How much is a typical Director of Photography Salary? Should it Matter?

No, it shouldn’t matter and you’re obviously not in it for the money, are you? If you are, I have a bit of bad news. Unless you’re the most desired cinematographer in Hollywood you’re not going to be rich anytime soon. The cinematographer’s salary/Director of Photography salary you want and the pay that you’ll get are two very different things.

That isn’t to say you can’t become rich through being a Director of Photography but it’s important that you set your expectations to align with reality. Like most careers, the top earners in the industry account for the majority of the money floating around. It’s the way it is, whether you agree with it or not. Hint, we don’t.

Regardless of how much you will earn as a Director of Photography, one thing is for sure. The more you know, the better you will be at the art and science of cinematography. So it’s time to learn the fundamentals of cinematography with our expert tutor, Dave Miller.

When you’re looking into the typical director of photography salary you should be doing so purely so that you can plan for the future but if you’re reading this post because you want a career that is going to be full of riches, you’re looking at the wrong industry and in all honesty, you will not succeed unless you focus on the art of cinematography and getting better at that.

The cinematographer salary is actually a myth anyway. Sure, projects can run for months or even years (the rise of binge watching TV has helped here) but as a cinematographer you’ll be paid on a per job basis. Which means that you have to plan and you have to always be looking forward. It could be that for the first half of the year you’re turning away jobs because you’re just too busy and then all of a sudden, nothing. No-one you know is in production and you’re playing a waiting game waiting for the next opportunity.


Average Director of Photography Salary

Now, let’s take a look into the typical Director of Photography salary and pay. According to the New York Film Academy, the average salary for a DOP is around the £40k-£50k ($60k-$70k) range. Bear in mind this is when you have honed your skill over the years and when you are at the point of taking on regular work and even then, it depends on your skill and experience. That’s actually a decent salary for someone in the TV and film industry, like we say, you shouldn’t be in this for the money.

What about when I get to Hollywood?

There’s certainly a step up when it comes to working in Hollywood – by Hollywood, we really mean working on big budget film and TV, you can expect to be earning anywhere from £3k-£10k ($5k-$15k) per week. Yes, per week.

Again, that depends on your skill and experience as you’d expect but more than that, it depends on those contacts you’ve built up over the years (and we do mean years). Being a DOP is a very desirable job but it is an artistic job and there’s an argument that you will never be able to earn this kind of money if you don’t approach this career with more of a love for cinematography than money.