© Adobe Stock – Dmitry Pistrov

At the crossroads of photography and the 7th art, set photographers work behind the scenes on film sets, television studios and theater stages. Set photographers highlight the creative process of a film by freezing a moving image.

The role of the set photographer

© Adobe Stock – kanpisut

From the first “clap” to theatrical release, the on-set photographer is primarily responsible for documenting the behind-the-scenes process of filming. They will work with the director or cinematographer to define the specific photographic requirements. This may include photography of the production, actors on set, sets, costumes or props.

These images are invaluable in creating memories of the creative process of the film or series. During filming, the set photographer must therefore be careful to capture key moments and important actions in the making of the film, while respecting confidentiality requirements and the rules of the set.

In addition to filming, the on-set photographer may be asked to take specific publicity shots for the film or series. This may include photoshoots with the cast, individual or group portraits, behind-the-scenes images, etc. These images will be used for posters, websites, social media, press articles and actor portfolios. Most of them are taken in the studio.

So the set photographer wears two hats. They are photojournalists when documenting the shoot, and publicity photographers when promoting the film, TV show or play to the public and press.

Qualities required to become a set photographer

There are many qualities required to become a set photographer.

When working on a film set, you need to be prepared to work in a variety of conditions, and be able to adapt quickly to different situations and shooting conditions. Film and TV sets can be dynamic and unpredictable, and the photographer needs to be able to adjust quickly to capture key moments. To achieve this, experience of the film set and the film environment in general is essential. The more familiar a photographer is with the specific challenges of capturing images on a set, particularly in terms of lighting, movement and coordination with the production team, the more competent he or she will be in this field.

The set photographer works closely with the production team. They also collaborate with various industry professionals. Directors, producers, actors and so on. In this sense, human and interpersonal qualities are essential for the on-set photographer, as they have a direct impact on his or her ability to capture significant moments on set. The photographer must demonstrate professionalism: he or she must respect rules and schedules, while being as discreet as possible so as not to interfere with the work of the production teams. The job of set photographer is therefore reserved for people who know how to cultivate good human relations while remaining discreet.

Set photography is not just about capturing technical images, but also about visually telling a story and capturing the essence of a film project. A good artistic sense and creative vision are important to create images that communicate effectively with the audience. Let’s not forget that the goal of the on-set photographer is to make the audience want to go to the cinema.

All in all, a good on-set photographer needs to be creative, adaptable and discreet, familiar with the film world and able to work in collaboration with production teams to capture the key moments of a shoot.

Become a set photographer with Spéos

Spéos offers a number of professional photography courses that enable students to specialize or perfect their skills in photojournalism and photoreportage – most of them accessible at Bac level:

1-year programs:
> Professional Photography
> The Entrepreneurial Photographer in 1 year (RNCP level 6 – certification RNCP36195 registered on 25/02/2022, delivered by Spéos) – Studio specialization

2-year programs:
> Professional Photography
> The Entrepreneurial Photographer in 2 years (RNCP level 6 – certification RNCP36195 registered on 25/02/2022, delivered by Spéos) – Studio specialization

3-year programs:
> Professional Photography + Video/3D
> The Entrepreneurial Photographer + video/3D (RNCP level 6 – certification RNCP36195 registered on 25/02/2022, delivered by Spéos) – Studio specialization

Spéos’ training courses cover every stage in the creation and production of a photo report or photo documentary:

  • Finding information: staying informed and researching subjects that may be of interest to newspapers and magazines, contacting editorial offices to propose your reports, requesting authorization in the places to be photographed, etc.
  • Shooting: knowing how to visually represent a situation, being able to convey information or emotion through an image requires knowledge of the notions of point of view, sensitivity, diaphragm and aperture.
  • Choosing images: learn how to edit your own work by building a coherent story with the right choice of images.
  • Image processing: learn how to correctly caption photos and use photo retouching software.
  • Storytelling: learn how to tell a story with photos: a photograph should show, inform or provide evidence; write a synopsis or text to illustrate the photo report.
  • Managing your own archives: adopt image classification techniques and storage media to preserve and exploit your own image archives.

Photo courses at Spéos photography school enable you to learn the trade of professional photographer and specialize in becoming a photo reporter.

The essential technical skills in photography are acquired and developed throughout Spéos’ photo courses: photo retouching, post-production, mastering computer software and building a professional portfolio. Spéos’ courses also enable aspiring photojournalists to develop their sensibility and visual signature.

A key point of Spéos’ teaching method is that students following photojournalism or photojournalism courses all take part in studio photography courses. The aim: to learn how to master light indoors and then better manage it outdoors.

Jobs, careers and prospects

Unlike the vast majority of professional photographers who work as freelancers today, most location photographers are employed by a production company. As the on-set photography profession is fairly competitive, it takes time to make a name for yourself and establish contacts in this field.

Perseverance, passion and the constant development of photographic skills are therefore the best ways to progress in this career.

> See the work of Spéos graduates in photojournalism
> Read testimonials from former Spéos students

© Adobe Stock – Anna

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!

How to get to Spéos Paris

Come by visit Spéos (preferably on appointment)!