Here’s something I learnt very quickly during my zoo visits in the US: wildlife photography is really hard!
Taking a photo of an animal isn’t particularly difficult. Throw a long lens on your camera, open up the aperture to its maximum (if you’re going to be placing the lens against a cage so you blur the cage out) and snap a photo. But if you want to take a great photo of an animal, say in a very special moment, it becomes significantly more difficult.
Getting that special moment where an animal does something is all a matter of timing. It is all about pressing the shutter at a very specific time to capture the exact moment you’re looking for. While shooting a burst of five consecutive shots may help, you might find that the exact moment lies in between the shots you’ve taken, further adding to the frustration.
I think one of the most important things to have when doing wildlife photography is patience. You need to be willing to stand there for hours on end until you get that perfect shot. While this might not be particularly feasible for tourists visiting a zoo, wildlife photographers would find this fairly normal.
Another thing that can help is if you actually understand animal behaviour. While I do not consider myself to be an expert on animal psychology, I found that knowing a little bit about the animals helped me prepare for the shot. Observation has a lot to do with it and can get you quite far.
I gained a lot of respect for wildlife photographers during my trip. Getting those perfect shots is really hard and getting really close is even harder. I managed to get a few shots that I’m proud of (the below is one of them), considering I’m using a kit lens and a mid-range camera.