If you've ever tried to photograph your dog, then you know it's easier said than done. Sometimes Fido wants to run toward the camera while other times he defiantly turns his head away. Monica van der Maden, Kennel Club Dog Photographer of the year, shared tips with Bustle for getting great snaps of your pup, and, according to her, practicing patience is the secret to her success. "The most important thing is to take your time during photo shoots. I never rush my work," she tells Bustle.
"I always ignore the dog at first and only talk to the owner. After 30 minutes or so I can see that the dog is relaxing. When my clients come to me, they are nervous. If the owner is excited and nervous, the dog is the same." Though she has been photographing dogs since she was younger, and has been a professional photographer for the past six years, Van der Maden actually started out as a veterinary assistant.
She says she decided to shift gears because seeing dogs and cats that were sick or injured was too emotional. "I was crying the whole day," she says. Eventually the job became too difficult, and she left.
Troubled that she hadn't taken enough photos of her beloved great dane Noa (for which her The Netherlands-based company MoNoa Photography & Design is named) before she passed away, she enrolled in school to study dog behavior, bought a small camera, and began photographing her dogs for fun.
Learning the behavior of dogs has allowed Van der Maden, who lives and works in The Netherlands, to better anticipate how her pup clients will act during photo shoots. She says she always chooses a quiet environment where her four-legged subjects will not be over-stimulated, and she never uses treats to coax dogs into poses. "The only thing I use during my shooting is, if I am lying on the floor and I want the attention of the dog, I make little soft noises of my mouth," she says.
While she never intended to turn her hobby into a career, when others saw the photos she was taking of her dogs they asked Van der Maden to photograph their dogs as well.
Now as a parent to four pups and a career as a professional pup photographer, she is so busy she can barely keep up, and when you look at the ethereal shots of the dogs on her website, you'll see why. Van der Maden seems to have a unique ability to see into the souls of her canine clients, and her special connection with the dogs is evident in the photos.
This was the first time Van der Maden entered the Kennel Club's contest, and she said when she received the call that she'd been named dog photographer of the year, she tells Bustle almost cried. While she also does portraits, commercial and interior photography, dogs are her first love.
While you might never be the dog whisperer Van der Maden is, if want to take better pictures of your pup, patience, creating a calm environment, and accurately reading your dog's behavior will increase your chances. No matter how you snaps turn out, enjoy the time you get to spend with your fur baby and remember, practice makes perfect.