Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Gretzky created his own style of play with passion and hard work and he knew how to find the shot and take it without hesitation, similar to great photographers. You can reach this level too with the quick reacting timing technique, or QRT, which also allows you to develop your photographic style if you haven’t found it yet or if you’ve lost that touch.

Quick Reaction Timing Technique

When you practice the quick reaction timing technique at the zoo, you can find some interesting shots.

Even great photographers can lose their touch, but good photographers can get better if they hone their shooting skills when it comes to their eye-mind-hand coordination. The goal is to improve the cohesion of the eye, mind, and hand to improve your photographic skills and to condition your mind when to press the shutter release button at an exact moment of time. You can also use the quick reaction timing technique to help you learn to see the light especially if you practice this at the zoo. Yes the zoo.

Pre-Visualize and Prepare

The day prior to your shooting day, pack your camera bag. Make sure you have plenty of digital cards, fresh batteries, lenses, a flash or reflector, and then get a good night’s rest. As you fall asleep, “pre-visualize” what you might expect, the reflection of the flamingo in the water, the polar bears bathing, the monkeys climbing trees, the lions roar, etc., or fall asleep to the television on the Animal Plant channel. The idea is to exercise your creative mind the night before with fresh thoughts for the next day.

The zoo is a place where interesting subjects do interesting things. Make sure you take a little cash to quench your thirst and hunger and perhaps to buy food for the animals as they make interesting subjects when they eat. Plan to arrive early, right when they open, call ahead and get their hours. This is the best time as the animals are hungry, usually more active, and if it’s a cool morning, they will find the sunshine to warm up and this helps you see the slivers of light.

Zoo Flamingo Photo

Whether it’s animals or birds, they usually either look for shade or sun.

Once at the zoo, spend a few minutes to observe the different subjects while you get a lay of the land. Make mental notes of the critters that capture your emotions, they are the ones that will make for your best subjects. After you study the animals, go back to those subjects that caught your eye. If it helps, carry a small note pad and develop an itinerary of where you want to shoot for the day or for future reference for your next visit. Focus on one region at a time, this saves on your feet and legs.

The second step is to shoot images — don’t worry about how much time you spend with each subject, if you run out time, you can always come back and find those same subjects again. The majority of the zoo inhabitants aren’t leaving.


Set your frame of mind to find the right moment to press the shutter. Study your subjects, try and predict their next move. Critique yourself. Did I get the shot? Remember, you can chimp even at the zoo. If you photograph the chimps, you’ll discover where “chimping” originated.

Study the animals and their environment, look at how they play with one another. Watch and be prepared for when the zookeeper feeds the animals. Animals act funny when they play and eat. When things start to happen, don’t hesitate — snap that shutter and now stop chimping because this can interrupt the process. The quick reaction timing technique is designed to help you eliminate shooting hesitation.

While you’re roaming the zoo, keep an eye out for children or people doing their own interesting acts. If you photograph people you don’t know, ask permission first. I cannot stress that especially in the world we live in today. If you’re not comfortable photographing people, stick with the animals.

It’s About Confidence

The quick reaction timing technique at the zoo provides a “practice bed” to hone your confidence and shooting skills. In all photography, knowing when to press the shutter is critical. Shooting with a digital camera gives instant feedback, and if you’re accustomed to the accuracy of your LCD preview screen on our camera, you’ll even know if your exposures are correct, thus it helps you improve as you can judge your photos on the spot.

In essence, practice the quick reaction timing technique so it will instill confidence for when to press the shutter and to develop your knowledge for proper exposure under different lighting conditions. Most important, it will fine-tune your photography style as you gain confidence in your photographic equipment.

Download Your Images

After your day at the zoo, download your images to our computer and review them immediately. It’s easier to capitalize on your own mental notes the sooner you view your images. This step of QRT is a “self-critique” that also helps build your confidence. You will quickly learn what you did right or wrong. Your future shoots will call on your sub-conscience and the quick reaction timing technique will make those calls faster and more effective.

Zoo Photos Birds Animals

Make the day of it, look around, look for leading lines, look for interesting subjects, the zoo is always filled with character.

The quick reaction timing technique sharpens your skills as it fine-tunes your thoughts to create better images. QRT helps you discipline your photography to an art. Your images become photographs admired by others.

Remember that the quick reaction timing technique produces great photographs over time, however, your success in photography with QRT is based on your commitment to yourself and your photography — the more you put into QRT, the more it shows in your photographs.

While there are many methods to sharpen your photographic skills, the quick reaction timing technique improves your ability to see and feel so your results are photographs not shoe-box pictures. Most great photos are the ones not taken because of hesitation and Gretzky said it best, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Don’t hesitate.

Rolando Gomez is a professional photographer and author of five photography books that has traveled to 45 countries for assignments. The former soldier and U.S. Army combat photographer has taught hundreds of photography workshops for almost two decades. A 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top Writer for Quora, his partial credits include Newsweek, Parade, Playboy, Rangefinder, Maxim, Rangefinder, New York Times, Stars & Stripes, and various other publications.
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