What is Cinematography and What Does a Cinematographer Do?

It’s taking a series of shots and form them into a cohesive narrative. Cinematography composes each shot and considers where everything in the frame demands attention. Some cinematographers attend film school to gain experience and knowledge about what goes into filmmaking. Other related subjects to study include photography, art, and drama. The prime lenses have fixed focal length, and they give much higher quality results than a zoom lens. Cinematographers use the 21mm, 28 lenses to get a wide shot, 50mm for medium shots, and 85mm to 105 mm for portrait shots.

Here’s a guide to camera framing and shot composition to give you an idea of what choices a director and cinematographer have and how those choices contribute to visual storytelling. While the director makes key decisions regarding the camera, the cinematographer actually makes it happen. One of the major considerations for cinematographers is exposure — the art of manipulating the camera settings to get the desired look of the image. Taken from the Greek for “writing with movement,” cinematography is the creation of images you see on screen. Cinematography composes each shot, considering, where everything in frame demands attention.


As Cinematography is the foundation of filmmaking, the very first filmmakers were Cinematographers, working without sound and editing. Today, Cinematographers are finding new and innovative ways to bring stories to life through powerful imagery. Such a device was created by French-born inventor Louis Le Prince in the late 1880s.

One of the most critical decisions in cinematography is the shot composition. Composition refers to how each shot is framed and all the elements within that frame. It is a crucial aspect of cinematography as this can help determine what the audience sees, knows, and feels. Attend rehearsals to see how the actors are moving in a particular scene. Notice if they have any specific gestures or facial expressions that you want to capture and adjust your setup accordingly.

Cinematography is the unsung hero of filmmaking, playing a vital role in storytelling, mood setting, and character development. From camera angles and movements to lighting and color, the cinematographer’s choices shape the viewer’s experience, adding depth and emotion to the story. Whether you’re a film enthusiast or simply a moviegoer, a greater appreciation for this art form can enhance your viewing experience, helping you see the magic in every frame. Focus in cinematography goes beyond clarity; it’s a nuanced and creative tool that commands the viewer’s attention, subtly directing their gaze to where the story demands.

And image-manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process.[26]
In British tradition, if the DOP actually operates the camera him/herself they are called the cinematographer. On smaller productions, it is common for one person to perform all these functions alone. The career progression usually involves climbing up the ladder from seconding, firsting, eventually to operating the camera. Black and white allows filmmakers to focus on the interplay of light and shadow, emphasizing the contrast between different elements within a scene. This technique can evoke a sense of nostalgia, evoke a specific time period, or create a timeless and classic feel. By stripping away color, filmmakers can emphasize the composition, shapes, and textures within the frame, enhancing the visual impact.

  • We’ll also explain how the shots can affect your scene, so you can make your shots work together to form a beautiful, clear, and cohesive narrative.
  • However, if you are doing a film where you need to shoot a wide range of subjects, such as landscapes and portraits, the zoom lens is perfect.
  • The study and practice of this field are referred to as cinematography.

He shot several short films in Leeds, England, in 1888, and the following year he began using the newly invented celluloid film. He was scheduled to show his work in New York City in 1890, but he disappeared while traveling in France. The exhibition never occurred, and Le Prince’s contribution to cinema remained little known for decades. Instead it was William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, working in the West Orange, New Jersey, laboratories of the Edison Company, who created what was widely regarded as the first motion-picture camera.

Cinematography (from Ancient Greek κίνημα (kínēma) ‘movement’, and γράφειν (gráphein) ‘to write, draw, paint, etc.’) is the art of motion picture (and more recently, electronic video camera) photography. Similar to the dolly is the crane, I said similar, not the same. Place your camera on a crane or a jib to frame characters from high above or far away. While some dollies will be digitally controlled, others are manually controlled by the cameraman.

In 2021, Eckels had the opportunity to work as a camera operator on the Film American Siege starring Bruce Willis. His strong work ethic and talent combined with the demands of film resulted in Eckels being promoted to 2nd Unit cinematographer. Crane Shot – In the crane shot, the camera moves towards the subject in a vertical translational way or vice-versa. This type of shot is now taken using drones; it was earlier using expensive cranes. Over the Shoulder Shot – This shot is typically used when a character is talking to the other person or looking at something. In such shots, the shoulder and head of a character are out of focus.

Dutch Angle Shot – Dutch Angle Shot is used when a cinematographer has to show a lack of stability or when the scene requires something more disturbing. This technique is done by tilting the camera towards one side until the bottom is no longer parallel with the horizon. Extreme Close-up – When you see an extreme close-up of eyes, hand, or any object, think of them as extreme close-up shots. CoordinationCinematographers have to coordinate with other members of the crew, like a location manager to research on the locations and figure out the camera vantage points.

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