Anti 9-to-5 profile: Jamie Pflughoeft

October 11th, 2007

I do a biweekly column called “How’d you land that great job?” for the Seattle Times and its NWjobs employment blog. Usually I have to profile 9-to-5ers, but for this week’s Q&A, my editor let me feature a self-employed pet photographer. The interview was too much fun to keep to myself…

fergiejamieimg.jpgThe job: Like many animal-loving kids, Jamie Pflughoeft grew up with dogs, cats and birds for pets, and she dreamed of working with animals someday. In college, she studied animal behavior while working as a pet sitter and dog walker on the side. Stifled after graduation by a tight job market, she decided in 2003 to turn her hobby — taking photos of her pet-sitting and dog-walking “clients” — into a full-fledged business. Today, as top dog of Cowbelly Pet Photography, she snaps the mugs of hundreds of critters a year, turning many of them into brightly colored, digitally enhanced artwork that she’s dubbed Decopaw.

Q: How did you decide to hang your own shingle as a pet photographer?
A: I studied animal behavior at the University of Washington. My master plan was to start a dog training business. I graduated right after 9/11 and the job market was horrible, people were getting laid off right and left. I was willing to take any full-time job I could get working with animals that wasn’t entry level. I looked for a job for a year but couldn’t find one.

I had been doing pet photography as a hobby since 2000, never once considering that I could make a living at it. I’d been working part-time as a dog walker and a pet sitter for a pet-services company while I was going to school. And it was my clients’ pets that I was photographing — for free. So I had a ready-made model base.

I got really great feedback on the photos I was taking and ended up creating a portfolio just for fun. A friend of mine who was also starting a business suggested that I turn my pet photography hobby into a business, and I thought: What a great idea. You know how in the cartoons a light bulb goes off? It was just like that.

Q: Did you have a full-time workload as a pet photographer right away or did that take time?
A: I started the business in July of 2003. But I’ve only been doing it full time for the past two and a half years. For the first year and a half I was doing dog walking part-time to supplement my income.

Q: Do you have any formal photography training?
A: I took one photography class when I was 17. It was a film class and I did all my own darkroom stuff. I’ve always loved photography and I think I’ve always had an eye for it, but as far as the technical aspects of photography, I’m self-taught.

For this job, my background in working with dogs for six years as a dog walker and pet sitter and studying animal behavior at the university level was essential. I would not have this job now without that experience.

Q: What type of pets do you photograph?
A: Dogs are 85 percent of what I do. Cats are about 15 percent. I also shoot any other pet people want me to. I will shoot an iguana if you want. I’ve done rats and horses, too.

Here’s the rest of the article, which includes Jamie’s recommended game plan and resources for aspiring pet photographers. And here’s Jaime’s pet photography blog.

Entry Filed under: Anti 9-to-5 profiles,Popular articles

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jamie Pflughoeft  |  October 11th, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    This is so funny!

    I started reading your blog last night Michelle, and fell in love with it. Bleary-eyed I had to hang it up, but wanted to return today to inform myself even more with your fascinating bits of storytelling and useful information. It’s so right up my alley I can’t believe I didn’t look at it before! Your blog is so awesome!

    And so I go just now from my blog to yours to make sure I have it bookmarked and there is a picture of me. ‘Huh?” I thought, just having come from my own site. “Why is it orange? Oh- this isn’t my website- it’s Michelle’s!”. Sorry, I’m a little tired…

    And hey- what do you know- you posted your article of me on your blog! Too cool for school. Thanks Michelle! :-)

    Jamie

  • 2. Michelle Goodman  |  October 11th, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    funny girl! you’re very welcome. and thanks for all the nice things you said.

  • 3. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide &ra&hellip  |  October 12th, 2007 at 7:40 am

    [...] Since I’m trotting out all my freelance projects this week and I was just talking about pet photography, I want to introduce you to a journal/book I worked on last summer that Sasquatch Books recently published. It’s called My Puppy’s First Journal, and it features the stunning pet photography of Emily Rieman, proprietress of Best Friend Photography in Seattle. There’s only one way to describe Emily’s work: so freaking gorgeous-adorable it makes you coo and goo and blubber like a baby, which I of course mean in the best possible way. [...]

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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