Seibou Traoré

Silhouettes of figures standing in a boat as the moon shines above them, in a photo taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III by Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré.

Portrait photographer Seibou Traoré's story is not just about capturing images, it's about immortalising moments that define our collective history. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm, 1/2500 sec, f/9 and ISO 160. © Seibou Traoré

"What I love most about photography is the ability to freeze time on things that are important in my eyes, so that I can share them with as many people as possible, either to bring about a positive change or to celebrate triumphs," enthuses portrait photographer Seibou Traoré.

The Canon Ambassador started out photographing his friends and now shoots a wide range of people – from footballers and presidents, to beauty pageant royalty. "Many people, at the end of my sessions tell me, 'You made me feel so much better than when I came in', and I really believe that photography offers a form of therapy; it provides such a positive sense of well-being," says Seibou.

Born and raised in Côte d'Ivoire, it was a childhood fascination with animal photography that sparked Seibou's interest in taking photos – something his mother was keen to nurture, buying him his first film camera on his 10th birthday. Initially, his pet dog was his muse, but his focus gradually shifted to chronicling everyday events, including his involvement in school sports, theatre club, and the Red Cross youth section. Political upheaval in Côte d'Ivoire in 2002 led to financial struggles for Seibou's family, compelling the then teenager to monetise his craft. "Instead of giving the photos to my friends, I started selling them to make some pocket money," he recalls. This led to him being able to upgrade his camera. "With this new device, my services began to go beyond the framework of high school. They soon extended to shooting wedding ceremonies every weekend."

A portrait of Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré holding a Canon camera.
Location: Abidjan, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire

Specialist areas: Fashion, portraiture, reportage, commercial, weddings

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R3
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM
A portrait of footballer Didier Drogba holding up a football in his right hand. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II by Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré.

"Everything comes to me once I am in contact with my subject," says Seibou, who has worked extensively with Ivorian former professional footballer Didier Drogba. "I always arrive before the scheduled time and chat with the subject to break the ice. I often explain the intricacies of the equipment, the role of the elements around them, and even the expected result according to the placement of the lights. A good portrait requires mutual trust between myself and the subject – this leads the subject to let their deeper selves appear." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 145mm, 1/100 sec, f/8 and ISO 320. © Seibou Traoré

A portrait of Miss World Africa Olivia Yacé, adorned with gold jewellery and sitting on a chair in front of a golden statue of a ram. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II by Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré.

A portrait of Miss World Africa Olivia Yacé. "I dislike retouching," states Seibou. "I take significant time to calibrate all the lights for a fashion studio portrait, so that my photo has all the shapes, the framing and the elements that I really focus on. How do you highlight emotions? It requires a lot of patience." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 175mm, 1/160 sec, f/8 and ISO 500. © Seibou Traoré

Seibou continued shooting for the Red Cross, but the significant film and developing costs soon encouraged him to make the move to digital, and he bought a Canon EOS 350D. "Thus began a new page in my life," he recalls. "I was able to cover more and more weddings." It was during one of these ceremonies that fate would open a door – renowned Ivorian hairdresser Alain Chapo was styling a bride and wanted to use Seibou's shots in Afrique Fashion, an emerging fashion magazine. "As soon as the editor received the images, she asked to meet because she wanted me to shoot more projects for the magazine," says Seibou, who is entirely self-taught. Not only did this mark his entry into fashion photography, but he also received an invitation to cover the Bastille Day celebrations on 14 July at the French Embassy in Abidjan. This led to Seibou becoming the official photographer for the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, a position he held for more than a decade.

A portrait of a woman sitting on a chair and holding her smiling child. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II by Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré.

"I have photographed important personalities who are no longer of this world, but whose stories during our sessions remain forever etched in my memory," reveals Seibou. "I have a fondness for children in their great innocence, and for old people in their calm and wise observations that reflect an inner peace that is similar to the innocence of children." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 95mm, 1/200 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 160. © Seibou Traoré

Light trails photographed at night using a long exposure. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III by Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré.

Seibou likes to work in many genres. "The basic techniques don't really change," he says. "What changes is the approach. You don't make portraits as you would a reportage photo; you don't make a street photo like a reportage photo. Of course, the equipment used will depend on the type of photography, but what is fundamental is the type of light present in these different genres." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm, 13 sec, f/13 and ISO 100. © Seibou Traoré

Garnering acclaim both nationally and internationally, more doors soon opened for Seibou, leading to him working with iconic figures such as footballer Didier Drogba and Miss World Africa, Olivia Yacé.

Beyond his artistic endeavours, Seibou's legacy is also assured thanks to his influence on young photographers in West Africa, many of whom regard him as a mentor and an inspiration. "My greatest pride is the impact I've had on the lives of many young photographers," he says. "When they tell me, 'Big brother, I became a photographer thanks to you,' that is the greatest achievement. True success is measured by the positive change we bring to the lives of others."

How did your work with footballer Didier Drogba come about?

"We met in 2011 when I was shooting an AIDS campaign for the UN. It was a calendar with 12 celebrities from Côte d'Ivoire, each representing their birth month. Didier was elusive because of his busy schedule and ultimately he had to cancel. I said to myself, 'I'm going to do this shoot.' So I went to his room and, a few minutes later, I found myself face to face with him. He said, 'Brother, I'm sorry but I have to go to the airport, otherwise I'll miss my flight. I have a match at Chelsea tomorrow.' I said, 'Sorry brother, just give me five minutes and that's good.' To my great joy, he replied, 'Five minutes'. I realised what those five minutes meant, in that hotel corridor – no time to move the lights or to ask him to go down to the room planned for the shoot. So we did the shoot right there and then, in less than five minutes. Now I shoot all his campaigns."

You shoot many genres. Which is your favourite?

"Portraiture. It requires a lot of sharing back and forth with the subjects, and the result brings so much happiness to the person being photographed. It's something magical. In fact, it's something that cannot be put into words; it's a very deep and rewarding sensation."

How would you characterise your style?

"My signature style is all about being natural – simplicity is the keyword, and always staying close to reality. It's easy to recognise my photos because in a world where computer graphics and retouching are common, my photos stand out because they are authentic. I only ever use editing software to remove small blemishes here and there. For me, Canon cameras contain everything needed for beautiful photo creation."

One thing I know

Seibou Traoré

"My creative process is based on mastering manual photography. This mastery means I can break the rules for artistic results, because let's not forget: photography is an art. With experience, I know what I want the final result to look like. There is no longer room for chance in my work. I try as much as possible to achieve exactly what is in my mind when I am in front of the subject. This was my biggest frustration at the beginning. I have worked on it throughout my career, and I continue to work on perfecting it, even now."

Instagram: @seiboutraorephotography

Seibou Traoré's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Seibou Traoré's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R3

Perfect for portrait shooters, the EOS R3 powerhouse delivers eye-controlled AF, a standout feature which helps Seibou to intelligently recognise and track subjects as he shoots. "The huge technological advancement in the EOS R System cameras has made a big difference to photographers," he says. "I've fully migrated to the EOS R System because of the speed at which I work and the incredible accuracy it achieves; in short, you shoot what you see."

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

This DSLR offers a powerful combination of speed and precision. Although Seibou now uses his trusted EOS-1D X Mark III as more of a backup, he knows he can always rely on its exceptional low-light capabilities and advanced autofocus.


Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

One of the trinity of essential RF lenses, the RF 24-70mm combines a fast aperture, image stabilisation and a Nano USM motor for silent focusing. "All of my Canon lenses offer exceptional image quality, but this is my favourite," says Seibou. "For someone like me who doesn't like retouching, everything it offers is beneficial."

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

The ultra-compact f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens redefines photography with its 5-stop Image Stabilizer, remarkable close focusing ability and fast autofocus. "I also love the weight, or lack of it," says Seibou. "It is another advantage offered by these lenses and the EOS R System mirrorless cameras."

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

A must for ultra-wide-angle users, this lens, engineered with ultra low dispersion (UD) and aspherical elements, skilfully corrects distortion, ensuring crisp and true-to-life images.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

Seibou teams this lens with his DSLRs as it offers creative control and exceptional image quality. The f/2.8 maximum aperture beautifully blurs backgrounds while keeping subjects sharp, thanks to the 3.5-stop Image Stabilizer.

Canon Extender EF 2x III

Photojournalists as well as sports and nature photographers often have this extender in their kitbag, as it offers higher AF accuracy and improved communication between camera and lens.


Related articles

Canon Ambassador Jaime de Diego

Canon Europe Ambassador Programme

Find out how the ambassador programme works, and meet the phenomenal photographers chosen to represent Canon.

Canon Professional Services

Members get access to CPS Priority Support, both locally and at major events; a priority Fast Track repair service; and — depending on your level of membership — free back-up equipment loans plus return shipping and discounts on maintenance. They can also enjoy exclusive members’ offers.