How to Take Amazing Monkey Pictures in Costa Rica

By: Genna Marie

how to take amazing monkey photos in costa ricaMonkey Photo Tip #1: Ditch your iPhone 

I do NOT recommend taking monkey photos with your iPhone. I mean, technically you could succeed – but unless you’re Jane Goodall you probably won’t be able to get close enough to these creatures to nab a phenomenal iPhone photo. Tip number one is to ditch your iPhone and pick up a DSLR camera.

Monkey Photo Tip #2: Listen & Pay Attention

how to take a monkey photo

Socrates monkey, pondering life’s meaningful questions.

Follow the monkey troop around for a few days. Try to predict their patterns. Walk around town listening for their unmistakable howling. Figure out where they like to go, where they like to hang out and when. Monkeys are one of the most difficult animals to photograph, not because they are elusive – but because they like to chill out very high above the ground in very backlit trees. If you pay attention to their habits, you’re more likely to find them each day and you up your chances of getting that perfect shot. And maybe they’ll become more accustomed to your presence, and therefore less likely to poop on your head.

Monkey Photo Tip #3: Try for Sunrise and Sunset

how to photograph a monkey with your iphone

White faced monkey at the Four Seasons Papagayo

The light is simply superior at sunrise and sunset. Not only is it less harsh, but it’ll be easier to get a good photo at these hours because the animals tend to be more active.

Monkey Photo Tip #4: Find A Good Location

how to photograph monkeysMost of these monkey photographs in this blog were taken in an apartment complex here in Tamarindo, rather than in the jungle. If you look closely, you’ll see the backlight is blocked in most of them thanks to fairly tall buildings in the background. So rather than having pure sun and sky behind the monkeys, there is a pink building. This makes the monkey much easier to photograph.

Monkey Photo Tip #5: Play Tarzan & Try To Get On Their Level

how to take pictures of monkeysAdmittedly, I’ve never succeeded in getting in a tree to photograph a monkey. I’m not much of a climber, and I’ve never found a spot where I could climb up and be on roughly the same level as the monkeys. If I did, I could eliminate the backlight problem by shooting directly at or down  at the monkeys, rather than up at them with the bright, bright sky behind.

Monkey Tip #6: Shoot with a Wide Aperture

Shoot on Aperture Priority with a wide aperture – at least f2.8. Set your ISO to 400 or 800 depending on how dark it is. Then tweak accordingly.

Monkey Tip #7: Try Using Flash

Flash can help you overpower the bright background, since – unless you are Tarzan – you probably couldn’t succeed with tip #5. Play around with it and see if it improves your photos.

Monkey Tip #8: Composition

how to take a monkey picture

Follow the rule of thirds. Try to leave some negative space, or leave a place for your monkey to look.

And finally, my last tip for photographing monkeys…*drumroll, please*…

Monkey Tip #9: Crop Out The Monkey Balls

how to take awesome monkey photos in costa ricaNobody wants to look at monkey balls. They’re huge! Unless you’re showing these photos off as a conversation piece or shooting for National Geographic, do yourself a favor and try to avoid the balls. If you can’t avoid them entirely, consider using a program like Photoshop or Lightroom and try to minimize or delete these gaudy man-parts.


Photo Credits:

Photos by Genna Marie at Tamarindo Family Photos. 

Blog Photography in the Tropics

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