We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Fleming and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
My values begin and end with treating my clients like family. This means honoring the trust they place in me with their time and investment, and taking the time to get to know them – to get to know what makes their story unique and to craft a session that helps tell that story. Sure, this is a business, but if we’re chasing light and making things happen in minute 59, it’s more important to see the shoot though than stress about the time. When a client opens their gallery for the first time, it should be like reading a book only they could have written, rather than just watching themselves ape the latest Pinterest poses. Exceeding expectations is the ground floor for my business.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started out primarily wanting to do newborn photography and I set up a home studio geared toward that. I soon realized that my heart truly lay with with couples and showcasing what makes each of their shared stories unique. Everyone has something in their story – be it how they met, how they are together, something they’ve overcome, something they’re working toward – that is important to affirm, and there’s no excitement for me like bringing that to life in a medium that can be cherished for years to come.
The relationship I build with my clients is what sets me apart from other photographers. When clients book with me, I ask a ton of questions from the outset, and that’s followed up by sitting down in person or hopping on a Zoom call to talk with them until I understand what it is they’re really wanting out of a session. We don’t head out for the shoot until their vision is mine. To that end, it’s so important for me to learn everything I can about them as a couple, because I want to bring as much of that as I can into their experience with me and, ultimately, into their images.
I’m most proud of moving my business forward each year and finally breaking into the wedding world. When I started, I never wanted to shoot weddings because I felt like I would never be good enough. But as my passion for capturing love stories grew and I continued to develop my craft at several workshops and classes, and through second shooting with other photographers, I eventually realized I was good enough to put myself out there. After a few years of referring clients elsewhere for their weddings, my doors are now flung wide open to couples planning the big day! Again, my clients are part of my extended family and I want them to be able to look back on their day in the images and remember every detail – the cool shade of the tree they exchanged vows under, the first touch of their beloved’s hand in theirs, the sweetness of that first bite of cake, and the love and support of the family and friends surrounding them. You can’t ever go back, as they say, but striving to come as close as possible is my work, and seeing clients light up with joy at the results is gasoline in my engine!
I started out taking photos of close family and friends and it just snowballed from there. It has been a lot of hard work and nonstop learning to get to where I am today, and I intend to keep learning and developing. I don’t think that will ever stop. I still see tons of growth from each session that passes.
There have been so many lessons along the way. I feel like I started my business a little backwards because I never imagined coming this far. It was not until this past year that I really figured out my “brand voice” and who my ideal clients are. That makes a tremendous difference in this work. When you find your people – those who value your skill and creativity – it makes everything a million times easier. The images that result from this kind of a partnership are priceless!
The most important thing I want others to know about my brand is that I put everything into my work and I really go above and beyond in getting to know my couples before showing up to their session. It’s not just “taking pictures” for me. It’s the connection I build with each of my clients, and bringing their images to life with all the feels. And I would not love this work as I do without the friendships that grow out of it, being able to care for my clients as family, and being ready for their milestones as they come along!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh man, what a question! Colorado Springs is wild because you’ve got a lot of great places to eat and grab a drink in town, plenty of beautiful parks right inside the city, and then a lifetime of adventure within a few hours’ drive. So, in no particular order, I would try to hit:
– hiking Pikes Peak – Northwest slope all day long! Shorter route, less crowded, stunning. Maybe book a ride on the cog for the return trip? Just drop a car in Manitou so you can get back to your car at the trailhead! (Lesson learned the hard way)
– Garden of the Gods – mammoth slabs of red rock jutting out of the earth, find me a park in another city that can rival that!
– Rocky Mountain National Park – it’s simply my go-to, one chance to hit people with Colorado turned up to eleven, there ya go.
– Great Sand Dunes National Park – underrated, not a bad drive and such a stark landscape. Continue on to Taos, NM for an overnight at The Austing Haus mountain lodge and breakfast at Michael’s Kitchen!
– Leadville – highest incorporated city in North America, tons of mining history, and High Mountain Pies is the best pizza in Colorado. It’s not as touristy as some of the other towns in the High Rockies, and the simplicity is refreshing.
– Skirted Heifer – burgers to die for, downtown COS
– Edelweiss – if you’ve never had German food, this is where to try it. Ask for outdoor seating – the patio is gorgeous!
– Bristol Brewing Company – they literally turned an elementary school into a brewery/restaurant/taproom. Home of a lot of amazing Colorado beers, so for the brewery people out there, this is a mandatory stop.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
After getting pregnant with our first son, I decided to leave my full-time teaching job and be a stay-at-home mom. This created an opportunity to pursue a longtime interest in photography. My mom was instrumental in helping me start this business in more ways than I can count and she continues to be one of my biggest supporters. More than that, hers has always been the example for me of how to double down when challenges arise and will things forth through persistence and patience. There would be no Vintage Violets Photography were it not for her love and guidance.
My headshot: Abby with Santurbane Photography