Van de Puttelaar was born in Zaandam, The Netherlands. She attended the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 1991 to 1996. She specializes in portrait photography, mostly portraying nudes. She currently lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Like the works of other contemporary Dutch photographers, such as Rineke Dijkstra, Hellen van Meene and Desiree Dolron, her works show influences of Dutch Golden Age painting in their composition, use of light and color, and rendering of textures and surfaces.
To achieve her photographic effects, she utilizes film , but in more recent years also uses digital photography. Most of her works are untitled, enhancing the effect of alienation, while retaining a strong element of eroticism.
Carla van de Puttelaar won several prizes and awards, including the Dutch Prix de Rome. She gained international recognition following exhibitions in New York, Paris and Brussels. Her works have been published as book covers and in magazines like The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 2009, she ranked 51st in the Top-100 of Dutch artists as published by Elseviers Magazine and in 2017, she was a semi-finalist in the Artist of the Year contest of Dutch artists organised by Stichting Kunstweek.