Missy Maher is an amazing photographer that we’ve had the pleasure of teaching! She has taken a number of courses with us at GTA including, Photo 101, Photo 201, Lightroom 101, Photoshop 101, Portraiture 101, Studio Lighting and Night Photography. Through her work and passion for animals, she is soon to become, if she isn’t already, one of Toronto’s best pet photographers!
1) When & how did you fall in love with photography?
I recall being very young, maybe 9 or 10 years old when I received my first camera. It was a Christmas present from my parents; a neon pink Kodak 110 film camera that required those cute little square flashcubes to produce flash and were literally useless after one press of the shutter. I took photos of everything; my brother, my dog, a tree, a bird, my toys, and I think I still have a set of prints from one recess in grade 6 of my friends getting up and close and personal. I will eternally possess a macro view of “Sandra’s nostrils”.
My dad was in the military my entire childhood and we relocated often. I think taking photos was my way of keeping the memories of each “life” close to me. As I grew older, the photos began to take on more meaning and become more purposeful. Even so, there was always an underlying desire to capture my experiences so that I would have the opportunity to look back at them and re-experience the moment.
2) How would you define your photography style?
Currently I am in the experimentation phase. There are certain styles that I prefer over others (i.e. candid) and am often inspired by the work of other photographers but I haven’t really determined yet what my style is.
3) Do you now own a photography business or freelance?
Ask anyone I know to tell you how much I love dogs and they will probably sigh or roll their eyes, all while grinning a little. I love to pet them, I love to snuggle them, I love to read about them, I love to talk about them, I love to teach them, I love to swim with them, and I even love to greet strange ones on the street or in the park. My mom often jokes about the time we were in Paris, France and it took us almost an hour to walk a kilometer in one of the most beautiful cities in the world because I had to stop and say “Hi” to every dog that passed us. I simply can’t get enough of those cute little nuggets. Sometimes I wonder why my first clever word wasn’t “Puppy”! (It was “hoser”, in case you were wondering).
About one year ago, I started taking lessons at GTA Photography”. My friends and family also went along for the ride as I barraged them with hundreds of photos on a regular basis as I learned new techniques. Not long after my first few classes a friend of mine commented, “You should sell these, they are really good!” In the following months I created “Missy Maher Photography”. After just one year I have had the opportunity to photograph bridal showers, birthdays, babies, real estate and DOGS; lots of them! I have met and photographed two litters of seven squirrely weeks-old border collies, some very distinguished geriatric gentleman, a goofy and very rambunctious 100 lb giant, rescue pups up for adoption, and of course, my own two extraordinary fur kids. I have also participated as a photographer for dog-related fundraisers and an obedience trial. On some days I just head to the dog park and start snapping!
4) What was your most memorable photoshoot?
The story behind the most memorable photoshoot is sad but also very touching. My model was a Bulldog, old and very sick, surrendered by his owner at a time when he needed them the most. Fortunately, he was adopted by one of the sweetest and most dedicated dog-lovers I have had the opportunity to meet. This lady gives all of herself to her dogs, and that sweet squishy-faced Bulldog was no exception. She contacted me to set up a session because she was afraid he didn’t have much time left. The poor pup was on a cancer treatment program that made him very fatigued, and caused him to pant and drool a LOT! In fact, he drooled so much that he soaked a hole through the paper backdrop. Despite all that he was going through, he was still a happy boy and he demonstrated that with bum wiggles and huge sloppy kisses. I once asked the owner to just act naturally in front of the camera and sit with him how she would at home. I think for a time she forgot I was there. There was a very brief moment when I dropped the camera from my face and in watching them interact realized how much she adored that chunky little dude and that she would not have him for much longer. It was only a few weeks later that he passed away. I am truly honored to have been able to give her something to cherish. There are not enough kind words in the English language that can express the gratitude I feel for the people in this world that give all of themselves, without prejudice, to animals in need.
5) What is your favourite piece of gear?
My favourite piece of photography equipment is the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 wide angle lens. Although I do not own one….YET!……I am always blown away by the images I am able to capture with it. It does a fantastic job of capturing expanse in landscape photography and opens up tiny indoor spaces but what it I love most about it is the feeling it creates when you snap a shot of a furry critter up close and personal. It almost feels like you can reach out and “boop” their cute little noses. And sometimes, when get in really close; the lens distortion just makes them look kinda goofy!!
6) What’s your next photography purchase?
A 16-35mm f2.8 wide angle lens. Like you didn’t know.
7) What advice would you give to amateur photographers?
Practice!! And most importantly, don’t worry about what equipment you have, master the technical aspects first and borrow or rent camera gear as often as you can. Once you have determined your style and the subject matter you prefer, those will dictate what gear best suits your purpose. A good camera does not a good photographer make. Also, don’t let anyone discourage you from post-processing (i.e. Photoshop). It is part of the artistic process and in art, there are NO RULES!
8) What workshops/courses have been your favourite and why?
My favourite class was the introduction to Lightroom. I don’t think my photos would be the same without my knowledge of that program.
9) Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell us…
- What is your favourite dessert? Ice cream cake
- Where’s your dream vacation destination? An overwater bungalow in Tahiti
- What’s your favourite movie? Thirteen
- What you would do if you won the lottery? Step 1. Purchase a ridiculous amount of land; Step 2. Build numerous housing structures suitable for animals of all shapes and sizes; Step 3. Hire staff to assist with tending to land, buildings, and building residents; Step 4. Adopt as many animals as would fit comfortably on said land; Step 5. Enjoy!
- What’s your favourite holiday? Any holiday that allows me to spend quality time with my family is always a bonus. Although I am not involved in traditional religious practices, Christmas is probably the most celebrated in my family and therefore is typically when the majority of family is together in one place. As a child I had 6 grandparents, 19 aunts and uncles, and 19 first cousins and now that I am in my 30’s my cousins are having babies. There are 10 more little ones under the age of 8, with another one on the way. It can be chaotic but it mostly just a really fun party!!!
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