care at all about including photos of the animals in their album, then plan to take photos ahead of time. You may get lucky on the day of the wedding with the perfect shot, but the time it takes for two giraffes to cross their necks at just the right point will keep you from getting to the ceremony on time.
Patience and a long lens. Photos of animals, as with kids, requires patience. For each of these animal photos I used a long lens — my 70–200 mm with a 400 mm extension tube — and simply sat and waited for the perfect shot. Don’t bother with flash; your light will reflect off the glass enclosures and end up blinding the animals as well as your fellow visitors.
Summer heat equals slow animals. It was hot on the day I visited the zoo, and if it was uncomfortable for me, you can just imagine what it was like for any fur-covered life form. As a result, none of the animals were moving much during my visit. Most of the animals at the zoo are nocturnal, so this means they sleep all day. Be prepared for less than exciting photos during the heat of mid afternoon.
Timing is everything. The earliest you can arrive at the zoo is 10:00 a.m. and I have found that naptime for the animals was already starting at that point. The animals did perk up during feeding time (don’t we all?), so I would recommend you plan your visit near the end of the day. The gorillas were fed at 1:45 p.m., and I suspect other animals are fed at a similar time.
Final tips. Remember that the Bronx zoo covers a large area, so be prepared to walk. There is a shuttle, but even with the shuttle the exhibits are spaced far apart. Drink lots of water, and please, do not tap on the glass. Don’t be that annoying tourist.
If you would like to see more images for my portfolio, then please visit my website — www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com