Photographer Spotlight: Todd Van Fleet

Todd Van Fleet, owner and operator of 303 Photo & Design, knows that connecting with the customer and offering innovative product and workflow solutions are surefire ways to win and retain clients. This “out of the box” professional photographer wowed audiences during the Spotlight Track at ImagingUSA 2009 with his innovative tips and stylized methods.

For his presentation at ImagingUSA he crafted an energetic session with some great pointers, such as building a strong rapport with students by inviting them to the studio before shoots, maximizing the potential of a local Home Depot for interesting backdrops and getting parents and friends involved by having them work as production assistants. Of course, what has attracted us, over at DARKROOM, has been his enthusiasm for Professional Edition. Todd explains, “My average senior portrait sales have tripled in the last two years using DARKROOM in my studio!”

When we interviewed Todd about how he plans his senior portrait sessions, we nabbed some great words of wisdom:

“To start everything out on a good foot, I suggest they visit the studio before the shoot so we have a chance to meet, discuss what outfits to bring, and to get an idea of what they are in for. This way I can find out what the kids are like, get any special backgrounds ready, make a tailored playlists on my iPod, or tell them to bring their own music. We literally have speakers in every working area where I can crank it up.”

“…After the session, I put that same music (…well, the “parent friendly ones”…) in the DARKROOM picture slideshow while they are ranking their favorite photos for album pages and packages. It really helps us re-live the day they were the star of the show.”

About photos that sell the best:

“My most successful images are those that reveal the kids’ personalities. One student came in with just a couple of outfits, not really knowing what to expect. I asked him what he was into which led us to snag the drum set out of his car and quickly set it up in front of a backdrop that I built with corrugated metal from Home Depot. I just put some colored gels on the lights, and blasted some music. Those pictures really captured his spirit. They’re the ones his mom bought the most of!”

When Todd talks about marketing his business:

“Online, we market directly to the kids because they’re the ones seeing what’s new and edgy, deciding what they like. I also created a MySpace page and found a lot of clients through our Seniors Ambassador Program [a referral program for his seniors that give them discounts on future purchases].”

Following a photo session, DARKROOM Professional Edition helps him create a photo catalog of the session, keep track of everything for him, and lets him edit and create special effects quickly:

“When customers watch the slideshow [using Studio Presentation Mode], they often have difficulty narrowing down their picks. DARKROOM offers them the ability to eliminate images by ranking their photos with 1 to 5 stars, 5 being their favorites. Once we go through the ranking process and have a manageable number of images, we can design cool, custom products while they are sitting there.”

303 Photo & Design is a Denver, Colorado based company. Visit them online at

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