Manan Sheth – Spéos 2022
© Manan Sheth – Spéos 2022

Program presentation

Magnum Photos and Spéos Photo School have partnered to create a unique master class for Creative Documentary 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 meet on a regular basis with Magnum photographers.

The Creative Documentary program is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in documentary photography, 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. Two days a week, the course is delivered at the Magnum Photos office in Paris, where students can also have access to Magnum’s extensive library of photobooks.

> See the Creative Documentary Course on Magnum website

Students who aren’t native speakers of English need to have a language level validated by an English language test at B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The language requirement needs to be submitted at the beginning of the program.

Next session: September 2024-July 2025
Language of instruction: English
– France, European Union nationals: €30,750
– International students: €30,750

Diploma: Creative Documentary by Magnum Photos and Spéos
Title of Entrepreneurial Photographer RNCP level 6 (certification RNCP36195 registered on 25/02/2022, delivered by Spéos) – code NSF 323 t
> Understanding the Certification RNCP 6 (PDF)

Video of the Magnum x Spéos exhibition 2024

Structure of the Creative Documentary 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. 
The first semester with Magnum Photos will focus on demystifying the business of the industry, establishing a professional network of industry contacts, understanding the requirements of the market and identifying realistic routes into photographic employment. Outside of class, students independently organize their shooting sessions and post-production, under the continual guidance of their supervisors and Magnum Photos.

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, which will focus on mentoring the students in the development of their personal projects by the Magnum photographers, organising meetings with a curator to prepare the students for their end of the year graduate show and jury.

End-of-the-year exhibition at Spéos
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.

End of year exhibition at the Magnum gallery in Paris
Under the guidance of a professional curator, a collective exhibition is organised at the renown Magnum gallery.
This event, of central importance, will be visited by established photographers, photo agencies and the press. The students also have the possibility to show their work in the web galleries of Spéos website and on the Magnum 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.

The last step is the Professional Project, during which students reflect on their position at the beginning of their career and write their business plan. This stage runs in parallel with the Expert Modules, from June to September.

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.

Documentary and Photojournalism
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.

Lighting for Photo Reportage
Semester I: 3 hours every other week
This course is designed to help students acquire complex lighting techniques – control of natural or artificial light in outdoor situations, both with natural/ambient and artificial light.
This course includes a studio supplement to allow photoreporters to respond to various professional lighting situations: portraits in situ, still life on site, corporate, documentary photo, etc. Students will be introduced to use of compact flashes, diffusion filters and reflectors.

Mentoring Magnum Photos
Semester I: 1 day per week at the Magnum Photos Agency
The programme will be divided between practical assignments led by Magnum photographers, and informal meetings with industry professionals with a focus on NGOs and professionals working in fund-raising and the cultural sector. Magnum staff will also share insights on how they work with photographers and present the various departments within Magnum such as commercial & editorial, cultural and gallery.
During the first semester, students will:
– discover and understand the daily activities of a professional photo agency in general and Magnum Photos in particular,
– learn how to approach editors and commissioning editors,
– work on short assignments designed to teach them the skills of being a professional photographer.
Key concepts:
– Workshops with Magnum photographers
– How to research and develop photographic stories
– The current market: editorial, commercial, print sales, and non-profit.

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.

Documentary and Photojournalism
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
Developing a personal project under the guidance of Magnum photographers: from research to completion.

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.

Expert Modules: June-July

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.

Professional project: June-September

During the Expert Modules, the students equally plan and elaborate their own business approach, to be implemented after their training at Spéos. Through regular exchanges with their instructors, they are guided in their career choice, business strategy, market research, and obtain the necessary skills in marketing, financial and legal matters, so as to set up their own business plan.

At the end of July, the main points of their business plan are presented to a first jury, which evaluates the project’s relevance and feasibility. During the summer, the students improve and fine-tune their projects, which need to be submitted at the end of September as a written business plan. 

Pedagogical approach

The teaching method is essentially centred on practice in real-life conditions, which is an essential element of the training.
The courses take place in small groups for a personalised and monitored approach, allowing the students to develop their style and personal approach (excellent student/teacher ratio).

The school has developed its own pedagogical method: the Stop-System, a global learning method for controlling light in photography.

The official program is delivered by Spéos and its teachers and completed by Magnum photographers and the agency’s team. Part of the courses are taught in the Magnum agency, located in the heart of Paris. This gives the students a privileged contact with Magnum photographers and their experienced team.

Outside the classroom, students organize their own shoots, either in the studio or on location.

Spéos offers its students spacious facilities with top-of-the-range photographic equipment available outside of class hours.

The school has numerous spacious studios, all very well equipped: Phase One backpack cameras, Foba column stands, the best brands of flash, projectors, lights and a large choice of accessories to style each shot. The school’s computer rooms are equipped with Apple computers, Eizo calibrated displays and the Adobe Creative Cloud suite.

Students also have the opportunity to borrow photographic equipment on a daily basis: the school lends a number of flash kits, sound kits, video kits and telephoto lenses for working on location, including evenings and weekends.

Participants to this program are given free access to Magnum’s online courses.
Magnum Learn currently offer classes with, among others, Alec Soth, Matt Black, Gregory Halpern, Bieke Depoorter, Jonas Bendiksen and one on Street Photography, each of these modules representing over 5 hours of online learning. Those video on-demand programs encourage learning through immersive film experience. Magnum photographers give their personal advice through in-depth interviews, on-location shoots and off-line workbooks with expanded interviews.

Depending on their schedule, some of the photographers featured in the videos will also be invited to Paris to meet with the students during the course.

  • Continuous assessment.
  • Practical work situations.
  • Tests at the beginning and end of the semester, to assess students’ acquisition of knowledge.
  • Half-yearly examinations in the form of graded exercises.
  • Completion of a professional portfolio and end-of-year exhibition.
  • Examination by 2 separate juries.
  • Creation of a business plan.

Students’ testimonials and works

Alice: « It was a wonderful year »

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

See the video of the opening of the Magnum x Spéos 2022 exhibition:

See the video of the opening of the Magnum x Spéos 2019 exhibition:

The web galleries present a selection of works that students have made ​​during their time at Spéos.

Enrollment and Contact

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

Video of the Magnum x Spéos exhibition 2023

Video of the Magnum x Spéos exhibition 2022