Central Florida Zoo: A great Central Florida Photo Location…Guide & Photo Tips

Hi there,
For years I have used the internet to plan for my photo excursions. I would type in “photo tips for Bryce Canyon” and off I’d go!   Well, now comes the time for me to “Pay it Forward” and start putting some info out there for others to use. This will be my first attempt…

Central Florida doesn’t have a world class public zoo…frankly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Busch Gardens have a lot more to see than the Central Florida Zoo. However, there are a lot of solid photo opportunities at this little zoo and the crowds (and ticket prices) are a lot more reasonable. The compactness of this zoo is what makes it unique and great for photographers.  The exhibits for the Mountain Lion and Leopard for example, might not be the huge enclosures you would see at state-of-the-art zoos, but for a photographer, it means you can shoot from 20 feet away or less and get some killer shots.

photo of Mountain Lion at Central Florida Zoo  Central Florida photo locations guide photo tips

With a 300mm lens at 15 ‘ you can see the whiskers on this tabby!

Photo Tips for my fellow Photographers:

  •  Most of the big cats and a lot of the other critters are in cages that have a kind of supersized chicken wire enclosing them. The challenge you will have is shooting thru the wire.  After a bit of experimentation, here is what will help:
    •  Only shoot thru the wire that is in the shade…if it is illuminated by the sun, it will be impossible to hide in your shot
    • Shoot with your widest aperture (this will put the wire out of focus)
    • Wait for the animal to be as far away from the wire as possible (this will also ensure the wire is out of focus)
    • Be patient…your subject won’t necessarily be in the primo spot for your photo the first time you check..

Now, I’d be the first to admit that I HATE snakes, but the little serpentarium they have here is a great photo op.  Check this out:

Photo of Copperhead at Central Florida Zoo Photo tips
If it wasn’t for a quarter inch of glass, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to get this close to a copperhead…even with a long lens.
  • You can put your lens right up against the glass and although it is dimly lit, the snakes don’t move a lot (if at all), so you can get some shots that you would never consider if you saw these guys in the wild.
    • Use your quickest lens (I used my 105mm Nikon Macro at 2.8)
    • You might have to set your ISA up a bit, but I was able to shoot at 200

The Zoo also recently added an otter exhibit.  That little guy didn’t cooperate much with me the morning I was there but I did manage to get a couple decent shots:

Photo of Otter at Central Florida Zoo  Photo tips

Some last thoughts:

  • Arrive early…the zoo opens at 9am and the animals are a lot livelier before the place gets busy.
  • If you are coming during Central Florida’s summer (say the five months from May thru Sept), it will be hot…sunscreen, a hat and some comfortable clothes will make your day more pleasant.
  •  Here is a link for directions, etc:   www.centralfloridazoo.org/
  • All in all, this a a great Central Florida Photo location.

So…there is my first post!  I hope you find this guide and the photo tips helpful.  Next week I’m going to check out the wildflower fields near Lake Jessup…more to come on that.


The Amur Leopard is as breathtaking as it is rare.





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