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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 Photography
And of course her darling face…
Charlotte NC Pet Photographer
Charlotte NC Animal Portraits
Thank 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!

Jackie P - You did it again! Soooo very beautiful Sarah, my darn eyes water up! Best wishes for restored health to pretty Shelby!

A Personal Story for Mother’s Day » Critsey Rowe Wedding Photography | Charlotte | New York | Chicago | Charleston - […] Sarah wrote a really sweet blog post about Shelby and her shoot. See it HERE. […]

Thomas Geist - Sarah, you did great! The video is wonderful and exceeded all our expectations. Mine were high because I heard so much great things about you ;)

Many say photographers are just as bad subjects as doctors are patients … I guess I am an exception here – when being the subject I enjoy leaving the “photographer” behind.
You made this very easy and luckily I was only an extra here.

Thank you again for giving us such a treasure and for doing an exceptionally great job!

Shelby’s dad

Beth - I am so glad that Shelby is doing well! This is such a cute video!

Caryn Capps - I cried, still crying. Shelby is lovely, and I know her parents will always treasure these memories of her, whatever the outcome.

I remember when you dropped everything and made a same day beeline for my house, so I could have memories of my beloved boy Jack as the hours were counting down till I lost him to the wretched beast called cancer just a day and a half later.
1 year, 10 months, 1 week and one day… and I can still see those images clear as day thanks to you.

I firmly believe that when I am very old, and may have forgotten the names of all those faces I loved, I will still see those images of my beloved boy Jack. You don’t just take photographs, you give life long memories!

Jeni - Sarah, I’ve been following your work for some time and always think you are an amazing pet photographer….but my dear, I have to retract that…. You are an Awesome, Amazing, Outstanding photographer!!! This is beautiful!

Brittani Croft - What an amazing video…I was crying in the first 15 seconds. Absolutely beautiful.

Missy and Dailey

Before I start on the cuteness overload you’re about to see of Missy and Dailey, I have to give a big shout out to their parents. Long-time followers of mine, they were all over everything for their session. Mom read all through the Welcome Package and did everything in the “How to Prepare” section and even had an appreciation for the lighting the day of the session (we had to reschedule once because of the threat of rain). Can I say dream client? Just wanted to put that out there because I don’t do it often enough. My clients (human and 4-legged) are amazing. :)

Now on to their super-adorable babies, Missy and Dailey. Although they greeted me with a couple barks, once I stepped in their home and they smelled treats, they were all mine. :) Even Dailey (who tends to be a little more shy) was following me around within seconds. I had a feeling they were going to be great models. I introduce the pups in front of the camera for this pet portrait session…drum roll please….Dailey (left) and Missy (right)…

Cute Dog Portraits
I instantly fell in love with Dailey. He may have a little head – no, really, he’s tiny – but he’s got the smarts of a young child. There’s a lot going on behind those eyes. He’s one of the most intelligent pups I’ve ever met.
Charlotte NC Pet Photography
Missy wasn’t a dummy either. She’d do anything for a treat. :)
Contemporary Pet Photographer in Charlotte
Contemporary Animal Portraits
The best part was seeing the two of these pups together. They are professional head-tilters part-time. 
Local Dog Photographer
And full-time crazy playmates!
Dog Portrait Photographer in North Carolina
Playing Dog Pictures
Fun Pet Photography
And of course to-die-for models. :)
Toy Poodle Photographer in Charlotte
Charlotte NC Dog Photographer
Doxie Photographer in Charlotte
I squeal every time I see an image of these two together!!!
Modern Images for Posh Pets
Toward the end of our session, we made a quick trip down to the neighborhood creek. Most of the tall grass and flowers had been cut that afternoon but we managed to find some pretty goodness to pose in.
Charlotte NC Dog Portraits
Charlotte NC Pet Portraits
These two, man. Gotta love ‘em! :)
Pet Portrait Photographer in North Carolina


Woody has been on my radar since November when we had several sessions get rescheduled due to rain. As excited as I was to photograph him, I totally understood when his dad decided to wait until the Spring to try our shoot for the ump-teenth time. As sad as we were to have missed the last of the Fall colors, this Spring session exploded with vibrancy! It was perfect!

Woody’s dad wanted a cool, urban vibe and NoDa was the place to be! Woody was a rockstar as he posed throughout the area (as well as attracting a ton of attention)…

Charlotte NC Pet Photographer
Because what cool guy doesn’t pose on a keg??
Charlotte NC Dog Photography
Woody’s dad loves fish so we were stoked to find this cool mural!
North Carolina Dog Portraits
Mini Bull Terrier Portrait
This was when I discovered the power of the tennis ball. It’s Woody’s kryptonite.
Modern Pet Photography
Hehe…I love that the dog in the mural is checking us out…
Charlotte NC Dog Photographer
Woody got a little overstimulated with all of the action going on around NoDa so we snuck away to a secret little place I had scouted earlier. It’s in the process of being demo’ed but it lasted long enough to serve as the perfect background for this chill guy.
On-Location Dog Portrait Session
Skateboarders have taken over this abandoned area and have created their own little skate park. It’s complete with pipes, ledges, ramps, and, of course, graffiti. (Sorry if I didn’t get the skateboard lingo correct.) ;)
Charlotte NC Pet Photography
Bull Terrier on Graffiti
Isn’t it funny how something so “ugly” can be so perfect?!
Charlotte NC Bull Terrier Photo Shoot
On-Location Pet Portrait Session
Bull Terrier Running with Ball
North Carolina Animal Photographer
I just had to include this last image because it gave me a good chuckle. :)
Bull Terrier Running with Ball

Thanks, Woody, for being such a fabulous model and for making my vision a reality! You are seriously one of the coolest dogs out there! :)

Kaylee Greer - Sarah – these are GORGEOUS! Even in an all concrete environment, you were still somehow able to inject that particular trademark ‘McGraw Photography’-ness to this shoot – complete with the gorgeous yellow backlighting! I absolutely adore Woody and this awesome session location! The ‘from above’ portrait of him sitting on the graffiti ground is my FAVORITE!! :) As always, beautiful work!

admin - Thank you, Kaylee! Woody made my job easy! He was a real camera ham and he really made my vision come to life! :)

Gertie – Studio Session

Who doesn’t love a Frenchie? Seriously. If you are one of the few that don’t, perhaps Gertie here will help change your mind.

Gertie is just a pup…9 months old to be exact. And trust me, she had the energy to prove her puppiness (yeah, I made up a word). She had me on my toes! She was here and there and everywhere and I loved every minute of it! Check out this pretty Blue Fawn Pied funny face during her studio session…

Charlotte NC Dog Photography
This face is too much…
Frenchie Portrait on Seamless Background
Now when I say that Gertie loves balls. I mean LOVES balls – any size, color, texture, whatever!! Here are some examples to prove my point:

Number 1: The Jolly Ball

French Bulldog playing in-studio
North Carolina Pet photographer
Frenchie playing with Jolly Ball
North Carolina Dog photographer
Number 2: Red Bouncy Ball
Modern Studio Pet Portraits
Charlotte NC Pet Photographer
Number 3 (and to show you that size and color don’t matter): Basketball
Modern Studio Dog Portraits
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I may have given you the impression that Gertie doesn’t have a serious side. However, she does. See?
Charlotte NC Dog Photographer
Studio Pet Photography
Charlotte NC Pet Photography
And one last goofy one for kicks…
Fun modern studio Pet photography
If you love Gertie, let me know! She’s going to have an on-location session in June and we’re going swimming!!! Yippee!!!

Charlotte Reeves - Ooooh my goodness how hilariously adorable is this pup! You must have had an absolute ball with her Sarah. Loving your studio work!

Angela - We had so much fun with you Sarah! Gertie says “Hello!”
Thanks for a great day and these fabulous pictures!

Gertie (again) » McGraw Photography Blog - […] of you may recognize Miss Gertie from her super-adorable studio session a couple months ago. Her mom just knew she also wanted to capture her silly lady on-location at her […]