Learn the art and the science, that’s how to become a cinematographer

You’ve decided. You’re going to become the greatest cinematographer the world has ever seen, but now you need to know how to become a cinematographer (or how to become a Director of Photography, which is the same thing), right? Well, you have to work hard and hone your craft, you have to watch films with the mute button activated to avoid distractions and you have to master the art of cinematography.

From a young age you’ve had a calling, you watch The Goonies for the amazing plot, of course, but you watched it because you admired how the film felt to you, the mood the film put you in. As time has passed you’ve become a connoisseur of cinematography and you spend your time studying the great films and cinematographers. You take a very keen interest in who wins the cinematography awards and instantly, you watch all of their body of work. Great. That’s an excellent start but still, how do you become a cinematography?

Study the Art of Cinematography

You’re already doing this just by watching films, right? Wrong. If you want to know how to become a cinematographer, you will have to study. While studying how film and TV use cinematography to tell their story is a great way for you to be spending your time, it’d not the only thing you should be doing. You’ll be a cinephile and you’ll be watching these films anyway so you can’t just say watching films makes you a cinematographer. You need to study these films as a cinematographer would. How did they get this particular shot? What camera did they use? What was the lighting setup on that shot? How could it have been shot better? Could it have been shot better?

How exactly do you do that? Well, we have an excellent course on the Fundamentals of Cinematography for you to feast your eyes on, it’s an extensive course taught by expert cinematographer, Dave Miller. In that course, you will learn exactly how to become a cinematographer along with learning all of the expert knowledge needed. For anyone wanting to learn everything you need to know about cinematography to be become a cinematographer, you’d struggle to find a better course. Another great resource is Cinematography database, a superb resource to study cinematography. Here’s a recent video looking into the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, the three-time Academy Award winner.

Aside from studying the actual art of cinematography, study the fields and jobs related to it. Learn how to function in a production environment so when you get that dream job, you’ll fit right in. It’s also important to understand what the job of a cinematographer isn’t. It isn’t to direct actors or rewrite the script.

Get Filming (see what we did there?)

I know it’s the name of the site you’re on, but there’s a reason we called our community getfilming.com. Because it’s damn good advice. Get your camera out, or your phone or whatever else you have to start practicing some shots and go and film!

Build up a portfolio and then offer your services to other filmmakers. Every day there are a lot of filmmakers getting out there and making films, you can guarantee that with a bit searching around you’ll find filmmakers in your area who will be looking for a cinematographer. They might not know that they are looking for you, but it’s your job to convince them that they are and hey, you have an awesome portfolio now, right?

Network and Build your Contacts

You’ve heard the phrase “It’s all about who you know” and it’s true. As much as we’d like to be able to walk into the job of our dreams, unfortunately it doesn’t happen like that. Think about it, if you’re making a film, it’s a labour of love and you want everyone on that film to be as dedicated to it as you are. So, if you have the option of hiring someone you’ve never heard of before or someone you know will do an amazing job, you’re going to choose the latter.

How do you become a cinematographer? By learning, crafting and honing your skill, by producing an outstanding show reel and by making sure everyone who is looking for a cinematographer thinks of you first.

See, it’s going to be hard work but ultimately, it’ll be well worth it.