Shooting Through the Fences – Better Zoo Photos

This subject often comes up when I talk about taking pictures at the zoo.  It never fails that someone will ask how I got shots of the animals without the fence in the picture.  The answer is that I didn’t, you just can’t see the fence due to one specific thing I did when selecting my exposure.  Actually it is a couple of things but primarily it has to do with aperture and depth of field.

f/22 @ 1/160 sec 300mm lens

f/5.6 @ 1/1600 sec 300mm lens

You probably already know that using a very large aperture results in a very narrow depth of field, rendering objects behind and in front of your subject out of focus. The key to shooting through a fence is to use as large an aperture setting as possible so that objects such as fences are so blurry, that they are basically invisible.  Of course I said there were a couple of reasons and the other has to do with distance.  Not the distance from you to the subject but the distance of your lens from the fence. When combined with a large aperture and a close proximity to the obstruction, you can get photos that will look like you were standing in the clear with nothing between you and your subject.

Of course this won’t work for every fence or obstruction but you certainly should get some decent results by following these simple rules.

  • Rule 1 – Shoot wide open.
  • Rule 2 – Get your lens as close as possible to the obstruction.
  • Rule 3 – Use a long focal length lens.  Wide angle lenses have a large depth of field making it harder to blur objects in the foreground.
  • Rule 4 – Try to find an open spot so that you getting as little of the fence as possible in the center of the lens.

f/18 @ 1/100 sec 300mm lens

f/5.6 @ 1/800 sec 300mm lens

f/25 @ 1/10 sec 300mm lens

f/5.6 @ 1/320 sec 300mm lens

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