How To Become A Cinematographer

Let us guess. You’re here because camera angles turn you on.

They pull on your heartstrings. And you want in on this lucrative position in the film industry.

We get it. We’re all for you and your dreams of becoming a professional cinematographer.

But first, let us give you the tools you’ll need to be not just a great Director of Photography. But a fantastic one that everyone will want to work with.

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What are the duties of a cinematographer?

Pre-production brainstorming

All feature films, short films, and television shows start here. During this stage, the Director of Photography works closely with the director to develop a unique visual style.

Scouting locations

When scouting locations, a Director of Photography will want to pay close attention to the light. Not just where to put the lighting equipment and camera operators.

Tell the story visually

Behind every great shot is a story. And the best cinematography happens when you can watch other films without sound and still enjoy them.

Manage the director’s vision

The director may have a vision. But you have the camera lens and the camera work experience to know exactly how to pull that off. This means managing expectations of industry professionals.

Oversee the camera crew

The camera and light crews will be looking to you on the film set or sound stage. So be ready to oversee camera operators, a camera assistant, production crew, and more.

What qualifications do you need to be a cinematographer?

Bachelor’s degree

Not every career in the film industry requires that you go to film school. But an aspiring cinematographer will greatly benefit from a strong technical knowledge only film school can provide.

Get your education and your cinematography skills will flourish

Technical skills

Cinematography isn’t just about developing your own style. It’s about knowing how to work the camera and the film production set itself.

Cinematography skills

We’re talking lighting techniques, how to manage a film crew, how to wield a DSLR camera, etc. These kinds of skills come in all shapes and sizes and you can bet that other production designers will hone these skill sets too.

Technical knowledge of camera operations

A working cinematographer will likely have experience as a camera operator or production assistant at a previous production studios. And that former knowledge on film sets will only strengthen their expertise in the film and video industry.

How do I start a career as a cinematographer?

#1. Pursue higher education

You may already be a talented cinematographer. But that doesn’t excuse you from getting an education.

Meet other aspiring filmmakers

Most film schools offer a great place for networking with others. Whether they’re a production designer or even production companies that come in to visit.

Take on every opportunity at film school

Go to film festivals and learn from every motion picture you see. Every short film or feature film you get to work on is another stepping stone in your career.

#2. Work on film sets

You’ll only learn how a cinematographer works by being one. So get on a film production set and dive in.

Seek out opportunities to work on a film set like Mack Sennett Studios or event take on an internship to get you in the room

Apply to freelance gigs on job sites

Don’t wait for jobs to find you. Even if you do have a swanky professional website you’re proud of having constructed.

Reach out to others. You never know what film will be right around the corner.

Network with other aspiring cinematographers

Become a part of the International Cinematographers Guild. And meet others who are just as passionate about cinematography as you.

Build a versatile body of work

Make sure your cinematography portfolio is vast and daring. Show off that you can take on any film production or in any event space rental and put your own twist on classic cinematography.

Besides, who knows who you’ll meet on the set of any film. So take every opportunity you can get.

#3. Hone your skills in all technical aspects

You’ll quickly learn that a career in cinematography is all about continuing your education. So here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Become a master of light

Cinematography isn’t about creating light. It’s about working with the light that’s already there.

Your unique style as a cinematographer will only flourish over time so watch every film that inspires you and take note of what resonates

Know details of all the visual elements

To become a cinematographer is to become every visual element of the film. Be like a camera at all times and take in all of your surroundings.

Your film knowledge will keep expanding if only you stay curious. So keep watching and processing.

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#4. Keep learning about your visual style

A successful cinematography career shouldn’t stop you from learning. So shake things up and be a camera operator again.

Get involved in video editing

See the film through a different lens. And become a cinematographer dedicated to growth.

Develop your artistic eye

A cinematographer job description won’t tell you how to do this. So you’ve got to find artistic visions for yourself.

Study amazing films

Always remain a student. There are still so many things to learn within the world of cinematography.

FAQs on how to become a cinematographer

Is cinematography a good career?

A cinematographer job description will tell you that you’ve got to be passionate about the work you do. And the field of cinematography in and of itself yields so many job opportunities that are there for the taking.

There are plenty of opportunities for cinematographers out there so reach out and find some jobs on freelance websites

Do cinematographers make good money?

The average cinematographer salary is around $65,000 a year. That being said, it will depend on whether you are providing cinematography for indie films or working for established production companies.

Let there be light

Cinematography is all about letting the light into film. And the film only learns how to soar from there.

So if you’re looking to become a cinematographer, just follow the light. And you’ll know how to take a film from good to great.

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Mack Sennett Studios is a historic full-service photography studio, production sound stage, and private event space in Silver Lake, serving as creative home to the Los Angeles cultural renaissance for the last 100 years. Check us out on FacebookTwitterVimeoPinterestYelp and Instagram.

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