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24-Year-Old Photographer Blazes Creative New Career Path

by Whitney Ricketts
student stories

Self portrait courtesy Zoe Litaker.

Self portrait courtesy Zoe Litaker.

24-year-old Zoe Litaker, a fine art photographer and creativeLIVE student, defines success as “being able to do what you love a majority of the time.” Zoe’s definition is a prime example of the significant shift taking place throughout the American workforce, a change led by millennials. According to a recent study by UBS, 69% of Zoe’s generation define success in terms of emotional and experiential fulfillment.

As a classically-trained artist with a degree in Fine Art from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Zoe graduated fully versed in her craft — but not in the business of her craft. The story of how Zoe has worked to bridge this gap illustrates not only her grit, but also the impressive ingenuity of her generation.

After graduation, Zoe moved to New York City to embark on a career in photography, interning with several photographers and taking classes in her spare time at the prestigious International Center of Photography. Zoe soon realized that, in order to make a living as a photographer, she needed to augment her traditional arts education with real-world business acumen.

Graduation photo courtesy Zoe Litaker.

Graduation photo courtesy Zoe Litaker.

Zoe discovered creativeLIVE approximately five months ago, and has taken a number of business and photography courses, both online and in-studio. Zoe is disarmingly self-aware about her skill set and also about the expectations of the photography industry — and impressively committed to learning everything she possibly can. “I’m exploring my own style and figuring out exactly what kind of voice I want to have,” Zoe says. “This year’s an exploratory year of getting a business set up, figuring a little bit of that out. That’s a huge challenge for me, because I never did a business class.”

Zoe is on a constant quest to learn everything she can about her chosen craft. “There are always new [photography] techniques,” she explains. “I use creativeLIVE to suss out what kind of equipment I think would work the best for me and try to see what other people use in certain situations and think, ‘Well I would rather do this, or I really like the way they do that,’ and incorporate that into my work.’”

Zoe plans to file all legal paperwork and start her business in the next few weeks — and she isn’t alone; according to a 2011 study by Affluence Collaborative, more than 40% of millennials have started a business or expect to do so, outpacing all other generations by 10%.

Zoe hones her skills during a creativeLIVE photography course.

Zoe hones her skills during a creativeLIVE photography course.

Zoe’s plan is to build a business centered around her two favorite forms of photography: fine art and weddings. “As as creative, it’s good to not be doing the same thing all the time,” Zoe says. But her hybrid model is also a fail-proof business model; by spending half the year shooting for well-paying wedding clients, Zoe will be able to spend the winter exhibiting her fine art images. She’s brilliantly planned to fund one passion by marketing another passion.

“The basic thing is I want to be doing what I want to be doing,” Zoe explains. “But the trick is to find a way to also make other people want the thing that I want, and figuring out exactly what that is, and the best way to sell it.”

To see Zoe’s gorgeous photography, check out her wedding portfolio here and her fine art collage portfolio here.

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Whitney Ricketts

Whitney Ricketts is CreativeLive's Senior Communications Manager. Email her at whitney [dot] ricketts [at] creativelive [dot] com.