At Academy of Art University’s School of Photography, you’ll learn to align the technical knowledge and skills you’ll gain with your personal aesthetic to reveal your distinct point of view. Courses taught in our world-class photo facilities help you translate your passion into a finished portfolio of work—and a career. Begin your new adventure today.

Photography Areas of Interest

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Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography

Ultimately, commercial photographers use photos to persuade people to take action. They draw the viewer into visual narratives to illicit curiosity and interest, and ultimately, to entice people to invest (in one way or another). Commercial photographers combine technical and conceptual expertise to produce editorial and/or advertising work that effectively communicates compelling stories that move people to act.

Documentary Photography

Documentary Photography

A documentary photographer captures newsworthy moments for newspapers, websites and more. Documentary photographers often tell the stories of those who are silenced. They possess in-depth knowledge of photographic techniques, and are skilled in the ability to work within a variety of environments.

Fine Art Photography

Fine Art Photography

Fine art photographers produce high quality, original photographs that convey specific moods, emotions, ideas and themes. They use their talent and imagination to make bold statements with color and lighting to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts. The personal style, aspirations, and motivations of the artist distinguish their work as fine art.

Degree Details

Our programs have many choices to help you customize your educational journey based on your areas of interest. Click the semester class breakdowns to explore the classes we offer.

Student Work

Our Faculty

James Wood

Emeritus, School of Photography

Jim Wood has been teaching for more than 35 years, while simultaneously running one of the west coast’s largest commercial studios. His client list tops 1000, among them: Life magazine, American Motors, Honda, IBM, Apple, Yamaha, Gallo, Levi’s, Marlboro, Wells Fargo, Polaroid, Kodak, Nikon, Kraft and Toyota. Mr. Wood has the honor of being named one of the 65 best photographers in the world by Canon U.S.A.


Adrienne Pao

Director, School of Photography

Adrienne Pao is a photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She is currently investigating two photographically based projects. Hawaiian family portraits and dress tents. Both projects investigate notions of tourism in real and simulated fantasy landscapes, and involve a combination of performative and staged scenarios.

Her work is featured in fashion and pop culture magazines, as well as art journals around the world. Adrienne has shown her work nationally and internationally from the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco, California to Recoleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Caixa Cultural in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Adrienne received her MFA in Photography from San Jose State University in 2005 and has been committed to photographic education for the past six years. Her work can be viewed at

Technology and Facilities

Spanning four buildings, the facilities of the School of Photography feature a wide range of traditional and digital equipment—state-of-the-art digital cameras, lenses, lighting, darkrooms, studio space, and more.

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Pre-College Programs

The Pre-College Art Experience Programs are programs that provide intensive art experiences for high school students. All high school students are invited to apply to take advantage of these full-tuition art scholarships (based on availability). Learn more about Pre-College Programs

Continuing Education

A flexible admissions process allows students to craft their own online education program. Dive deeper into fields you're already familiar with, or branch out into new creative disciplines. Learn more about Continuing Education

Careers in Photography

Commercial Photographer

Simply put, commercial photography means taking photos for commercial use; for business, for sales, for money. Commercial photographers often create photos for advertisements, sales pitches, brochures, product placements, and merchandising—to name a few. You also contribute to campaigns in illustration and editorial contexts for a variety of fields and industries. Additional careers within commercial Photography include Corporate Photographer, Art Director, Creative Director, Photo Editor, Food Photographer, Fashion Photographer, Editorial Photographer, Sports Photographer, Event Photography, Commercial Portraits, and more.

Fine Art Photographer

As a fine art photographer, you will develop original works of art from concept to exhibition. The definition of what a fine art photographer is lies in the aspirations and motivations of the photographer—their personal style and preferences. The best fine art photographers create a visual language to communicate with the world. Additional careers within Fine Art Photography include Curator, Art Administrator, University Instructor, Writer/Critic, Archivist/Historian, and more.

Documentary Photographer

Documentary photography aims to chronicle people, events, and environments in order to tell a story, and at times, send a message. Working as a documentary photographer, you will capture a series of images that represent pieces of what living means, and share them with the world. Additional careers within Documentary Photography also include Staff Photographer, Editorial Photographer, Special Assignments Photographer, Photojournalist/Reporter, Event Photographer, Multimedia, Videographer and more.


As a high-end retoucher/compositor, you’ll assist photographers, photo studios, or corporate clients in creating a unique digital composition after shooting. This usually involves combining layers of previously-created material to construct the final image. Additional careers within the Retoucher/Compositor degree include Digital Imaging Photographer, Medical/Scientific Photographer, Corporate Photographer, Lab Technician, Lab Manager, Stock Photographer, and more.

Online Education

Don’t let a school schedule get in the way of your education. Earn a photography degree on your time, at your pace, and in the classroom of your choice. Our interactive online courses and dynamic instructional videos make it easy to immerse yourself in our custom curriculum.

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