Lights Camera Action: Guide to a Career in Cinematography

  • Dec 24, 2021

Courtesy of the technological advancements being witnessed globally, we now have lights that are more powerful than the sun, and cameras that have better vision than the human eye. However, these tools are quite useless without an artistic visionary behind them!

We've all heard the popular filmmaking phrase 'Lights, Camera, Action!' Well, the ‘camera’ bit in it is what the cinematographer is responsible for. 

A cinematographer is someone who oversees all the video recording aspects of a film and is responsible for bringing the director’s vision to screen. They determine how each scene of the script is going to be filmed, what type of lens, camera, lighting, and shot angle is going to be used, and more. They do not usually handle the camera but direct the camera crew on how to shoot certain scenes, which is why they are also popularly known as the director of photography (DOP). 


Before we get into how you can become a cinematographer, it is important to know what cinematography is. Cinematography is commonly defined as the art and science of making motion pictures and telling a story visually by recording moving objects in a camera. 

But in a more artistic sense, it doesn’t just give visuals to a story but also gives a unique style and voice to the film and makes the storytelling experience an immersive one for the audience. 


Here’s How You Can Become A Cinematographer

A career as a cinematographer includes a fine understanding of the technology and if you have coordination, energy for photography, and heaps of creativity, then this vocation is a certain shot for you.

The cinematographer is one of the most important and coveted jobs on a film set. To become a cinematographer, a degree alone is rarely enough. Experience is essential to both starting and growing a career in this field. 

Here are some steps that can help you become a cinematographer:

  1. Pursue higher education: Aspiring cinematographers can benefit greatly from enrolling in film school. Film school provides an opportunity to study the technical side of a cinematography career, immerse yourself in film studies, and provide a network of future coworkers or employers. There are a number of degree programs available at most film schools, although most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in cinematography or photography. Obviously, there are some downsides to film school—they’re usually expensive, for one thing—but attending can increase your ability to get entry-level cinematographer jobs in the film industry.
  2. Gain practical experience: The surest route to employment as a cinematographer is by gaining experience in the entertainment industry. Spending time on a film set is an invaluable way to immerse yourself in the process of filmmaking and observe the best cinematography practices. A cinematographer typically starts their cinematography career as an assistant to a more experienced cinematographer or director of photography. However, some individuals may be able to work as the primary cinematographer for low-budget motion picture productions. As more experience is gained, directors and producers may start considering them for higher-budget productions.
  3. Hone your technical skills: Cinematography is both an art and a science, which means that it has more to it than just hitting the record button on a camera. Anyone can operate a camera; it takes a creative mind to create a narrative out of a series of shots and give a unique look and feel to the film. It is important for any aspiring cinematographer to have a working knowledge of all the major elements in this field. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you practice with your camera, the more you will understand the device and its creative potential, and discover your own style. 
  4. Put yourself out there: Even if you’re the most talented cinematographer in the world, nobody will hire you if they don’t know who you are. So, put yourself out there and try to attend mixers, screening, and events with other professionals in the industry. Additionally, joining a union, like the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, might better a prospective cinematographer's employment prospects. 


Still unsure if becoming a cinematographer is the right career path for you? Take Internmart’s free Career Map Test to find out if this career is in your top matches, or if you’re well-suited for another similar career!

Do you want to know more about making the right choice for your college and career?
Book a Free One-on-One consultation with a career expert.

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