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 rogerdeakins.com 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.
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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.

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