Whether working in film, television, or digital media, visual storytelling requires a vision.
The camera must capture the actors and the scenery, but also the right lighting, angles, and effects that tell the story just as much as the people on screen. For creative spirits who want to play a large part behind the scenes, signing on as a project’s cinematographer, or director of photography, can be an exciting and rewarding pursuit.
While you may already have a grasp on the fundamentals of cinematography, you can go deeper into what to know about cinematography by reading ahead.
Light Temperature Matters
This isn’t a matter of the actual temperature of the studio lights you’re using—though, hopefully, you won’t have to labor under incandescent lights. One of the most important measurements a cinematographer makes pertains to the temperature of the lighting, measured in Kelvin. The closer to zero a light’s temperature value, the warmer it will appear.
A 2000K light is equivalent to candlelight, while the cool white light of a 7500K bulb can approximate the light of the sun. This is unlike the temperature we take of ourselves, so
familiarize yourself with this new scale.
You Need the Tools of the Trade
While the role of cinematographer in a film production is a prestigious one, it’s more than a cushy consulting role. As the director of photography, you are, in a real sense, a photographer, and that means you’ll be moving around, adjusting lights, looking for angles, switching out lenses, and generally staying busy. While cinematography requires a keen eye, it also requires many specialized tools that no DP can do without, from your trusty camera to precise light meters.
Prepare for Lifelong Learning
Cinematography is a bit like chess. You can pick up the basics in a matter of minutes, but true mastery is a lifelong pursuit. A truly comprehensive book of what to know about cinematography would have no epilogue or back cover.
As technology changes and practices evolve, you’ll have to evolve with them. The best thing you can do is redouble your commitment to learning more about your craft and synthesizing your study with real photography work in the field—there’s no substitute for that.