How To Become A Director Of Photography?

A Director of Photography (or Cinematographer) is responsible for crafting the visual language of a film through lighting, camera angles, camera movement, camera framing, and lens choices.

Working with the Director, they create the look and style of the film. In this role, the Director of Photography leads the Camera and Lighting Departments, which operate under their purview. Because of these responsibilities, a DP must understand both the creative and technical sensibilities that go into filming a movie, TV show, or another type of content.

The DP’s job begins prior to principal photography. During pre-production, they’ll discuss the Director’s vision for the film, aid in the creation of storyboards and shot lists for production, and begin making their camera and other equipment selections.

Once principal photography is completed, the DP may still be looked to for instruction and guidance as the film is cut together and color correction is applied to it.

To learn about what it takes to become a Director of Photography, have a look at the following article.

What Is Director Of Photography?

A Director of Photography (DOP) also known as a Cinematographer is a creative leader during video production. It’s a position full of responsibility, and the Director of Photography must have camera skills, lighting knowledge, and the ability to work with the entire camera crew to create the esthetics of the film.

They work closely with the Director of the film in an effort to bring the Director’s vision to life. During the video production, the DOP will work closely with the lighting crew, the Costume Designer, and Hair and Makeup in an effort to make the project go smoothly.

The Director of Photography is part of the executive team that gets production from conception to finish. They take a careful assessment of all locations and develop a list of equipment needs for the entire production.

The Director of Photography is responsible for coordinating the camera crew, making sure equipment is all working, and testing out special lenses and filters. The Director of Photography needs to lead a crew of other photographers with precision.

How to become a Director of Photography?

A film director of photography (DoP) is the person who provides a film with its unique visual identity, feel and look.

They help to tell the story of the film by making artistic and technical decisions regarding lighting, shot selection, camera operations, film stock, and other elements.

They collaborate closely with the camera crew, that is, the Camera Operator, the 1st and 2nd Assistant Camera, the Camera trainees, and the Grips. Generally, after reading the screenplay, a DoP meets with the film director and discusses the visual style of the film.

They then prepare a list of the required camera equipment, including film stock, cranes, cameras, lights, and any other accessories needed for the production office to order.

Quick points for getting into the role

You can expect to get to the position of director of photography by starting your career at a junior capacity such as a 2nd Assistant Camera on short promotions and films. And with time, you can acquire the necessary skills to move to 1st Assistant Camera, then Camera Operator, and finally DoP.

If you work as a freelance Camera Operator, you can become a Director of Photography by undertaking second unit work. You can also make a transition from the lighting department to DoP.

Experience working on student or short films can be a good base for feature film production, but you will still need to work with the camera crew to wholly understand the on-set hierarchy and working traditions.

Play to your strengths

Know all there is about camera equipment

If you aspire to be the overall head of photography in filming, then you need to know all about camera equipment.

When, where, and what type of camera is needed, how the shots should be taken, the various lenses required, camera angles; literally everything there is to know about cameras.

Have in-depth knowledge about lighting techniques and how to achieve them

Photography and lighting go hand in hand. To achieve the perfect visual identity for your film, you must know how to combine lighting and camera work perfectly.

Have an artistic vision

Be able to give and accept directions, and be flexible enough to adapt ideas instantly.

Diversify

As a Director of Photography, you can diversify your work/skills into other sections of filming that closely relate to your position. An example is lighting and editing.

You can also work your way up to the role of a film director by learning what the role entails and all the skills you need to perfectly fill it.

You should also learn more about how to film a wide range of productions such as sports, documentary, entertainment, and drama, commercial, corporate, and news.

5 Things Every Cinematographer Needs

A director of photography is a visually creative, but technical role, and one must also be comfortable managing a large team. There are many skills a cinematographer should have to succeed:

  • Artistic vision and eye for photography: The DP sets the visuals for the film and as such, should have a natural eye for capturing moving images.
  • Ability to both gives and follow instructions: The DP has to understand the director’s vision and then communicate that message to many people across two entire departments.
  • Technical camera skills: The DP must know how to operate a camera, what different cameras do, how to use many lenses, how to expose a shot, etc.
  • Work experience: Work your way up the ranks by starting as an assistant in either the camera or lighting department. You can then become a lighting technician or camera operator and eventually as the camera assistant of a noted cinematographer. Networking with the line producer and assistant director is also helpful as they can hire you as the DP on their next projects.
  • Strong portfolio: Build your portfolio by working on lower-level camera department jobs on paid film shoots and climb the ranks, while also working as the cinematographer on unpaid film shoots. The strength of your portfolio is crucial to getting a job as a cinematographer, regardless of how far you’ve climbed up the film production ladder or where you went to school.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a director of photography make per movie?

New directors typically earn between $250,000 to $500,000 per film, while studio film directors earn about $1 million per movie.

Do you need a degree to be a director of photography?

Cinematographers need a bachelor’s degree and can attend technical schools or fine arts programs offering cinematography techniques and theory. They also need good vision, strong eye-hand coordination, and artistic sensibility, and an understanding of digital cameras and technology.

To Sum Up

In short, a film director of photography (DoP) is the person who provides a film with its unique visual identity, feel and look.

They help to tell the story of the film by making artistic and technical decisions regarding lighting, shot selection, camera operations, film stock, and other elements.

They collaborate closely with the camera crew, that is, the Camera Operator, the 1st and 2nd Assistant Camera, the Camera trainees, and the Grips. Generally, after reading the screenplay, a DoP meets with the film director and discusses the visual style of the film.

They then prepare a list of the required camera equipment, including film stock, cranes, cameras, lights, and any other accessories needed for the production office to order.

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