Photojournalism is often considered a dream job because it is usually associated with travel, scoops and adventure. In reality, it covers two main areas: news photography with the photographer witnessing an event, and documentary photography with the photographer witnessing their time.
The photojournalist thus can be a photo reporter or a press photographer. Their photos and reports illustrate current events and accompany articles written by themselves or by fellow journalists.
Their daily life? Covering big and small events, at the end of the street or at the end of the world: demonstrations, strikes, festivals, sports competitions, national events, political gatherings, accidents, wars, etc.
Documentary photography requires the ability to observe today’s society in order to create stories through images. It allows to develop in-depth and over a longer period of time the themes that animate, agitate and run through society.
Photography is at the same time a language, a narrative and a way of seeing. To learn photography is therefore to learn a new way of speaking, writing and observing. To be a photojournalist is knowing how to master photography and narration, both as a photographer and a journalist, subtly combining images and text.
The photojournalism courses at Spéos address different and complementary angles of the profession: from freelance photography to an agency (with Magnum Photos) and — last but not least — a magazine (with Polka).
Qualities required to become a Photojournalist
The qualities required to become a photojournalist, a photo reporter or documentary photographer are manifold.
As a witness of an event, the photojournalist must constantly follow the news and anticipate major events: street demonstrations and social movements (strikes), sports competitions (regional, national or international ones, such as the Olympic Games), political meetings, festive gatherings (Bastille Day, soccer victories), national commemorations, major festivals (music, theater, photography), and landmark events (e.g. the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral).
They are therefore constantly on the lookout, always ready to move to where the action is. The first thing a photojournalist or photo reporter needs to get is not a camera, but a great pair of shoes! They must also show perseverance and — sometimes — endurance. Their sense of observation and analysis of given situations must be acute. Human contact is equally essential. They must be able to work quickly, under pressure, and manage all kinds of situations. This is particularly true for war photographers specialized in covering armed conflicts and areas of tension.
Constant anticipation, extreme reactivity, permanent availability, adaptability to sometimes difficult circumstances, mobility, curiosity, rigor in meeting deadlines, good general culture, intuition, speed, skills in one or more foreign languages: these are the qualities expected of a photojournalist, a photo reporter or a documentary photographer.
Become a Photojournalist with Spéos
Spéos offers several professional photography training courses that allow students to specialize or perfect their skills in photojournalism, photo reportage or documentary photography:
From the freelance point of view:
> Professional Photography in 1 year – specialization in photo reportage
> Professional Photography in 2 years – specialization in photo reportage
> Professional Photography + Video/3D – specialization in photo reportage (3-year program)
From a news agency point of view with Agence France-Presse:
> Photojournalism by Spéos & Agence France-Presse (AFP)
From the point of view of an agency of documentary photographers with Magnum Photos:
> Creative Documentary by Magnum Photos & Spéos
From the magazine point of view with Polka:
> Photojournalism by Polka & Spéos – 5 months in Paris
Training courses at Spéos cover all steps involved in the creation and realization of a photo reportage or photo documentary:
- Researching information: keeping up to date and researching subjects that may be of interest to newspapers and magazines, contacting editorial offices to present one’s reportage, requesting permission to photograph locations, etc.
- Shoots: knowing how to visually represent a news item by means of framing values, shot values, use of natural or artificial light, researching the best point of view, optics, sensitivity, adequate aperture values and speed; being able to produce information through a well-constructed, visually readable image that conveys the emotion of the event photographed; knowing how to synthesize in a single image or in a series of images the action, the actors, the context and the stakes of the event.
- The choice of images: learning how to edit one’s own work by constructing a story coherent with the right choice of images.
- Image processing: knowing how to correctly caption photos.
- Storytelling: learning how to tell a story in photos: a photograph must show, inform or provide proof; writing a synopsis or a text illustrating the photo report.
- Managing one’s own archives: adopt techniques for classifying images and storage media to properly preserve and exploit one’s own image archives.
Studying at Spéos allows you to acquire all professional photography skills necessary to become fully-fledged photo reporters or press photographers. Essential technical skills in photography are taught and developed throughout the photo courses: photo retouching, post-production, mastering computer software and building a professional portfolio. Courses at Spéos also allow aspiring photojournalists to develop their sensitivity and visual signature.
An essential point of the pedagogical method taught at Spéos: students who follow photojournalism or photo reportage courses all follow studio-based photo training courses as well. The goal: to learn how to control light indoors so as to then be able to manage it better outdoors!
Opportunities, Careers and Prospects
Photojournalists now work mainly as freelance photographers. They generally work on commission: they receive specific requests from different types of media, especially from the press and online.
At the same time, photojournalists and photo reporters regularly offer their images and work to press agencies or various communication media with a view to potential publication. They are rarely hired as salaried employees and their remuneration can be very variable.
This path thus requires perseverance, tenacity and flexibility in the choice of assignments (the photo reporter may for example accept both social and corporate photography assignments).
How to get to Spéos Paris
Come by visit Spéos (preferably on appointment)!