Luke - Studio Session

Luke is a big ol' puppy with paws as large as my hands. I'm guessing he'll be a 90-pounder or so? When he came into the studio, I had to document all of his puppy goodness. I figured I'd give it a go with some video! As most of you know, I've really been playing around with video and trying to learn everything I can. This was a new experience in and of itself. Shot inside with only available lighting, I quickly realized I'll need to invest in some continuous video lighting if I want to replicate the look of the still images in the studio. Either way, we had a ton of fun and we ended up with a super-cute promo video. I especially love the end...

Pet Portrait Studio from Sarah McGraw on Vimeo.

And I'm sure you'd like to see a closer look of Luke's still images. I adore this big baby!Cute Pet Studio Images in Charlotte NCFun Studio Dog PortraitsStudio Pet Photographer in Southern USModern Studio Pet PhotographyCharlotte NC Pet PhotographyCharlotte NC Pet PhotographerStudio Pet Portraits Charlotte NC

Thanks so much for coming along on this fun session!

Shelby - Moving Pet Portrait

April 23rd was the ideal Spring day - birds chirping, 70-something degree weather, flowers blooming, and not a cloud in the sky. I inhaled the fresh air flowing through my screen door while I felt the warmth of the sun as it broke through the dancing leaves outside my window. With all of the beauty and light surrounding me, it was hard to imagine that something as dark and as ugly as cancer lingered in the shadows, ready to pounce at any innocent victim walking by. This time, that despicable cancer had gotten its grubby hands on the dog I was filming that very evening. Shelby is a lovely mixed-breed pup that has recently been diagnosed with cancer. After undergoing numerous tests (including a biopsy close to her lungs), her parents and their oncologist decided to move forward with chemo and radiation. In fact, her first round of radiation was scheduled the the morning after our session.

That Spring evening, on the drive to Shelby's home, the pressure to perform began to build. Although Shelby only lived a couple miles away, the short trip seemed to take hours. I couldn't get there fast enough. The storyline and shot-list I made days earlier played over and over in my head. Voices were also saying, "don't mess this up...this is so important...don't mess this up." Don't get me wrong, I do this for every session. This was just amplified x 100!

After ringing on the doorbell, I could hear Shelby barking inside. Her oh-so-nice mom greeted me and invited me in to meet my special model. (Oh, did I mention Shelby's mom is one of the most fabulous wedding and boudoir photographers ever? Yeah, check out Critsey Rowe Photography when you get the chance. Again, no added pressure on a photographer like me. Ha!) Anyway, because Shelby's parents are photographers, Shelby knew what my camera was. This wasn't necessarily an advantage. Actually she would prefer the camera to stay out of her face for a change. However, with a little treat motivation, Shelby warmed up to the whole this-is-about-you idea pretty quickly. Awesome!

Before we really began to film, we had to go through wardrobe. Because of Shelby's biopsy, her back was shaved and she was sporting an interesting 'do. She doesn't usually dress up, but for this special occasion, she decided to go with a nice little pink frock. Super girly. Now we were ready!

Adrenaline took over at that point and Shelby's parents probably thought I was a crazy woman. I had them do things over and over and, just like in any movie, it's not necessarily shot in an order that makes sense. When nerves or pressure crept in, I would refer back to my shoot-list to make sure I didn't forget any important elements to the story. After a few hours of filming, it was a wrap! I said my goodbyes and wished Shelby the very best luck for her upcoming radiation session. She then settled in for a peaceful nap.

When Shelby's Moving Pet Portrait was complete, I didn't release it right away. Again, insecurities overwhelmed me. I knew parts weren't perfect - I mean, I'm still learning. I had a lunch date with Shelby's mom in a couple days and I wanted to make sure she was happy with the video before it went public. May 5th was the day. Noon. At Dish in Plaza Midwood. Press play. She cried. I cried. All was well..including Shelby.

Since first meeting Shelby, she has undergone a few radiation sessions. According to her mom, she is feeling much better and seems much happier. I have no doubt she will continue to improve! I know all of the wonderful positivity and good vibes she's been receiving over the past few days are sure to help as well.

So if you've read this mini-novel, I'm sure you're ready to meet the famous Shelby. I introduce this special lady and her wonderful mom and dad...

Shelby - Moving Pet Portrait from Sarah McGraw on Vimeo.

And here is the YouTube link in case the above video won't display on your viewing device:

Here are a few stills from after our filming. This first image shows Shelby's shaved back and markings for her radiation...

Charlotte NC Pet PhotographyAnd of course her darling face...Charlotte NC Pet PhotographerCharlotte NC Animal PortraitsThank you to everyone that has shown Shelby love and support. It's amazing what positive energy can do to change a situation for the better. We love you Shelby! xx!

Becks, Ellie & Sienna

I've very excited to share my latest Moving Pet Portrait of Becks, Ellie, and Sienna... This footage was shot back at the end of September for a fabulous pet photographer from Atlanta, Leesia Teh. She, her husband, and her three pups made the 4-hour trip up to Cornelius (where I was living at the time) just so I could shoot this video. I was very nervous as Leesia was one of the first photographers I learned of after I started my pet photography business. I really wanted to impress - even though I was still very much a newbie at the whole video thing. With all the pressure I put on myself, I was so embarrassed when they had to come to our apartment! We had sold our house, was waiting for an updated closing date on our new place and we were living among stacks of boxes. So much for first impressions! Ha!

That aside, we lucked out with an absolutely gorgeous sunny afternoon to shoot with. We hopped over to a huge abandoned field where the dogs could safely be off-leash (there's no Photoshopping out leashes in video!). I had a shoot-list written down that I generally went by. However, these dogs were so good and had so many tricks up their paws that I kinda threw the shoot-list out. Becks, Ellie and Sienna totally blew me away! They were seriously a dream!

Just over 3 months later, I finally have Leesia's video complete. Yes, she knew it would take a while - I had to move my house, my studio, and get through the Fall/Christmas season. I certainly hope the wait was worth it!!! I think this Moving Pet Portrait capture these dogs (and parents) in a way stills can't.

I hope you enjoy!!!

Becks, Ellie & Sienna - Moving Pet Portrait from Sarah McGraw on Vimeo.

Technical info: Shot with a Canon 5D Mark III, 35mm f/1.2, 50mm f/1.4. Supports: Handheld, tripod, and Fig-Rig. Editing: iMovie (although I hope to upgrade to Final Cut before the next one). Song: Little Red Bike by Mindy Gledhill licensed through Triple Scoop Music.

Moving Pet PortraitCharlotte NC Pet PhotographerCharlotte NC Dog PhotographerCharlotte NC Pet Photography

5 Tips for Better Pet Pictures

I was recently asked to do a live segment on the Charlotte Today show to share some tips and tricks for taking better pictures of your pet. I was super excited because it is so important to have great images of your pet even if hiring a professional isn't in the budget. If this is something that interests you, check out the segment for more info...

First of all, I want to thank Charlotte Today for having me on the show. I did a pre-taped segment last year (the one they used to introduce me) and I was unbelievably nervous (as you could tell by my tied tongue). So of course I was even more nervous to find out I would be on live television!!! What!?! Freak Out! As I walked into the studio, I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest. I thought I might have a heart attack. Then things quickly got better.

The staff at the show were seriously amazing. They were warm and welcoming, so sweet, and more than attentive - even with being short-staffed by 3 people. They made me feel right at home with their help, direction, compliments, and so on and so on. My nerves seemed to melt away! I had to take a minute to myself and take it all in. I'm so grateful that I was allowed to be on the show and I really appreciate everyone (and of course all of the pets) that have helped me get to where I am in my business. It has been a very long and hard road but I keep walking it everyday. Thank you! <3

Now back to business! :)

Just to recap the show, here are the 5 tips that will hopefully help you take better pictures of your pet... :)

1. Use Natural Light/Turn off Your Flash

Natural light is your best friend when it comes to pet photography. Flash can scare your pet or, even worse, give your pup or kitty those freaky glowing eyes. Try placing your pet near a window or go outdoors during the golden hours - the hour right around sunrise or sunset. Golden hour light is nice and low in the sky with a warm, even tone.

2. Get Down on Their Level

Be prepared to get a little dirty. Lol! Try something different and lay down, squat, or sit in front of your pet. It will give a whole new look to the image!

3. Shoot Tight/Middle/Wide

You can get three different shots without needing your pet to move! Sweet! Shoot tight - a headshot - then either move back or widen your lens. Then shoot a mid shot - include the body and some of the background. Then move back or widen your lens again. Now you can include quite a bit of the background for a nice artistic image.

4. Use Treats, Toys, or People to get Your Pup's Attention

Hold a treat or toy right above your lens to get your pet to look right at the camera. You can also hold it out to the side or have someone walk over to where you want your dog's gaze to go. Funny noises work great too! Don't forget to reward your pet if he/she does what you want!

5. Know Your Camera!

Try reading the manual and play around with those weird looking settings. Try using AV, TV, and M modes. AV mode means aperture-priority. Aperture controls the depth-of-field so you can get the eyes in focus while blurring the background. TV mode is shutter-priority mode which is great for controlling action. M is manual which means you control it all! Experiment and see what changing the numbers does!

The Bonus tip is to be patient and have fun!!!! Learning photography can be tough and frustrating but it is sooooo worth it in the end! I hope these tips help!

And many, many thanks again to Charlotte Today for inviting me to the show. You guys rock! I also want to thank my family, friends, and Facebook fans for all of the sweet messages, emails, and texts that I got after the show. You made me feel like I should be on TV! Haha! ;)


Bark For Life Charlotte Caught on Video

While taking pictures of the 2013 Bark For Life Charlotte event, I decided to turn my camera over to video and try my hand at a little event videography. Well, props to those people because that isn't easy! I had a shoot list all written out ahead of time and I pretty much had to abandon that right away. Despite the video not coming together as I imagined, I'm still really happy with it and I got to capture some of the cuteness that went on that day. I hope you enjoy!

If you want to see pictures from the event, don't miss the post about the event HERE.

All the technical goodness: Shot with a Canon 5D Mark 3 and 35mm f/1.4 lens (maybe a couple shots with the 50mm f/1.4). Edited with iMovie. Music rights purchased from Triple Scoop Music.

Puppy Love's Hard to Ignore

I've been wanting to make a promo video for McGraw Photography for years. I'm such a control freak that I've wanted to do it myself even though I have no idea how to shoot video, much less edit it. Well, that's where Creative Live comes in. Creative Live is an online classroom for photographers, videographers, designers, etc. If watched live, their classes are free. You also have the option to purchase each class so you can refer back to it over and over.

When I've watched Creative Live in the past, I mostly tuned in to watch classes on photography. Well that all changed when I decided to watch Rob and Vanessa's course on video fusion - a mix of stills and video. That class really got me thinking that it would be possible to make a video for myself. However, I was also put in the mindset that, "oh, I don't have that equipment, I don't just want to do slideshows, etc."

Fortunately, Creative Live came to the rescue again when I watched Hailey Bartholomew and Sue Bryce's course on show reels. Those fabulous women showed me that I didn't need a ton of fancy equipment and the shooting was WAY more my style (especially with dogs that may be a little hard to direct). I was completely inspired and decided to pick up my camera and play around!

Now keep in mind this is my very first video. I was by myself (which can be difficult with a dog) and I only used my 5D Mark III, my 35mm lens and the strap around my neck. I eventually want to get a Fig Rig for smoother movement but I need to make sure I would use it enough (or convince my husband I would)! Anyway, I hope you enjoy my happy girl, Sadie, playing with me in the backyard...

I am truly inspired now and I can't wait to make a "real" promo video for my business!

Puppy kisses!

***EDIT*** I just wanted to touch on a couple things people have had questions on! :) This was shot on manual exposure with manual focusing. I forgot to manually set my white balance - oops! - so it was on auto. The video was edited with iMovie. Oh, and the song is I Adore by Mindy Gledhill and it was licensed from Triple Scoop Music. I think that's it! :)