Shooting animals through glass

November 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

More often these days zoos and animals preserves are placing their animals in glass enclosures. There are several reasons for this, not the least is spectator and animal safety. There have been notable cases of people throwing things through bars, or even jumping over bars into the animal enclosure. Some facilities have opted to place wire mesh along with bars around the animal enclosure, but this can make it more difficult to actually see the animal.

Glass, or heavy plastic materials, do make it more difficult if one wants to photograph the animal. Images make show light reflections, may look washed out (see left above) and may generally unappealing. There are ways around this using a few techniques on site and post production in Lightroom. 

During the actual shoot:

  • Try to shoot without a lightsource directly behind you (this will limit reflections), particularly if you are indoors. If outdoors, try to shoot early in the morning or later in the afternoon without strong sunlight. Shooting on a cloudy day can also work well. Special note- The animal may also be more active during early morning and later in the afternoon.
  • Make sure that you have a protective filter on your lens and try to shoot as close to the glass as possible, even touching the glass with the lens if possible. This will reduce light flare and reflections from the glass.
  • Of course, do not use flash on or off of the camera.
  • Try to find a "clean" section of the glass to shoot through.

Post Production:

The following applies to lightroom, but of course similar adjustments can be made in Photoshop if you prefer.  

  • Shooting through glass will often cause you to loose blacks in your image.  In lightroom, Moving the black slider to the left will almost instantly show improvement in your image. In photoshop, the easiest and quickest way to achieve the same effect is using a levels adjustment layer. Move the slider on the left side of the histogram to the right and you will see an improvement.
  • In the case of the Lion, I moved down to the HSL panel in lightroom. I added saturation to the yellow and oranges. Once again in photoshop, the "Hue/saturation" adjustment level can be used to accomplish the same purpose.
  • I added some vibrance (+20), contrast (+15), and clarity (+15) to this image, I also reduced the brightness of the image slightly and opened up the shadows (+25), all within lightroom.  The degree with each of these adjustments will vary with the image itself.

Although it can be difficult to get a perfect image inside a glass enclosure, you can produce something close with a little through during the shoot and a little post production magic once you come home.

I had also posted in the past a similar technique for obtaining a cityscape from your hotel room in the blog post  From your hotel room which also contains a link to a short Youtube video.


Bob Barford is a published photographer based in Southern PA.






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