How Do I Become a Cinematographer?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Cinematographers may get their start working on local productions.
Cinematographers may get their start working on local productions.

To become a cinematographer, you should acquire a strong background in and understanding of photography and camera operation, while also developing contacts within the entertainment industry. Many cinematographers work their way up within the film or television industry, often starting as camera assistants before moving on to become camera operators and cinematographers. You should consider receiving an education in film or television production, either from a traditional college or a film school, to gain the knowledge of camera operation and set production you need. Once you have the training to become a cinematographer, you should build contacts and develop a network within the industry to find jobs.

Many cinematographers begin by making their own short films.
Many cinematographers begin by making their own short films.

If you want to become a cinematographer, then you should be ready to work your way up within the film or television industry. A cinematographer is sometimes considered the same position as a director of photography (DP), while some productions may employ both a DP and a cinematographer. Cinematographers are typically responsible for overseeing the operations of a camera crew, including camera operators and assistants, and working with other departments on a production to capture the desires of the film director.

Your first steps to become a cinematographer should typically involve learning about film or television production. There are many colleges and universities with programs in film and television, as well as film schools and art schools with film programs. The classes offered in these programs teach you about camera use and concepts such as lighting and scene composition, as well as provide you with a degree. While it is possible for someone to become a cinematographer by working his or her way up within the industry without a degree, this has become increasingly difficult.

Once you have a degree or the training you need to become a cinematographer, then you can begin working your way into the film or television industry. While some basic aspects of both industries are similar, employment within them can often seem mutually exclusive. Fortunately, however, cinematographers can often switch between these industries more easily than actors can. You should look for opportunities to begin working as a camera assistant or camera operator; these positions are usually entry level and can be used to become a cinematographer.

As you are gaining experience working on camera crews, you should also develop contacts within the film or television industry. Your network should include other members of camera crews, as well as directors, producers, and established cinematographers. Once you have experience within the industry, then you can become a cinematographer by looking for productions in need of your abilities. You may need to start as a DP on smaller productions, but each film or show you work on provides you with more experience and samples of your work for greater opportunities.

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    • Cinematographers may get their start working on local productions.
      Cinematographers may get their start working on local productions.
    • Many cinematographers begin by making their own short films.
      Many cinematographers begin by making their own short films.