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This is a new role that we are introducing for 2024.

Photographers help us capture so many magical moments that otherwise might go unseen. They take photos of the humans of the Zoo – guests seeing animals, interacting with volunteers or staff, riding the train or enjoying an event. Photos are used for social media posts, website design, advertisements and volunteer trainings.

“I love meeting so many happy people and getting to capture that moment for them and the Zoo.”

Jonathan, HVZ Photographer


  • Take photos of humans interacting with animals and other humans at HVZ events
  • When appropriate during your shift, introduce yourself as the HVZ Photographer
  • Mix of candid and posed shots
  • Wear HVZ Photographer identification badge
  • Assist guests who would like a copy of their photo
  • Communicate with HVZ staff regarding photo needs/wants
  • Upload photos to a shared drive for easy access by HVZ staff
Volunteering For All

Photographers take a very physically active role. It is possible that Photographer will traverse the entire Zoo several times in one shift. Many events take place after hours during times of low light. Zoo Lights, specifically, takes place in the after hours during the winter when most work is outside and temperatures are low. Photographers talk with all manner of guest, volunteer and staff, and are confident in their role.

Requirements & Skills
  • 18+, OR 16+ with recommendation from a school counselor, teacher or community leader
  • Owns a working digital camera that can upload photos to a drive
  • Access to a photo drive (Google, DropBox, etc.)
  • Able to move consistently for 2-3hrs at a time
  • Able to comfortably navigate crowded spaces
  • English level of intermediate and above
  • Knowledge of basic photo composition techniques
  • Comfortable taking well-lit, clear photos without depending on photo editing technology
  • Able to confidently take candid photos of people and groups
  • Able to introduce self and ask for posed shots
  • Able to exude a sense of positivity and calm to help people feel comfortable with being photographed

Time Commitment

This role can be one-time with the opportunity to earn Accepted status.

Individuals may apply for a photographer role for any event. There is no minimum. Shifts for any photographer role tend to be somewhere between 1.5 to 3hrs.

Those who volunteer as a photographer at least 4 times during the year can earn “Accepted” status. This gives the volunteer access to:

  • Online scheduling. Allowing first access to any future photography opportunities.
  • Online & in-person trainings ranging from basic volunteer duties to animal welfare and conservation action
  • Full access to San Diego Zoo’s Wildlife Alliance course library
  • Discounts at our Glacier Grille, Cup & Cone, and Gift Shoppe
  • Earn a Zoo membership that can be kept or gifted to a friend


All of these trainings are available as refreshers at any point upon request. Optional trainings allow you to try out other roles as shifts become available. They do not add to your minimum requirements (i.e. training in on another role doesn’t require you to add another set of weekly shifts). Training spots are limited; however, we will schedule more throughout the summer as interest and time allows.

  • Online
    • HVZ Photographer Training (60min)
  • Optional
    • Henry the Lion/Handler – (Must be at least 14+) – Learn how to tell a story, don the lion/handler costume and get practice in costume on grounds
    • Train/Carousel – (Must be at least 18+) – Basic ride operation, safety protocols and guest training
    • Goat Yard – (Must be at least 10-13 w/ parent/guardian, or 14+) – Learn to open & close, operate and educate at the goat yard
    • Empathy/Interpretation – (Must be at least 10-13 w/ parent/guardian, or 14+) – ZOOM – Learn basic docent skills & practice empathy language. This training in particular will NOT allow you to pick up Wildlife Champion shifts. However, it will provide you with valuable interpretation and empathy-building skills that are useful in a variety of roles.
    • Gate Greeter – (Must be at least 10-13 w/ parent/guardian, or 14+) – Take a small tour of the Zoo going over important buildings, entries and guest protocol.

Weather Policy

As with Event volunteering, we will be in touch regarding inclement weather plans in the week leading up to the date.

Photographers should be prepared to work in any kind of weather, (ex. high winds, light precipitation and cold/hot temperatures).

In the event of truly inclement weather, we will cancel or postpone an event. When signing up for an event with a back-up date, Photographers must sign up for both dates.