How To Become a Cinematographer

How to become a Cinematographer

What is a Cinematographer?
A Cinematographer is responsible for all of the visual elements of a film. They oversee and direct photography and camerawork across a whole film or TV production.

What is the Job?
A Cinematographer is the person actually in charge of shooting the film. They have the ability to make creative decisions, under the guidance of the film director, regarding the picture’s lighting, camera motion, shot colour, depth of field and scene composition. Even in pre-production, the Cinematographer has to make crucial decisions such as whether the film will be colour or black and white, whether it will be shot in digital or on film, and the style of shooting.

The Cinematographer works very closely with the film director, who will oversee and approve the decisions. A Cinematographer’s job is to impress the story of the screenwriter, and the vision of the film director, onto the actual film.

On larger films, the Cinematographer is solely responsible for shot composition and planning, whilst on smaller films, the Cinematographer will also take on the role of Director of Photography, and so will look after the lighting and make decisions regarding the camera, lenses, and other equipment.

Key Skills

  • Knowledgeable regarding all aspects of photography.
  • Artistic eye.
  • Good communication.
  • Willingness and ability to work quickly and creatively.
  • Understanding of filmmaking.
  • Willingness to work long, irregular and unsociable hours
  • Willingness to travel.

Salary & Working Hours
Experienced Cinematographers can earn anywhere between £50,000 and £300,000 per annum. Salaries in this field fluctuate hugely, due to the fact that most Cinematographers work on a freelance basis and so wages are entirely dependent on how frequently they manage to secure work, and the size of production that they work on.

As a Cinematographer, you should expect to be working long, irregular and unsociable hours, simply due to the fact that filming can take place at any time of the day. It may also be required for you to work weekends sometimes. Additionally, you may have to work in a variety of different places and so you must be willing to travel.

How To Become a Cinematographer
The first step to becoming a Cinematographer is to learn the basics of cinematography, such as how different pieces of camera equipment work, exposure, composition, lighting, special effects, and colour composition. A good way to learn the basics is to study a related degree such as photography, film studies, or art. However, many employers will value experience more highly, so it’s not always essential that you have a degree.

One way into this career is to get experience by working your way up from a Camera Operator role. This will allow you to create a portfolio of photography and film work and gain experience along the way.

A Cinematographer’s training never ends, as technology is constantly changing and improving. So it’s important that you keep up to date with the latest technological developments.

Latest Cinematographer Jobs

Where Can It Take You?
As a Cinematographer, it’s likely you will start off working in assistant roles on small projects before becoming the Executive Cinematographer. Career progression is heavily portfolio-driven. Therefore, the opportunity of career progression depends on the work you put in and your work standard.

Become a Cinematographer
If you are ready for the next step in your career, why not take a look at the latest Cinematographer vacancies on our jobs board? You can view our latest vacancies here.