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What is Cinematography and how to become a cinematographer


A cinematographer, or director of photography, is one of the most highly regarded positions behind the camera. A cinematographer is responsible for translating the story from the script to the screen in the best way possible. They are responsible for handling the camera - which shots to use, which lighting to go ahead with and how a camera behaves while shooting a particular sequence. If you’re wondering what is cinematography? The answer is that it is the art and technology of motion picture photography. Right from the composition of a scene, the lighting of the set, the choice of camera and lenses, and the camera angle and movements, all fall under the realm of cinematography.

Photography enthusiasts often look at the scenes of a film with wide-eyed fascination and often wonder how to become a cinematographer because it is where all the magic happens, behind the scenes and a cinematographer is responsible for the visual impact of a film. If you have the artistic caliber to translate the script into a beautiful visual and are willing to become a cinematographer, this article will help you understand the steps involved in realising your passion.

Credits - @shootguru

Know the Basics

You cannot become a cinematographer just with a 4K video recording camera. The first step is to acquaint yourself with the basics of camera movements and know the different technical and practical skills required for the job. You will also need to study different composition techniques, light and sound design, and editing techniques that are required to provide a desired output on screen. With a plethora of online photography classes and other classes available at the click of a button, learning these techniques and practices isn’t all that difficult, but always make sure to go for accredited workshops and courses to learn right.

Credits - @glaamourstudio

Find your Inspiration

Once you have learnt the basics and know about the concepts and tools for cinematography, you can now start putting your learnings to practice. You should always remember that there is no single path on how to become a cinematographer. Even if you have the technical and practical knowledge of the field, and the artistic eye required to help you translate words into motion visuals, it is the zeal and passion of doing this everyday that will help you thrive in the long run. Keep looking for inspiration in the works by award-winning cinematographers, watch regional, national and world cinema to learn the different techniques people apply in filming a scene. Along with this, ask yourself questions and try finding your passion - Do you like making breathtaking films or do you want to be a part of a big production house? Hang on to your inspiration and work towards it to realise your passion.

Credits - @pratgrafix

Learn by spending Time on Sets

There’s no better way to learn than from experience. Before your start looking for work, spend some time on sets and learn directly from the place where the magic happens. Working with professionals from the field and seeing them put theory into practice will help you learn faster and better. Seeing how directors, camera operators, sound designers, lightmen and editors come together to work as a team on projects will teach you a lot that many workshops won’t. You can even take your 4K video recording camera and make your own compositions around the area of the set. You could even apply as an intern for continued and meaningful exposure. Once accepted, you can immerse yourself into the world of filmmaking and each experience, learning and skill you acquire here, will help shape the cinematographer in you.

Credits - @neerajspicture

Work on creating your Unique Visual Style

When you start working in a full-fledged film crew, you will find that the director usually has the final say in most of the things. You will majorly be involved in bringing out the desired visual impact of a film but a major chunk of your responsibility will lie in directing camera operators to achieve the desired visual output. A cinematographer is known for their artistic style and when starting out, you will more often mimic other people’s visual language, which is completely normal. What you should work towards however, is how to make someone else’s style your own. Always remember to keep working towards becoming a better storyteller through what you’ve learnt and experienced and always trust your creative instinct.

Cultivate your Brand

After your first few stints, work on cultivating your brand. This will help you establish your identity and stand apart from the crowd once you’ve joined the race. Start by creating your own website or online portfolio where you will showcase your work and keep updating it to open it up for potential partnerships in the future. Social media will also come to your aid. Post your work on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to showcase your talent to the world. This will also open up opportunities for networking and collaborations.

Credits - @yeswefilm

Continue Learning

The world is ever-changing and with technology evolving every day, there’s always scope to learn and grow each day. Your success and relevance depends on how well you’re acquainted with the latest developments in the field and new, high-tech film gear and techniques. Along with this, you should also know about the new trends and your ability to use them to your advantage. You could enrol for higher studies, take up challenging jobs and learn from the established professionals as well as new-age cinematographers. The hunger to learn and grow is what will help you thrive throughout your career.

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