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This Photographer Made Booboo The Guinea Pig A Phenomenon

Megan van der Elst never expected that adorable photos of her guinea pigs and other cavy pets would create an Internet sensation.

Rebecca Stout
Posted: June 24, 2014, 5:50 p.m. EDT

Booboo the guinea pig on the grass
© Megan van der Elst
This was the first photo Van der Elst took of Booboo.

Meet the newest celebrity in the rodent world, Booboo. Booboo is a beloved guinea pig belonging to Dutch photographer Megan van der Elst. Van der Elst’s stunning and vibrant photos of the little, cream-colored cavy are making quite a stir worldwide. It is quite obvious through these images that Booboo is the apple of her mother’s eye, and people are falling in love with the little piggy in the photos! She can be found on Huffington Post, RedditMashable and others.

Although little Booboo is Van der Elst’s top model, she has also worked with Booboo’s friends. They are his longer-haired, BFF Teddy, who is a Rex piggy and lives with them, and Titi, who lives with Van der Elst’s sister. Titi is a white, shorthaired guinea pig who sports a fashionable black eye patch. But make no mistake; the superstar is the chicory- and carrot-loving Booboo.

Two photos, one shows Teddy the guinea pig wearing glasses and the other shows Titi the guinea pig with a ribbon
© Megan van der Elst
Teddy (wearing glasses) and Titi are two other guinea pigs Van der Elst photographs.

Van der Elst has always loved bunnies and hamsters. But it was love at first sight when she found Booboo. "One day I saw a group of guinea pigs in the pet store, and there was Booboo in the corner of the cage looking like an oversized hamster.” She was surprised at how especially calm and sweet she was when she picked her up. Later Van der Elst went back to the same store to find a friend for her new baby when Teddy caught her eye. Van der Elst said guinea pigs are her favorite pet by far. "They made me want no other rodent. I just love their behavior. Guinea pigs are very cute and funny looking rodents. They make many funny noises when they want a snack or when you pet them, it's just awesome!”

What sets these pet photos apart from others is Van der Elst’s ability to communicate her adoration of her little one with such great warmth and humor. They depict Booboo in a range of natural poses and are often accented with very simple props or backgrounds. Props may be as simple as a tiny, white daisy and backgrounds can be a mere soft, solid color. They are often humorous — one shows Booboo sporting a pair of black-rimmed glasses on her butt! But it’s not what Booboo does in the photos as much as how it is captured. The brilliant use of depth of field in Van der Elst’s photos and the perspective they are taken from are what makes them so sensational.

Given the high level of her art, it is remarkable that Van der Elst just started her hobby five years ago. She bought her first DSLR in 2009 and began taking pictures of nature and still life. Her favorite subject being the ladybugs found in her garden. They are readily available because they are common where she lives in The Netherlands. Lieveheersbeestje means ladybug in Dutch, and that is what she has called both her website and her Deviant Art site where she displays her work. Among portraits of Booboo and friends at these sites, you will find fabulous images of unique bottles, jewelry, sweet desserts she has managed to humanize, and most interestingly tiny box people in action! She says, "I never thought I would like it so much! I started to photograph my pigs in 2011/2012.” Her favorite photo is called "Nom Nom.” It is special to her because it is her first photo of Booboo.

Two photos of Booboo the guinea pig, one as a princess and the other with glasses on her butt
© Megan van der Elst
Booboo's calm personality allows Van der Elst to try posing her with a variety of props during short photo sessions.

Booboo and her friends look remarkably natural and relaxed in the photos. That is partly because the species is a bit laid-back, but it is also because Booboo and Teddy have extremely calm dispositions. However, most of the credit must be given to Van der Elst in that she makes her photo sessions with her pets fun and limits them to a brief five to ten minutes. "When I photograph them on the grass it usually takes longer, because they are so busy with eating grass,” she said. "But there are no complaints from them!”

Van der Elst offers a great tip for people interested in photographing their pets, "Be patient with your pet, that's something very important in my opinion. If you want to practice to improve your photography with, for example, the lighting and composition, try a stuffed animal.”

Fellow photography enthusiasts might find it interesting that Van der Elst uses the following equipment: Canon EOS 500D (camera), Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 lens, and Canon EF 18-55mm lens. The editing programs she uses are Adobe Photoshop CS2 + CS6 and Lightroom 4.3 since 04/2013. Hobbyists have been particularly interested in the Photoshop Actions she has created.

"Photoshop Actions are the recordings of commands that can be applied to one or multiple images in Photoshop,” she said. "When you press play, it applies these recorded commands. Using an action can actually help you save a lot of time.” She shares them on her Deviant Art page.

Van der Elst has been caught off-guard by the sudden publicity and popularity of her photos across the Internet, social media and news sources. "I was so surprised! Suddenly Booboo was all over the place,” Van der Elst said. "It's been a great week with all these features, I love reading all the positive comments on the pictures. Thank you very much!”

Van der Elst would love to do more with her pictures in the future, but has no specific ideas as of yet. No doubt they will come to this imaginative artist. Meanwhile, she will continue posting her pictures on her Deviant Art page and her website for the world to enjoy. And Booboo and her friends will surely be leading the way — glasses on butts or not.

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Posted: June 24, 2014, 5:50 p.m. EDT


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