Karim Tibari

A shot of a show jumper taken with a long exposure to create streaks of colour across the image.

Canon Ambassador Karim Tibari specialises in photographing events, sports and portraiture in his home country, Morocco. This image, taken with a long exposure to create blur, was captured at a horse show in the city of El Jadida. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/10 sec, f/4.5 and ISO320. © Karim Tibari

For Canon Ambassador Karim Tibari, photography is more than a craft and a job – it's a lifestyle. And he thrives on that. "For each job, you discover something that you didn't expect," says the Moroccan photographer.

"You're always meeting new people – actors, sportspeople, singers. You travel. That is why I find it more interesting than my first job. As a dental technician, I would spend all day working with teeth."

Born in Rabat, Morocco, Karim lived in Meknes for 10 years before moving to Casablanca, where he now lives. He got his first camera, a gift from his godmother, when he was seven and would shoot pictures in the street. It was at the age of 21, while studying to be a dental technician in France, that he seriously got into photography, thanks to a Swedish friend who taught him technique. "I was studying in Aix-en-Provence, which is such an artistic city with many things to photograph – monuments, old streets," he says. "I bought myself a film camera from Marseille and travelled around France taking many pictures. All my money went on that."

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Karim Tibari.
Location: Casablanca, Morocco

Specialist areas: Events, sports, portraiture

Favourite kit:
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III)
Two yellow aerobatic planes emitting coloured smoke trails, one pink and one blue.

Aerobatic planes leave coloured smoke trails at an air show in Marrakech, Morocco. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 1/2000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO500. © Karim Tibari

Back in Casablanca, Karim opened his own dental laboratory, employing five dental technicians, but continued shooting in his spare time. In 2005, he bought a Canon EOS 50D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 90D) from the US because it wasn't available in Morocco at the time. "My mother was so angry with me – she said, 'Karim, why are you throwing away your money?'" he laughs.

The following year, he took his camera and his new Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens to the Mawazine music festival in Rabat. He posted the images he'd shot there on Flickr and they caught the eye of the event's communications agency, who were so impressed that they got in touch and commissioned him to cover Essaouira's Gnaoua World Music Festival and the Casablanca Festival.

An elderly woman, wearing traditional Moroccan clothing and holding bags of grain, sits on a small wooden stool by the side of the road.

An elderly woman from Morocco's Rif mountains sells organic food products at the side of the road. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO100. © Karim Tibari

As Karim's reputation grew, the assignments came flooding in. The Canon Ambassador has covered the Marrakech International Film Festival and world-renowned golf tournaments. His clients have also included the horse show Salon Du Cheval d'El Jadida and major national business organisations such as the Confédération Générale des Entreprises Du Maroc and L'Autorité Marocaine du Marché des Capitaux. Gradually, Karim downsized his dental laboratory until, in 2016, he closed the business to focus on his photography full-time. Today, the lab is a photo studio where he shoots fashion editorials for magazines, product shots for brands, and corporate portraits.

"At first it was scary because I had always worked every day in my dental laboratory," Karim says. "With photography, it's not every day. After an event you stop for a few days, maybe a week, but then you have another big job after that. But I believed in myself and kept going. I invested in my lenses, my cameras and my accessories, and the clients I worked with were happy."

You shoot cultural, sports and political events. What is the most rewarding to photograph?

"All of them are different, but golf is my favourite. We get up early and work until about 5pm. It's green, the air is pure, and we have a lovely time. I always come home feeling healthy. Music events and film festivals are late in the evening, which is tiring. I love shooting sports and seeing how the player's expression changes when they win or lose. With golf, you have to be careful not to disturb the players in case they miss a hole."

What considerations do you make when shooting in low light at music and film festivals?

"It's important to have a workable ISO, as is the case with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II [now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III], and a good lens because we're often not allowed to use flash. The most difficult events for low light are horse-riding competitions. You need a fast shutter speed and high ISO because the horse is moving."

What is your favourite lens for shooting portraits?

"You can take portraits with many lenses – just not wide angle! The best one is the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, and also the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, because they replicate our human eye's view. I've taken portraits with my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM II [now succeeded by the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM] and it gave me very nice bokeh, but with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM the bokeh is so soft it's magical."

How do you organise yourself when you're shooting a big festival?

"In the mornings, there are sometimes acting workshops during which I'll take environmental portraits, and in the afternoons, there are press interviews with actors. I'll only take my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM or Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM to these. At the red carpet in the evening, I'll bring two cameras, two flashes and a wide-angle lens in case a group of actors comes together. I'll also have a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM with me for portraits of actors on the red carpet. For the ceremonies, I'll bring my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM. If there are actors who don't come too close, I can still get a fantastic portrait with that lens."

One thing I know

Karim Tibari

"In the beginning especially, make sure your work is exactly what the client asks for – beautiful, correct and fast. Sometimes I use a Canon WFT-E9 Wireless File Transmitter with my Canon EOS-1D X Mark II so I can send my clients the pictures straight away. If they receive a good-quality picture fast, they will always ask you to work for them again. Also, be discreet – don't show off. I've worked with many important people whose pictures I would never post on social media, and that's exactly why they want me to work with them."

Karim Tibari's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Karim Tibari's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The successor to the Mark II that Karim favours offers superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. "The Mark II is quieter than the previous model and it has such a fast focus, especially important for the golf and other sports events I cover," says Karim.


Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

With a range of ultra-wide-angle focal lengths in one advanced-quality zoom lens, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM is ideal for shooting everything from landscapes to interiors. "This is a great lens with no distortion," says Karim. "I was covering a business event where there were 100 people who wanted to have their picture taken with the King of Spain and I was the only photographer to get the shot."

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

A contemporary classic, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is favoured by reportage photographers because of its natural perspective and low-light capability. It's a "fantastic lens," says Karim. "So bright, sharp, fast and not too heavy – great for working in the street."

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM gives photographers superlative creative control over depth of field and focusing. Karim says: "Shooting with this lens is great training because you learn to crop with your eyes. I could travel with just this lens."

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

A pro-level short-telephoto lens, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM is designed for low-light shooting and situations where very shallow depth of field is needed. "This is my favourite lens for portraits," says Karim. "The bokeh is magical."

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

With a true macro magnification ratio of 1:1 – meaning the object being photographed in real life appears the same size as on the camera sensor – the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is perfect for close-up shots. Karim says: "This was one of my first lenses. I used to use it to photograph flowers and bees, but now I use it in the studio for product shots of jewellery or perfume."

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM

The successor to Karim's favoured 400mm lens is an ultra-high-performance L-series super-telephoto lens. "I use it to capture musicians on festival stages. You get the best shots from way back. It's a fantastic lens – fast and sharp," says Karim.


Canon Extender EF 2x III

The Canon Extender EF 2x III doubles the focal length of Canon L-series telephoto or telephoto zoom lenses with better AF accuracy. "I mainly use this for photographing birds or wildlife," says Karim. "I also used it to take a portrait of Joe Biden when he came to Morocco a few years ago. In some situations, it gives you an advantage over other photographers."

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

The latest version of the Speedlite 600EX-RT Karim uses is designed for quick frame rate shooting and gives the user ultimate control over their lighting. "I use these in low-light scenarios, on the red carpet at festivals, or for corporate portraits," says Karim.

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