Sarah Ellen Vitel ’16 graduated from Stephens with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Communication.
Sarah talked with Stephens about her journey toward building her own photography business in Atlanta, Georgia.
“After graduation, my goal was to move somewhere warmer than the Chicago-land area, where I grew up. I looked into L.A. and Dallas because they have large fashion companies, but I also visited a friend in Atlanta during that time. I decided to apply for some jobs there, too, and I got one!
“Atlanta is an amazing city for entrepreneurs. It’s growing and it's known as the Hollywood of the South because of the presence the film industry has here. When I moved to Atlanta, I figured it was a good starter city to gain some experience, but it has proven to be a wonderful environment to grow a creative business.”
Tell us about Sarah Vitel Photography.
“I’m a brand and lifestyle photographer. My work is bright and vibrant. Most of my photography work consists of branding, product and events. I also just recently launched videography packages and local workshops.
“During my senior year of college I had my first paying clients. Fast forward to June of 2017 I moved to Atlanta and landed a job as marketing coordinator for Chuck Wolf of Wolf Camera. I worked for Chuck for one year while networking and taking on several photography clients. I then landed a new job as marketing director for Anju Jewelry.
“It was during this time I discovered a local organization called ATL Girl Gang. It’s a social/networking group of women entrepreneurs. Joining and becoming involved in this group was an integral part of building my business. I met so many wonderful like-minded business owners and through referrals, my photography business slowly grew.
“After working for Anju Jewelry and taking on as many photography clients as I could for a year and a half, I finally became overwhelmed and got to my burn-out/breaking point. I was thankful for the opportunities that were present, but was also exhausted working both jobs and HAD to make a change.
“In June of 2019 I decided to take a leap of faith, stepped down from my marketing role at Anju, and officially started working for myself, full-time! Sarah Vitel Photography is now an LLC and I operate out of both my home and photo studio.
"I’ve completed includes projects for brands like Lyft, High Museum of Art, The Ellis Hotel, ATL Girl Gang and for reality T.V. stars Lindsie Chrisley (Chrisley Knows Best) and Kail Lowry (Teen Mom).”
We saw some of your amazing photos from your trip to India. Tell us about that trip!
“At the end of February 2019, I went to India with Anju Jewelry to capture photo and video of their artisans. Anju is a wholesale jewelry brand focused on sustainability and economic empowerment. All their jewelry is handcrafted by artisans.
“Over 14 days, we went to Jaipur, Delhi and Agra, and I recorded photo and video in each location. Additionally I got to visit the Taj Mahal and Hawa Mahal (a.k.a. Pink Palace). It was the coolest experience! My favorite part of the trip was meeting the women artisans who create the Aasha Collection from recycled kantha fabric. The women invited us into their homes to see how they live and work from home.”
A major that can take you places ...
What did you gain from your Stephens experience?
“One: I learned how to perform well under pressure. On top of my course load I was actively involved in Kappa Delta, Model Group, Stars Soccer, working at the Costume Museum and Research Library, and bartending downtown. I learned how to balance a crazy workload, which was helpful after college as I was working full-time and taking on projects to build my business.
“Two: I gained an amazing community of support and true friendships. There was a group of five of us that were attached at the hip in college and we still stay in touch via our group chat daily!”
What advice do you have for current students?
“Take necessary steps so you don’t reach burnout. Make your basic needs a priority. If you’re running yourself too thin, ask for help or make a change. Also, if you’re passionate about something but can’t find the perfect job in that field, do it as a side hustle and just build your network and client base on nights and weekends. That’s how I built my photography business from scratch in Atlanta. Also, stay hopeful and determined. Although it’s different for everyone, it took me more that two and half years to build Sarah Vitel Photography to a sustainable level.
“Check out this blog post I created called ‘15 Steps to a Stress-free Photoshoot.’ This is a great resource for students or beginning photographers who could use direction when preparing for their next photoshoot.”