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Meet Jamie Piper of Cowbelly Photography in Normal Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Piper.

Jamie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
From 2000-2003 I was attending school at the University of Washington, majoring in psychology with an animal behavior emphasis. My area of focus was canines, and I did research studies at off-leash dog parks, worked as a dog walker and pet sitter, volunteered at a friend’s dog daycare, and was generally surrounded by dogs seven days a week.

Along with a lifelong love of animals, I’ve always had a passion for artistic and creative pursuits, so during my time at the UW I started capturing the hilarious, cute, adorable furry mugs around me, using my old film camera from a high school darkroom class.

I graduated into a terrible economy and couldn’t find a job for many months, so my friend suggested I turn my pet photography hobby into a business. I wasn’t sure that it was even a business until I Googled it and found the photographers who ended up being my inspiration- Kim Levin, Jim Dratfield, Kendra Luck, and Sharon Montrose. I was incredibly excited to see that others were making a living doing pet photography.

In the spring of 2003, I took a business class, registered a domain name, got some cheap business cards, and got my business license. A few months later I was up and running serving paying clients, and the rest as they say is history.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Photography as a career is incredibly challenging. Twice in my fourteen years in business I’ve hit burnout, and seriously considered quitting, the first time just two years into the business.

The equipment needed to create quality images is expensive, professional products are expensive, creating a quality product is time-consuming, and since I started there has been increasingly downward pressure on pricing, and an unreasonable expectation of how quickly things should be done.

With the advancements in technology, the industry has also become impossibly competitive, so that adds to the pressure to try and get clients, make money and survive.

I think I can speak for most professional photographers in saying that there is a feeling of euphoria every time an email inquiry from a new potential client drops into your inbox.

Cowbelly Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I spent twelve years serving a combination of private, commercial and editorial clients, and since the spring of 2015 my focus has been exclusively on commercial and editorial clients.

I do shoots for ad agencies, branding firms, design agencies, client-direct, and magazines. The agency clients are usually national or international pet brands.

They hire me to create images for marketing, packaging (the photos that go on the packages themselves), advertising, internal use, and social media. I also occasionally get contracted to create displays for veterinary hospitals and corporate lobbies.

My clients always hire me for the same thing- authentic, engaging and dynamic photos of animals. My work is unconventional compared to traditional commercial animal photography, and that’s always what my clients want when they hire me- something different.

85% of the animals I shoot are dogs; 15% are cats. I’ve never done a commercial shoot for any other kind of animal, but would love to.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
In 2015 I did a six-day shoot for Pedigree in and around San Francisco, and I think my proudest moment of my career was seeing the final images after I finished the post-processing work. I’ve never been prouder of any body of work before or since then. It was 1,000+ images of the most authentically ‘me’ work I’ve ever done. I hope to do many many more shoots like that in the future.

Second proudest moment was seeing one of my favorite images from that shoot end up on a huge billboard!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Copyright Jamie Piper. All Rights Reserved.

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