Take Better Portraits of Animals – The Hothouse

#19 in the Judging a Photograph Series

Taking Better Portraits of Animals on Falcondale Life blog. In the Hothouse or Tropical house make adjustments to the exposure of the camera for dark conditions and to avoid reflections in the glass. Try a monopod. Bearded dragon. Green Lizard.

Last week I mentioned that chicken wire is the bane of my life when it comes to taking animal portraits. I no longer have any pets so it’s zoos and farm parks for me, and they all have wire fences making photos tricky. Things look easier in the Tropical house or Hothouse display where a clear sheet of glass is all that is in the way. There are still some problems to overcome.

  1. It’s very dark
  2. The glass shows reflections and glare
  3. The animals are hiding

Short of chatting up a keeper for a bit of help, I have no clever ideas for dealing with point number 3 above. I did tackle the other problems more successfully.

Dealing with the dark

To deal with the dark, I’ve tried several things which have all worked well.

  1. Turn up the ISO
  2. Open the aperture very wide
  3. Use a monopod

A monopod takes up no more space than a walking stick. It gets mistaken for a walking stick by other people who may offer seats and hold doors for you. It’s happened to me! It’s like one leg of a tripod with adjustable height and the camera screws on top. It steadies the camera and can add up to two stops on an exposure.

Dealing with the glass

To deal with reflections and glare on glass there are a few tricks I try.

  1. Move my feet – try standing in a different position at a sideways angle to the glass
  2. Put up my hood or get someone to hold a jacket up behind my head to cast a shadow
  3. Wait until there is a crowd behind me casting a shadow on the glass
  4. Never use flash

Flash is probably banned anyway. It’s not kind to use it near these hothouse animals.

Taking Better Portraits of Animals on Falcondale Life blog. In the Hothouse or Tropical house make adjustments to the exposure of the camera for dark conditions and to avoid reflections in the glass. Bearded dragon.

I took all these photos on a 100mm macro lens at ISO 500 or 640. The aperture was f2.8 or f3.5. Two are bearded dragons and I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the green lizard. For the first bearded dragon shot I am standing too close and the depth of field is too shallow. The tip of the nose and back of the head is blurry. Next, the green lizard has a distracting background with strong triangles of black and white.

Taking Better Portraits of Animals on Falcondale Life blog. In the Hothouse or Tropical house make adjustments to the exposure of the camera for dark conditions and to avoid reflections in the glass. Green lizard.

Taking Better Portraits of Animals on Falcondale Life blog. In the Hothouse or Tropical house make adjustments to the exposure of the camera for dark conditions and to avoid reflections in the glass. Bearded dragon.

The last bearded dragon photo has worked perfectly just as I wanted, with his (her?) whole head in focus. I entered this shot in a portrait competition but I can’t remember if it got a highly commended or nothing at all. Some judges love animals in portrait competitions, but not all. I was happy with it, anyway!

Once I got the hang of taking photos in a hothouse I started to have fun. Have you had success with this too?

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Photalife

13 Comments

  1. 4th June 2017 / 9:01 pm

    They’re some great tips Janet, thank you. I find sometimes the hot house causes my lens to steam up. Have you ever had that happen? #mysundayphoto

    • 4th June 2017 / 9:15 pm

      I don’t find the reptile area is humid but the butterfly areas are. I just wait for my camera to warm up then the moisture goes. It’s important not to close the lens cap while you wait or you trap moisture inside. Or visit on a warm day then your camera will already be warm.

  2. 29th May 2017 / 5:18 pm

    Hi Janet, some great tips and fan photos to back them up. I do like your last photo the best, the focus on his head is perfect… Something that handsome has to be a he!

    xx

  3. 28th May 2017 / 6:05 pm

    My problem everytime I visit zoos and aquarium is the reflection. Its always on my photos and I really dont know how to handle them. This post is really helpful and would try the tips out =)

    #mysundayphoto

  4. 28th May 2017 / 7:27 am

    I’ve never tried taking photos in a hothouse, but these are great tips. I wondered if the lens might get steamed up, but I guess that’s more in tropical places, like butterfly houses or the Eden Project!

    • 28th May 2017 / 8:07 am

      Yes these dark places with lizards and snakes are not humid so no lens steaming up. Just very dark!

  5. 28th May 2017 / 5:12 am

    Great tips and wonderful photos!

    • 28th May 2017 / 8:09 am

      Thankfully it was! It’s the sideways angle that makes it disappear.

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