Should You Go To School For Art or Business?

Lately there’s been this big debate about whether or not someone who wants to pursue photography as a living should go to art school OR go to school for business.

Today this blog post will go over more on artists and their own inner conflicts on where to go for their education.

The 3 main articles I found on the topic all were in agreement that it was more crucial to go to school for business over photography. I am going to briefly touch on this further and explain why it may not necessarily be the best choice for you.

Now I can understand where they’re coming from when they recommend learning how to properly run a business. Because I also only recently discovered what marketing really means and what it can do for your business and having the knowledge of how to properly run a business is CRITICAL.

But are they 100% correct in saying you don’t need to go to school for photography? It’s a really loaded question and I feel like it could go either way, depending on what type of photography you want to pursue.

There is a HUGE difference in learning how to shoot (for example) weddings vs. product.

As a person who has shot almost every type of subject matter you can think of when I first started out, I can definitely say that every specialty of photography has it’s own learning curve outside of the basics.

Yes, under the general umbrella of photography you need to understand the basics like exposure, aperture, composition, how light works etc etc. Outside of that though is a wealth of knowledge that may only work for certain areas. How you light your boudoir photo’s can and will be different from how you light food or babies or buildings.

In general, learning how to light people vs. product are 2 vastly different learning curves.

So I would say that if you’re trying to learn how to shoot anything that involves people, you can most likely learn a lot of that on your own or through various online resources. But learning how to light products is extremely different and in my opinion, involves a lot more technical skills (as opposed to more people skills).

And I’m not saying lighting people is easy. But shooting people involves a lot more interaction with others whether that be the person you’re shooting (client or model), assistants, art directors, stylists, makeup artists, caterers and so on. Product shooters typically involve a lot less people, sometimes it’s just the person who is shooting.

If you’re interested in reading further on the subject, check out these articles from Jasmine Star, Jeremy Cowart and CreativeLive.

Now as a graduate who went to an art school and got a degree in commercial photography, maybe my opinion is a little bias. But then again, it’s my opinion.

It’s not impossible to learn how to do product photography on your own, the wealth of resources available for learning this is everywhere. My personal favorite is Alex Koloskov’s website, Photigy.

But it’s also not impossible to learn business and marketing on your own either. Which is what I’ve done. And honestly I’ve absolutely LOVED learning business and marketing via online resources, the majority of which I’ve stumbled across by accident. My #1 recommendation for learning internet marketing? Marie Forleo’s B-School. It sets an incredible foundation for what you need to know on running a business online.

So where exactly am I going with this? You might not find it very helpful that I basically just supported both sides of the question.

What I really want you to take away from this though is that it is up to you and ONLY you to decide what you want to learn in school. Choose the area that you have the least amount of knowledge in and think would benefit the most from learning in school. Pick the one that you feel like would be really difficult to learn on your own. Why am I suggesting this? Because art and business are 2 completely different subjects. Chances are you're better at one over the other. But you need a perfect blend of both to really sustain a profitable business that you love.

Or honestly, you can go to school for both if you really want to. It’s a free country. Do whatever you want! That is one of the most incredible parts of being the owner of a business. It’s YOUR business, do what feels right for YOU and you only!

Do you know someone that is currently going through this dilemma right now?

SHARE this article with them and others, it may shed some light on a tough decision they need to make sooner than later.

Until next time,

Anne “the business owner/photographer/marketer/human being” Cho