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INTERVIEW: COWBELLY PET PHOTOGRAPHY

November 18 2009

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Jamie Pflughoeft of Seattle’s Cowbelly Pet Photography shares her words of wisdom, her love of furry friends, and her copious use of contracts in this interview with the Totally Rad Actions‘ Minister of Muggle Relations, Kristen.

We take a long, hard look at Jamie’s choice to give up a studio space to resume running her business from home. Turns out it wasn’t a dollars and cents issue, but a happiness issue. Jamie was never in her space, leaving her assistant to twiddle her thumbs while Pflughoeft worked on location. She often felt guilty about how little she showed up in the office, and about how little she enjoyed the use of auxiliary lighting.

On why she uses natural light: “I wanna show up, take my camera out, take pictures, throw it back in my bag and be done. That’s my idea of preparation.”

And so, after a brief foray into the world of studio photography, Jamie abandoned the world of seamless paper and her fear of dogs peeing on the set forever. Jamie now enjoys shooting with dogs in their homes about one third of the time, and at beaches or other locations for the remaining client sessions. Following the shoot, she conducts in-home ordering sessions with ProSelect software, and the Design Aglow ProSelect plugin.

Jamie also tripled her product pricing in the past year, realizing she had no desire to deal in volume, and coming to the conclusion that her business was not sustainable after years of being constantly, overwhelmingly busy. This year, she’s had fewer clients, but they’re spending much more money, resulting in happier clients and a happier Jamie.

Yes, lots of our talk is about soul-searching, finding what makes you happiest, and creating the business you’ve always wanted.

Our talk also delves into Jamie’s stock photography, image licensing, and commercial work. The Cowbelly founder shares her resources for entering the world of commercial photography. She recommends research. In this case, it means googling the ever-loving hell out of whatever it is you’d like to be shooting. She also recommends finding and reading commercial photography contracts, which she warns look nothing like portrait contracts, and joining the ASMP.

The American Society of Media Photographers is a resource that simply cannot be missed for the emerging commercial photographer. Likewise, their book, Professional Business Practices in Photography, is a must-have. (Think bids, contract terms, invoices, and the like.)

Jamie worked for businesses on small projects and for barter to build her commercial portfolio, tweaking her commercial contract and client list over the course of years.



“If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to draw up a commercial contract for you…do not go into it. It’s just not worth the risk.”

She warns that, while financially rewarding, commercial work requires working well with a team, with setbacks, with miscommunications, and with stress. This isn’t a case of ‘don’t do this,’ but a case of ‘proceed with caution’ for those interested in commercial photography.

Pflughoeft finds herself inspired by Claire Bow‘s work, and by Stephanie Rausser’s portfolio. She often ogles other commercial photographers’ websites, oohing and aahing over light, capturing joyful moments, and asking ‘how did they do that?

It applies to Jamie’s own work, too – how did she do that? Her ability to capture dog’s personalities, smiles, toys, love, and silliness is remarkable. To visit the Cowbelly website, click here. To listen to the audio interview for more informative goodness, click here.  (Click a few minutes into the interview to hear the interview, as we had a timezone conundrum!)

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