© Arvin Emtiazi – Spéos 2022

In the world of photojournalism, we often come across war photographers and journalists who travel the world to report from dangerous areas. War photography is a core field of photojournalism, which accompanies the conflicts it documents.

The role of the war photographer

The role of the war photographer is to capture images that inform viewers about the reality of armed conflicts and crisis situations. To become a war photographer thus is an exciting career path, but obviously also a risky one. War photographers must be willing to put themselves at risk by getting as close as possible to the conflict, so as to get the most striking and eloquent images.

Taking pictures in war zones also means carrying the heavy responsibility of being a neutral observer who gives an impartial vision of the situation. The role of photography for the construction of the media narrative in times of war is very important. In coordination with the journalists, photographers place themselves as witnesses of an event and bring back images that highlight all aspects of the war.

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 war photographer

The qualities required to become a photo reporter specialized in war photography are manifold.

Develop your photography skills: it is essential to master the basic techniques of photography, such as composition, lighting and the use of different camera lenses. It is also important to keep up with the latest trends and technologies within photography.

Get experience: it is difficult to get a job as a war photographer without prior experience. Therefore, it is recommended to start with internships or freelance jobs for local or regional media. Through a hands-on approach to photography, students learn about the different aspects of covering news events and develop their portfolio.

Building a network: war photographers need to establish contacts with journalists, editors, news agencies and publishing managers in order to find assignments and opportunities. Spéos invites numerous guest lecturers among the main actors of the market, as well as alumni who are now recognized professionals, to allow students to meet the profession during their studies.

Taking risks: war photographers must be willing to take risks to get the most striking and telling images. This may involve traveling to areas of armed conflict or crisis, working in dangerous conditions, and putting themselves at risk to get the images that will make a difference.

Be physically fit: war photographers must be physically fit to work in difficult conditions and to move quickly. They must also be able to carry heavy photographic equipment for long periods of time.

Preparation and security

It is necessary to be prepared before leaving to cover a conflict and to learn the right gestures in case of kidnapping or arrest, the life-saving gestures in case of injury, the rules and reflexes to know to avoid putting oneself in danger. It is also essential to learn about logistics in the field, to know how to organize one’s movements and to ensure one’s own safety.

No photojournalist goes out to take risks without going through training courses organized by the army, press agencies or some rare courses organized by specialized private centers.

Become a war photographer 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

To become a war photographer, it is important to develop your photography skills, gain experience, build a network, be willing to take risks and be in good physical condition.

However, it is equally important to be aware that being a war photographer can be extremely stressful and dangerous. Therefore, one should carefully consider the risks involved before embarking on this career.

Ultimately, becoming a war photographer is a choice that requires strong determination, a passion for photography and a commitment to truth and fairness. 

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

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)!