How to snap (photograph) skinks?

I regularly see small skinks basking on the edge of walking paths when I’m out and about. I’ve tried many times to get pictures of them, but most of the time they end up scampering into the tangle of vegetation before I can get a photo. Any tips for getting pics of these fast little buggers? I’d like to avoid handling them or otherwise disturbing them as much as possible.

I’ve rarely photo’d a skink that wasn’t dead or in hand. They’re just too wary and too good at using cover when they flee. Best I can recommend is you keep a good distance and watch as one forages. If it isn’t too alarmed it just might pose for a second. If you know where one hides you could stake out that spot.

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I wonder if you use a phone camera. You could try a selfie stick and the timer.

I use a telephoto lens for most of the skink photos I take.

Generally, keeping your distance, watching their body language, and not making any sudden moves is the key.

I’ve gotten good ones even with a smartphone though, but that generally involves moving slowly and being a bit lucky.

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Remember that cropping can make a picture look like more of a close-up than it really is. I photographed this Azure-tailed Skink while it was down in the grass and I was standing at my full height. It ran off a second later, so I was unable to get close, but by viewing the picture at full size on Paint, I was able to find the skink in it and crop out everything else. Without doing that, it would just have looked like a picture of grass and people commenting, “Where’s the skink?”

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@fubberpish I have made 46 observations of Ablepharus kitaibelii (European Copper Skink) and I hide behind bushes or leaves and stay at an angle where I can see the skink but it can’t see me. This has worked very well for me. But I am also very good at catching lizards using my hands and I often catch them (carefully without hurting the lizard) and take them to a place were I can take photos of it then I take it back to were I found it and release it there and I make sure there are no birds or cats nearby before releasing it. However you said you don’t want to handle the lizard so I recommend you to not move a muscle and stay at least 2 meters away and zoom in on your camera or phone. That way most of the time the skink doesn’t move a muscle and stares back at you until you move then it runs away very fast. Hopefully this helped.

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not sure what kind of skinks you’re dealing with, but the skinks in my area seem to tend to stay in a relatively small area, meaning that even if they scamper away, if you wait long enough at a safe distance (maybe 2-3 meters away), they’ll often come back out, and then you can take a photo with your camera that has a little bit of zoom capability.

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Thanks for your tips everyone!!

Ah, the skink. Truly one of the Ontario (Canada) naturalists’ dream observations.

Only one specimen observed (just last year), and not that far from me. It’s this province’s only native lizard species (the five-lined) and as you’ve probably guessed, endangered.

This might explain why, when Canadian naturalists have a chance to visit places where lizards are common, they get pretty excited when they see any in the wild.

But, as to your question, I think most of the suggestions made make pretty good sense for such elusive, fleet-footed observation targets.

And I’d be really interested to hear which methods suggested work best for you because I am working on a kind of homebrew system that I would love to be able to test on something like this.

I recently purchased a little 4K borescope camera that has the resolution to capture something like this, but the problem will be figuring out how to get close enough without tripping the alarm as the unit has a very limited zoom ability. But I’m hoping I’ll soon have something worked out.

Nothing makes you appreciate the sensitivity of wild animal senses more than trying to get a photo of them, right?

Anyhow, good luck. The only thing I might add is to perhaps see if your camera has a good high speed burst mode, or 4K video high speed option. But even then, looking for a useable video frame if you do close enough will be a real challenge for anything as swift as these creatures.

Good luck!

Is that mostly to avoid triggering the tail-drop defense? Which, I presume, is a significant enough sacrifice to the animal to weaken its survival odds.

In the case of the species we have locally, it’s a protected, endangered species. I would presume that attempting to handle it, even for observation, would be considered illegal.

Also, do you think that setting up a ‘feeder’ is even doable for skinks? Could that work?

Mostly I just want to limit unnecessary stress to the skink. The tail-drop is not something I had considered, but now that you bring it up, that is a concern too.

My camera does have a burst mode, so that will come in handy. Decent zoom too, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to get an IDable pic from a distance.

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