The ultimate guide to taking photographs of rhinos

White rhinos had a very close call with extinction a few years ago but conservation efforts have turned it around and they are now classed as near threatened,  that did not come without loss, the last northern white male rhino died recently so the only white rhinos left are the southern white rhinos. Black rhinos and other species of rhino are also under severe threat. I hope this blog inspires you to take a photograph of a rhino.

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The most threatened member of the big 5 is the rhino, the black rhino with around 5 000 individuals left in the wild. An awful myth about their horns improving human sex lives, curing disease, and improving health has led this species down a bloody path and poachers are going to great lengths to secure their horns.  Take a photograph of a rhino, inspire a love for them and start conversations to debunk these myths.

Here is my advice to set you up for the perfect photograph of a rhino

Plan your safari for the winter months, this is tho optimum time to spot them as the plants aren’t as lush and the sun isn’t as oppressing. This is true for most wildlife photography not just to take a photograph of a rhino.

Absolute minimum focus of 300mm lens, this is so that you don’t have to interfere with the animal to get a clear shot.

Take close-ups and contextual photo’s. Rhinos have the most interestingly textured skin, filled with character not to be missed. For the close ups aim for short Depth of Field and high shutter speed with a large aperture. As they are chunky animals they also make fabulous points of interest in a photo too. Their horns make them look like they are posing constantly. They are the plus sized super model of the animal kingdom so wide angle shots are awesome too.

Natural framing is an easy way to improve your photos of these guys because their heads are nice and low to the ground surrounded by long grass often.

Rhinos are more often than not quite solitary animals, and being covered in armor give of the impression of great strength. Keep this in mind when deciding on the temperature of your photos. Leaving lots of open space next to your rhino in your shot can also help to highlight their independent characteristic. Taking their personalities or the mood of the environment into account will definitely improve your photograph of a rhino. Take advantage of their icon status.

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Some behavioral cues of rhinos

– Rhino moms will be more on guard so please do photograph with caution as not to disturb them. Stay far enough away so she doesn’t charge.

– Rhinos don’t have great sight because of where their eyes sit in their heads.When choosing where to stop opt for a distance away from the mother but in a position where she can clearly see you.

– Bonus if she is facing you, you have a better chance of catching light in her eye.

– They are most active in the early morning and in the evening, this is when they do most of their grazing and drinking. They are more likely to be out in the sun at these times too.

– You may catch a rhino taking a mud bath to keep cool, stave off parasites and add a layer of sun protection.

– Rhinos have a symbiotic relationship with a few birds who hang out on their backs and feast on the ticks and other insects.

– They will scrape their feet to mark territory, spread their fecal matter and also urinate. Depending on what you are trying to capture, its nice to be able to time these things, not all photos are meant as wildlife comedy submissions but they end up there.

Female rhinos chase their young away when they come into season, to protect them from courting males.

I hope this article helped prepare you for an awesome rhino photography experience. Remember to take water and sunscreen with you.

If you are looking for an opportunity to photograph a lion or other big cats check out our wildlife and travel photography course.

This is part two of the big 5 series, check out the first blog on how to photograph a lion. To learn more about rhino conservation visit

Happy clicking!

Robyn Green

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Robyn brings with her a serious passion for people and animals alike. She also teaches a workshop called Social Media and the Independent artist. The workshop is aimed at helping freelance photographers, writers and film makers build their online presence.

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