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Director of Photography

Director of Photography

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Similar Titles
  • Director of Photography
  • DP
  • DoP
  • Cinematographer
  • Director of Cinematography
  • Chief Cinematographer
Job Description

A Director of Photography is the “second-in-command” on a production set underneath the Director, and tends to run the artistic and technical sides of the operation to fit the Director’s vision. The camera, lighting & electric and the grip (set-building) departments are all generally overseen by the Director of Photography, and prior to filming the job entails planning shots, visiting locations and ordering and testing equipment. After filming, a Director of Photography tends to review gathered footage with the Director.

Rewarding Aspects of Career

“Getting paid to be a storyteller. Being an artist. Working in the film industry. Being in a creative field. Deciding what a film looks like, its visual aesthetic. Experimenting with new camera and lens technology. The feeling of watching a film, music video, commercial, etc, and thinking ‘Wow, I filmed that. It looks great.’ Solving different challenges, whether it's a tricky camera move or figuring out how to rig a light or hide it somewhere in the scene.” - Alexxiss Jackson

2016 Employment
134,700
2026 Projected Employment
151,200
The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life

The specifics of what a Director of Photography does on a day-to-day basis can vary based on what medium they’re producing for.

“There isn't really a typical day, which is part of what I love about it. If a project is in pre-production, I may be reading a script, selecting which camera and lens package we're going to use, or even watching a movie that serves as a visual reference for the look the director wants to go for. If the project is in production, I'm on set. But that doesn't always look the same. In its most basic form, I am usually operating the camera on a production, whether it's a narrative film, documentary, commercial, music video, TV show segment, etc.” - Alexxis Jackson

Skills Needed on the Job
  • Communication Skills
  • Time Management
  • Leadership
  • Coordination
  • Active Learning
  • Camera Operation
  • IT Skills
  • Critical, Artistic Vision
  • Interpreting Scripts/Ideas from Director
Employment Types

Any camera-based production in the entertainment industry, including:

  • Television
  • Movies
  • Commercials
  • Documentaries
  • Music Videos
Current Industry Trends
  • Constantly evolving technology, such as the development of 8K resolution cameras
  • Productions with heavier reliance on visual effects
  • Developing high definition, High Dynamic Range (HDR) programming
  • Some productions shifting to a more online-focused, multimedia audience and style
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Watching lots of media content (movies, television, online videos, music videos, etc.)
  • Also discussing that content with others, either from a fan perspective or a critical perspective to learn more about best practices
  • Creating products for an online outlet such as YouTube or Instagram
Education and Training Needed
  • At least a bachelor’s degree, particularly from film or cinematography-based programs
  • Knowledge of film history, editing, screenwriting, cinematography and the filmmaking process is important
  • Knowledge in similar or related fields, such as writing/communications, business or theatre can also lend themselves to production
  • Training in lighting, photography, technology and some basic experience that can be compiled in a portfolio, or film reel
Things to do in High School and College
  • Take classes on film or television production, or general photography classes
  • Work at a school’s television station, if possible — alternatively find an internship in the desired field
  • Follow developments in technology
  • Read/watch behind-the-scenes content from different productions or your favorite DPs
  • Buy camera equipment (such as a DSLR) and practice photography/videography at home
Typical Roadmap
Director of Photography Roadmap
How to land your 1st job

Working an internship, or becoming a production assistant on a project, is often the easiest way to get started

  • Production assistants tend to have experiences across a set, with the camera, lighting and grip departments that are all overseen by a Director of Photography, giving an aspiring DP more knowledge of the entire process to use in a directorial role
Qualities of those who climb the ladder
  • Strong people skills and conscientious organization of a myriad of activities going on on-set with cameras, lighting, set direction, etc.
  • Being able to work under pressure, with budget and time constraints depending on the project
    • Particularly when those constraints intersect with environmental concerns like rain when shooting outdoors
  • Willingness to travel for work, shooting on location or touring a finished product
  • Working through long, irregular work weeks that often include evenings, weekends and holidays
  • A strong artistic vision
How to Find a Mentor
  • Working smaller jobs/internships producing the kind of content one is interested in can open opportunities to network
  • Reaching out to individuals who work as DPs and asking questions
Recommended Tools/Resources

Organizations:

  • The American Society of Cinematographers
    • https://ascmag.com 
  • International Cinematographers Guild
    • https://www.icg600.com 

Websites/Blogs:

  • Stephen Follows — Film Data and Education
    • https://stephenfollows.com 
  • No Film School
    • https://nofilmschool.com 
  • Advanced Filmmaking
    • https://www.advancedfilmmaking.com 
  • Ron Dexter, ASC
    • http://www.rondexter.com 

Magazines:

  • American Cinematographer
    • https://ascmag.com 

Further Education:

  • The New York Film Academy
    • https://www.nyfa.edu 
  • Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematography
    • http://www.cinematographers.nl 

Resources:

  • Cinebags
    • https://www.cinebags.com 
  • ShareGrid
    • https://www.sharegrid.com 
Plan B
  • Alternating between different entertainment mediums, possibly freelancing (for film, television, music videos, etc.)
    • Possibly pivoting into other roles on a production set like acting, writing or editing
  • Other on-air productions such as televised news
  • Creating web series for oneself or a larger group on sites like YouTube
  • Working for mediums such as animation or video game productions which still require knowledge of cinematography to compose shots
  • Teaching in general education programs/film schools
  • Creating videos/advertisements for local businesses, bands, artists, etc.
Words of Advice

“Working in any creative field can be hard, because it’s not always as much of a straight line as ‘go to school, get this degree, get a job at this company.’ It takes a lot of hard work, a strong network and a lot of diligence. But if you can make it, you can spend your life doing something fun that you love.

Also, never stop learning. That’s a good practice in general, but especially for a career path like this where there is always new technology coming out.” - Alexxiss Jackson

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