Finding Life and Balance as a Freelance Cinematographer

I’ve been a freelance cinematographer for many years. During my younger years I didn’t pay much, if any, attention to my body and general well-being. I was so focused on making sure I did the best job and that I got hired for another job. I started to burn the candle at both ends.

I thought this post would be a good reminder of some of the things you can do to make sure that you work hard but also take care of your body. It’s the only one you have!

One of the first things to remember is that the only way to completely recharge you body is to get sleep. I don’t mean just a few hours here and there, I’m taking about a good 8 hours. Getting a good sleep can make a huge difference in the way you think and act on a day to day basis.


There are a few ways to make sure you get a good sleep. The first is to set a schedule that you adhere to each night. This is set your body clock on a pattern and you will get use to waking up and going to sleep at these times. Another way to get better and more consistent sleep is to cut back on caffeine. Most experts recommend not having a coffee after 3 pm as it will still be in your system when you go to sleep that night.

massage-figuresAside from having a good nights rest giving your body some time off from carrying, lifting, loading and lugging can do wonders. The strain that we put on our muscles in this industry is incredible. However, it’s only later that we start to really feel the effects of this strain. Going to visit a local day spa or massage therapist can have a big effect on how you recover. You can get a deep tissue massage that will solve many of your underlying problems, leaving you feeling fresh and ready to go.

Finally, taking time to completely stop what your doing and relax at home can sometime be the best tip of all. This will let your mind settle and not focus on the hustle and bustle of being on a film set.

Cheap After Effects Plugins For Your Films

Having good lighting is one of the most important parts of filmmaking, you want to make sure you have an image that represents the mode, tone and style of the projects. You also want to make sure you have the highest quality image possible. With that being said – post production can be your best friend when it comes time to tweak your work and try to push the cinematic style ever-so-slightly. Here are a few plugins that can really help you get your films looking great, for those on a tight budget..

Cheap AE Plugins For Your Films

Video CoPilot Presets

video co pilot

Aside from the fact that you should be watching every single one of Andrew Kramers tutorials he’s also given his audience 19 after effect presets. This presets can help you turn a difficult process into an extremely simplified situation.

Light leaks filters

light leaks

Light Leaks Light leaks have really made a come back. What was once considered a hinderance to the photographer has now become stylistic tool for filmmakers and “motion graphos” like us. Although there are plugins available, one of the quickest and easiest ways to get a cool look in your projects in to bring in the lighT Leaks place them on a separate layer and adjusting the blending mode. Boom. Check Out The Video Below From

Red Giant Colorista II

red giant

I mentioned magic bullet looks in my previous post however with a price tag of about 399, it’s not exactly a easy purchase. However, I think getting a good colour grade is extremely important to your projects. Colourista does just that, it gives you a high production value look to your films at an low, entry level prices. It simulates a big budget colour-grading system with it’s three stages of correction. Combined with an easy ti navigate interface, it’s really a great deal if you can shell out the $99.

How To Create Light Leaks

When it comes to cinematography, cameramen are always trying to “up their game”. With the accessibility of DSLR, a cinematic short film or wedding film is considered the norm. Soft skin tones and a shallow depth of field is considered a must when it comes to cinematography.Cameramen and cinematographers are looking for new ways to stand out from the crowd and make their work noticeable. One of the cool techniques that has recently been on the rise is the art of detaching your lens from the camera while shooting. Yes, this sounds a bit like a dangerous stunt but it’s really quite simple (and effective). The idea is that you let a bit of light sneak into the chamber, these Light leakS cause the image to become over-exposed.

These techniques are a great way to stylize your work. Each time you use these tricks you’ll get a different result, that’s the beauty of this. See below for instructions:

Light LeakS

Creating lens flares and light leaks by hand

So, how do you achieve these effects?

(Warning, this is a really good way to get dust into the chamber of your camera)

1. Grab a decent lens, I’d start with a 50mm prime.

2. While holding camera body with your right hand, grab the lens with your left and slowly start to create a small gap on the side of the lens mount.

3. Watch your live preview viewfinder to see the results. You results may vary depending on how much light you allow in and where you do it – for example, outside at noon will be different to outside at sunset and both will be different when inside a house.

See for examples of pre-made effects that can be applied during post production

Once you’ve mastered your technique you can start to experiment with different colours and lenses. You can wrap diffusion and other gels around the gap you create to get a softer look and even other colours. Your effects will be different with ever lens your use, old lenses yield great results as well.

Post Productions Techniques To Make Your Work Pop!

You’ve finally finished your principal photography and you’ve had a few days to catch up on some much needed sleep. It’s now time to start thinking about post production. If you shoot, direct and edit all of your work then I’m sure you’ve been planning this stage for week. Post production is a great time to no only ‘plus’ individual shots but create an unique look for the whole project. Below are a few plug-ins that can really help speed up and maximize your post-production time.

Post Production Software

Magic Bullet looks is one of the industry “go-to’s” when it comes to colour grading your films. They software works with After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer and many more. Presets make it easy to quickly add an effect to your project and the non-destructive workflow makes it even easier to remove those effects. 


Optical Flares is another one of the industry standards when it comes to plugins for after effects. The simple interface allows to create stunning flares from scratch or you can use their custom flares to create an easy look. Using after effects you can track and rotoscope your flares in and out of your shots. Video Co-pilot also has a ton of tutorials to really get you started.

light leak image

Media based effects like film burns and light leaks are a cheap and quick way to add a bit of colour or flare to your projects. Instead of installing a plug-in you can simple drag a quicktime file into your timeline, like you would footage, and quickly adjust the way a certain shot looks. Light leaks can be used to transition between shots or give depth to shots that a feeling a bit flat. Check out the video below to see how light leaks can be used in a project. Check out

There are plenty of way to really give your shots an extra bit of colour, depth and life. Stay tuned for some tips on how you can do this in camera

Take Professional Product Shots – with your iphone?

Taking professional photographs of your products can be incredibly painful and expensive, especially if you don’t own your own lighting and camera gear. Thankfully today we picked up on a great tutorial from Pro Cap titled: ‘iPhone Product Photography Tutorial at Home. DIY No Need‘ and despite the crazy long title we found the article to be really helpful. We’ve summed up the video into three easy steps!

Step 1 – Collect your equipment

You’ll need a couple of things to get started.


1. A phone that can take HD photographs

2. 3 lamps with the same color temperature light bulbs

3. A white, A4 sheet of paper

4. One white SKUBB from IKEA (or alternatively you could use some white fabric)


Step 2 – Set up Equipment

As yowhite-backdrop-lightingu can see from the photos, there are lamps on the right and left side and the third is pointed at the back of the SKUBB.

You then slide your A4 piece of paper to the back of the box, as pictured below. Note that he lets the paper curve that the back so it acts as a backdrop and covers the back of the SKUBB. Turn off your lights and draw the curtains. Now you’re all set up to take some beautiful product shots!


Step 3 – Take the shot!

Place the youGet-focus-camerar product in the middle of the box. Turn off your flash and switch your aspect ratio to ‘square’. Switching to the square aspect ratio isn’t essential but it does prevent you from having to crop your shots later which will save you lots of time.

With the back lamp turned off, lock the focus on your product by holding on it till it pulses three times. Now that the focus is locked, turn on the back lamp.


End Product Shot


And boom! Take those pretty product shots!

The best part is that you can upload the photos straight from your photo to your Facebook or Etsy account without having to send them to photoshop via your computer! Easy!



We hope you liked our run down of Pro Cap’s great video tutorial on taking product stills on a budget! To see the original video please see below! And as always, if you have any questions be sure to write to us in the comments.

Cinematography 101

Below are a few tips for those of you just getting started with cinematography. It’s an uphill battle but rest assured the view from the top is a good one.

Get a camera. Getting a camera is the first and best way to hone your skills. Camera’s today have gotten smaller, more powerful and cheaper. In fact you could shoot a better looking, higher quality video on your phone than from a pro-sumer video camera 10 years ago. Now that’s saying something!

Understand your location. Knowing where you’re going to shoot ahead of time is going to save you both time and a lot of embarrassment. Is your location in the shade or direct sunlight? If you’re indoors, how much natural light is there? Is the location too small for a telephoto lens or is the ground unable to support a dolly track. Knowing these questions ahead of time is going to make all the difference and allow you to work quickly and efficiently.
Start studying. Maybe this should have been at the top of the list, but I figured this is one that doesn’t quite stop. The internet is such a valuable resource for all things information. With youtube, learning how to light has never been easier. Forums like has allowed industry professionals to communicate with the next generation. Of course, if the internet isn’t really your thing, you can always head over to your local bookshop and find a ton of books on cinematography – I suggest a book called “shot by shot” by John Cantine.
Finally, watch films. All films. All styles. Don’t simply follow the lighting, watching the editing, the pacing and understand why the filmmaker made the decisions he or she did. Learning how all the pieces fit together will allow you to become a smarter and more efficiently director of photography. Understanding differenent genre’s will also turn you into a well-rounded DP, knowing how to light and compose shots for both a rom-com and a thriller will open many doors.
Stay tuned for more tips, tricks and techniques. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line in the comments below.