How to Become a Cinematographer


A cinematographer both plans and coordinates the filming of a movie, and is a necessity for the production of any film. They’re responsible for making sure each scene is shot precisely in a manner that fulfills the director’s vision. Movies with larger budgets may include assistant cinematographers and a camera crew.

Cinematographers work on every movie scene under the authority of the director. They also work with the art director, production crew and lighting crew to make certain each scene is filmed using the correct filter, lens, and camera angles. After the filming of the movie, a cinematographer’s job is not done. They are then responsible for formatting each shot to fit properly on the big screen.

Popular geographic locations that are usually in high demand of cinematographers are New York and Los Angeles, where much of North American film production takes place. One does not always step onto the career path directly as a cinematographer, however. In fact, most start as camera operators learning techniques from seasoned professionals, and then move up to higher level positions as experience is gained. Some suggest the best place to start a cinematography career is working on low-budget independent films where it’s more likely you’ll be exposed to a variety of tasks due to the smaller amount of crewmembers employed. However, no matter where one starts, a proper education is a necessity.

Most professional cinematographers have been to a film school to complete highly specialized training. Courses necessary for cinematographers include cinema history, technique, lighting, and photographic technology. Attending a film school will provide students with an overall understanding of the making of films and the knowledge and experience required to confidently enter the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that wages and employment in the movie and video industries will grow 11 percent from 2006 to 2016. Opportunities will open up to those who are highly talented and motivated.

Cinematographer Salary

Sometimes referred to as the director of photography, a cinematographer is responsible for overseeing and directing all audio/visual crew members. They manage the lighting, framing, cameras and audio in order to achieve the director’s artistic and technical visions for the piece of media. Cinematographers have a high-level position, and thus earn $81,000 annually on average.*

*According to

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