© Eileen Cho – Spéos 2016

Program presentation

Magnum Photos and Spéos Photo School have partnered to create a unique master class for Creative Documentary & Photojournalism in Paris. This intensive program takes place in Paris, in English only. Embedded within Magnum Photos, this program allows students a unique learning experience, and to encounter of some of the best photographers in the field.

The Creative Documentary & Photojournalism program is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in documentary photography and/or photojournalism, in the Magnum Photos tradition of visual storytelling. It is intended for students who have the maturity and skills to work on long-term thematic projects. Assignments include event photojournalism, short photo essays and a long-term in-depth personal project.

The course equips students with the historical and contextual framework required to develop and engage in critical thinking about documentary photography, as well as providing technical guidance and tutorial support to develop students’ individual documentary practice.

The formal program is delivered by Spéos and its appointed teachers and supplemented by Magnum photographers and staff. Students have unique access to Magnum’s photographers and its experienced staff, with elements of the course taught at the Magnum Photos office in central Paris.

> See the Creative Documentary & Photojournalism course on Magnum website

Next session: September 2021-July 2022
Campus: Paris
Language of instruction: English
– France, European Union nationals: €30,000
– International students: €30,000

Diploma: Creative Documentary and Photojournalism by Magnum Photos and Spéos
Title of Photographer RNCP level 7 – code NSF 323 t
This title is registered in the Répertoire National des Certifications Professionnelles (RNCP) by decree of 25 February 2016 – published in the Journal Officiel of March 17th, 2016.

I apply!

Structure of the program

The first semester comprises the core courses, which cover all aspects of professional photojournalism and creative documentary. Top-level professionals hold the courses and monitor the students’ individual acquisition of skills. Outside of class, students independently organize their shooting sessions and post-production, under the continual guidance of their supervisors and Magnum Photos. During this time, students will have access to the extensive book library at the Magnum Photos Paris bureau, featuring an inimitable collection of renowned photo publications.

During the second semester of the program, the students improve their practical skills and broaden their range of knowledge. The Spéos course proper will be complemented by the Magnum Photos component, consisting of regular review sessions, artist presentations, assignments and discussions with Magnum photographers and staff in the agency.

The last week of the second semester is dedicated to the setting up of a themed exhibition – an important event visited by established photographers, photo agencies and the press. The students also have the possibility to exhibit their work online in the web galleries of Spéos website.

The Expert modules aim at deepening the students’ previous knowledge and skills in those areas that are most demanded by the professional market. Each module takes place over several weeks, in June and July.

Courses and conferences are taught by experienced and recognized professionals who share their experience and know-how from their respective fields of expertise. These speakers emphasize the practical ownership of these skills and offer students valuable experience gain for their own personal projects.
> See the list of lecturers year by year

In July, the students participate in the design and creation of a magazine featuring their own photographic work to promote their achievements. This magazine is entirely designed by and for the students, with an editorial written by one of them.

Alice Vasconcelos, Spéos Alumni 2019: « We have a lot of knowledge from amazing Photographers »

Course description

Essentials of Photography
Semester I: 1h30/week
This course is dedicated to the acquisition of techniques essential to the practice of professional photography. Combining theory and practical exercises, it allows students:
– to learn and practice the Stop-System, the global learning method of light control in photography, a method developed by Spéos,
– to understand and know how to define its settings when taking pictures,
– to understand the techniques inherent in shooting and to anticipate post-production,
– to understand the operation of different types of cameras, including the large-format camera.
The elements covered will allow students to make relevant technical choices according to the desired result. Whatever the situation, in studio or on location, indoors or outdoors, this course will enable them to deal with the possible constraints encountered when taking pictures.

Photojournalism and Documentary
Semester I: 6 hours/week
This course aims at giving students a comprehensive training in photojournalism. It seeks to cover a broad horizon of topics that will allow the participants to consider a professional career by responding to work assignments, as well as developing topics with a more personal point of view.
The course structure is based on two important themes:
– The photographer as a witness (of an event: news photography; of their time: documentary photography),
– and the construction of a photographic project as a story composed by images.
The course will develop numerous topics, such as portraiture, street photography, the use of flashes, long-term projects. It will always revolve around the following notions: the photographer as a witness of an event, of their time, of the things that do or do not change, and how to tell a story in pictures.

Studio for Photojournalists
Semester I: 3 hours every other week
This course is dedicated to the acquisition of the techniques essential to studio shoots, as well as to the treatment of digital images. Students are initiated to:
– the Stop-System,
– different types of lighting,
– the general principles of balanced light sources,
– as well as different types of cameras, from 35mm to the large format.

Mentoring Magnum Photos
Semester I: 1 day per week at the Magnum Photos Agency
The courses at Magnum are designed to allow students to:
– discover and understand the daily activities of a professional photo agency in general and Magnum Photos in particular,
– understand how the world’s most famous photographic co-operative works today,
– understand the role of agents and of a press agency today, how a historic agency stays relevant.
Key concepts:
– The importance of image rights, archives, and the press.
– Exhibitions and publications.
– Magnum Photos and corporate & advertising photography.
– Magnum Photos and the art market.
– According to availability: portfolio lectures, workshops and artist presentations with Magnum photographers.

Computer Imaging
Semester I: 1h30/week
This course aims to:
– understand what the main parameters and formats of digital images are,
– discover the Photoshop application and design a layout using this software,
– learn how to manage a stream of digital images and retouch photos using Lightroom software.

Image Management and Publication
Semester I: 3 hours/week
This course helps photographers to manage their image stock with guidance on how to caption a picture, to assign the right key-words, to fill in the IPTC data. All of these are essential for any photographer to locate their pictures and to have them published.

Printing Techniques
Semester I: 1h30/week
The course covers printing techniques with the programs Photoshop and Lightroom on Fuji Frontier or Durst Lambda printers as well as large-format ink-jet printers. Color management principles will be studied within the graphic chain of a typical digital lab (screen, printer, viewing booth). Students will gain the necessary knowledge to obtain high quality prints, true to their digital shots, whether by themselves or through a professional lab.

Meet the Profession
Semester I: 2 hours/week
The purpose of these meetings is to present a variety of professional careers within the photography industry, aiming at broadening the students horizons with regard to future career plans. Speakers include:
– former students of the school who present their activity,
– professionals in fields related to photography,
– representatives of major brands of photographic equipment, demonstrating new materials and presenting trends in the evolution of the profession.
These meetings bring together students from all programs and are held in English.

Photojournalism and Documentary
Semester II: 3 hours/week
Continuation of semester I towards a more advanced level.

Mentoring Magnum Photos
Semester II: 1 day per week at the Magnum Photos Agency
Continuation of semester I towards a more advanced level.

Semester II: 3 hours/week
This course is an introduction to writing techniques and photo editing. It is given by a journalist / editor, helping students to edit their photo stories and back-up their reportages with a well-structured narrative.
Key concepts:
– Understand the different steps of a photo reportage from the idea of a topic to the final publication in a magazine.
– Learn how to tell a story with images: they show, inform or provide evidence.
– Write a synopsis or narrative to accompany the photo story.

Computer Imaging
Semester II: 1h30/week
Continuation of semester I towards a more advanced level.

Image Management and Publication
Semester II: 3 hours/week
In the second part of the program, the course covers the following topics:
– add value to a photo stock with a good knowledge of captioning and keyword management,
– find sources of information for photographers,
– know the photo market,
– develop an Internet strategy: create a website using a CMS (Content Management System), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), know how to use blogs and social networks for photographers.

Printing Techniques
Semester II: 1h30/week
Continuation of semester I towards a more advanced level.

Video for Photographers: the Essentials 
Semester II: 3 hours/week
This course aims to:
– provide students with the basics of audiovisual production in the field of promotional or experimental short films,
– teach them how to enhance their photographic work with the animated image,
– train them in software specific to this type of creation.
The exercises will focus on diverse topics so that students can experience their own approach to video making, regardless of the shooting mode used: documentary film, fiction film, family and animated film, experimental film, advertising and institutional.

Black & White Printing
Optional – on demand and at the end of the program only
Possibility of organizing introductions to analog photography with film development and black & white printing in the Spéos laboratory. The school has one of the largest labs in Paris still in activity. Students will be introduced to the Stop System, a method developed by Spéos that allows to quickly take control of prints and masks. These sessions will take place at the end of the school year only, once students have acquired all the essential knowledge and techniques within professional photography.

Expert module: the photo business 
Duration: 5 weeks in 2 parts
Different experts present the business management of all kinds of activities linked to professional photography. The module gives an overview of the photographic professions and the market, copyright legislation, marketing, accounting and financial management within the field of photography.
This module also allows students to deepen their knowledge in the domains of image management and publication, which are presented from the point of view of independent photographers, photo agencies and image banks. Students also encounter picture researchers/image buyers working for publishing houses and advertising agencies, art directors and photo agents. Throughout the module, they acquire in-depth knowledge about the various possibilities to syndicate their own image stocks. And – last but not least – they get a practical overview of how to efficiently use social media for photographers.

Expert module: advanced photo reportage
Duration: 3 weeks
Photojournalism is analyzed from the point of view of agencies, dailies, magazines, and independent photographers. Students meet professionals working in the fields of image purchase, sales and editing within various kinds of media (print and web). Through these exchanges, they learn how to position them selves and to efficiently prepare their entry into the professional world. Several meetings will be held at professionals’ workplaces.

Design and creation of a magazine 
In July, the students participate in the design and creation of a magazine featuring their own photographic work to promote their achievements.
This magazine is entirely designed by and for the students: graphic design and production, construction of the dummy, layout, editorial and delivery of the print file.
The students are accompanied to select the images and understand the editorial creation:
– introduction to the field of publishing,
– presentation of dummy and flatplan,
– group and individual discussions with all students: final choice of  photos from their selection, test integration of the photos into the layout, evaluation of different possibilities for the final layout.


Every year, in mid-May, students exhibit their work at the Magnum Photos Agency in Paris during a group exhibition.

Enrollment and Contact

Registrations are open all year round and are subject to availability.
Feel free to contact Spéos if you have any questions about this photography program.
At any time you are most welcome to come and visit the school, just make an appointment!

Enroll now!