Heart-warming Moment: Sabrina Theden – Dog Photography Awards Dogs & People Category Winner
In the universe of emotions, where paws meet palms and unconditional love finds its frame, there exists a photograph that paints a thousand tales. This year’s triumphant moment in the Dogs & People category of the esteemed Dog Photography Awards isn’t just an image; it’s an ode to the silent conversations, the shared warmth, and the unbreakable bond that weaves humans and dogs into a tapestry of affection. Join us as we unravel the narrative behind this winning tableau, a fusion of fur and friendship that speaks a language known only to those who’ve held a canine heart in their hands.
How did you get into dog photography?
I think this is the most common answer among us pet or dog photographers. It all started with my first own dog Kenzy. She came into my life rather unplanned. I photographed a little bit as a hobby before, mostly friends, family, some free portrait and couple sessions. But now I had this cute puppy with me all the time and I wanted to capture as many photos as a could while she was little. I also had a blog and Instagram account in another niche before and was already in the social media game. So starting a dog account with all the cute (but not very good) puppy photos was quite obvious for me. The more time I spent in this petfluencer and dog photography bubble and seeing all these beautiful pictures made me want to be able to capture such amazing photos too. That was when I started taking more and more photos, watching thousands of YouTube videos, entering a membership for emerging dog photographers and learning, learning, learning. All on the side because I was still in university studying a whole different subject. My free time was completely committed for my dog and learning photography. One Year later after I finished my studies, I went full-time with my pet photography business and so far it is going great! It was the best decision I made.
You were awarded Dog Photographer of the Year for your work « Unconditional Love », a heart-warming photo of a Border Collie and it’s owner. How did you create this image?
I still can’t believe this happened. I just entered to see how far my photos could get, so thank you! The photo was created in a railway museum after a rather uninspired and exhausting summer season full of client shoots and I wanted to create something different and something kind of magical – I had another harry potter phase like every year. 😀 That’s how I got the idea of asking the railway museum if we’re allowed to take photos of our dogs and us there, after searching for new matching locations for Harry Potter themed shoots. I asked one of my best friends who is also photographing dogs and we went there together, took photos of each other, and were just creating. It was a lot of fun and even created a special shooting day for clients in the end. Two of my clients traveled 5 hours from the south of Germany and spent the whole weekend up here in NRW just to get Harry Potter and nostalgic railway photos like this one. That was huge for me.
What is your most unforgettable memory of this project?
I guess this is a rather personal answer, but we should talk more about these things. I have a chronic gut illness that got very bad in the beginning of 2022 and held me back from nearly everything I wanted to do outside my own home. To go out I needed medication and couldn’t eat that day and at best the day before too. So going out was a big challenge for me, needed a lot of planning ahead and was connected to a lot of stress every single time. Driving for an hour to that location was a lot for me then and I was in a really bad place mentally after that summer season. The only thing that kept me pushing through all of it was my dog and the urge to create through photography. And especially that day I had a panic attack when I wanted to drive off to pick up my friend and her dog. I got back out of the front seat, got my dog out of the car, and let her give me one of her rather rare cuddles which calmed me down enough to make it to the location. This photo reminds me that even if I think I can’t do something, actually I CAN (even got a tattoo of these 2 words after editing the photos of that day) and that my dog and photography literally saved my life during that time of my life and still does in darker episodes. It gave me the chance to get better and better. Long and personal story, but that day was the one I realized that and now it is forever captured in that photo. I really hope all the people struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, chronic illness, or depression find a passion and/or a dog or pet that helps them keep going because the lighter days will come back.
What was the most challenging aspect you encountered with this project?
Personally, I guess the panic attack as I already answered. Technically the really small amount and flat light we had inside the museum was challenging. It needed some work to be shaped in a flattering way during the editing process. But also, the quite dirty train and ground needed a lot of nerve-wracking retouching in post. But it was a lot of fun to create and edit outside my comfort zone which is mainly pretty woods during golden hour. I learned a lot with trying new techniques.
What does winning the award mean to you?
I had many doubts about being good enough to build a sustainable business as a pet photographer and was stuck in another depressing episode when I got the mail. For me, it was like a sign to keep going. To follow my path, dreams, my passion and to never give up. Following your gut and your excitement is always the best idea and will create the most amazing photos and memories. You don’t need to put yourself in a box and do what everyone else is doing, trying new things can be the best thing to do. Also, the feedback that I actually seem to be good in what I do, gave me back some self-confidence. So, thank you a lot!
Are you working on any new projects?
Well, I don’t think there will be a time when my brain isn’t having a hundred new ideas and things I want to try. 😀 My health was and is demanding a lot of time and energy why I can’t do as much as I want to, but this year my first two tours through northern and southern Germany with a rented van and my own converted micro camper were the biggest projects and a big success for me so far. Personally and business wise. Upcoming projects are new online courses/trainings for pets & people photography and self-portraits with your dog, the first personal coaching, and building my own van to be able to travel to all the beautiful places and photograph dogs and their owners there! I lost my heart to dog and people photography, there is so much beauty in the connection and interaction. So some bigger but very exciting plans.
More about Sabrina Theden: www.sabrinatheden-fotografie.de