What Does a Director of Photography Do? - B&C Camera

Frequently when you're watching a film with a gorgeous and creative ambiance, most people hand off that credit to the Movie Director. Most people must realize that the real MVP behind the impressive shots is a Director of Photography. This position helps bring visual elements to life. Think of a film like Avatar - this movie had people in awe of the cinematography. The person we should be thanking is Mauro Fiore, the Director of Photography.


If you have a love for film and photography, this could be the career for you.


Okay, but let us dive deeper. What does the DP (director of photography) exactly do?

Being creative is the main component and a necessity. You need to be able to bring ideas to life and also understand the technical aspect of film sets. This role has to take ownership of everything surrounding the camera, which means knowing which camera is the best for the shots needed, the right angles, lighting, filters, and so much more.


What happens during preproduction?

While in the preproduction stage, the DP plays a role in scouting for the perfect locations, creating the storyboard, choosing the right equipment, and hiring a team.

Assisting the camera crew in directing.

One of your main focuses will be directing the lighting crews and camera to determine the best composition for each shot. You will also need to ensure you stick with the desired aesthetic that the director envisions. The DP also has a pretty large crew on set working with the camera.


Does the DP play a role in postproduction?

Absolutely! The DP will need to be there during postproduction to help as a color consultant and for color grading. 

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What is the hierarchy?

The director of photography supervises the camera operator, the first and second assistant cameras, gaffers, electricians, and key grips. The DP will need to report directly to the director.


Let's talk money! About how much does a director of photography make?

A Director of Photography can make anywhere between $20,000 to $240,000 a year; on average, they are bringing in about $82,000 a year. They are also part of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600. 

Related article: Highest Paying Photography Jobs


What are the requirements for becoming a Director of Photography?


Your education will play a crucial role in landing your dream career as a director of photography. It's great to start with an introduction to filmmaking during film school and to gain as many technical skills as possible.


While education is crucial, nothing beats experience. Nearly every job you apply for requires it. Networking will also take you a long way. You need to get out there and meet people in the film industry and leave good impressions, and you want people to remember you. Seeking out entry-level positions will also help you get your foot in the door and gain the experience needed. Apply to be a production assistant, camera operator, gaffer, or even a first assistant camera.


This is the best opportunity to learn your way around the camera and advance your technical knowledge. Play around with light, lenses, and different locations to build a great resume and portfolio. Prove that you have an eye for creativity and capturing the perfect shot. And just like they say, practice makes perfect.


Okay, so how should you land a role as the director of photography?

• Self-promote constantly. Create a strong resume, bulk up your portfolio, and get yourself out there and every networking event. Build lasting relationships with as many people in the film industry as possible. Utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to get your face and name out there.

• Apply for freelance jobs, and this should include small jobs with other film students.

• Use job search engines like Backstage and Mandy.


How do the best demo reels look, and what should they include?

The best reels will always include a variety of shots that highlight the photographer's style and work. Make sure you do the following:

• Try to incorporate raw footage, so your creative choices don't overpower the demo reel. Although you want your creativity to show, you need people to know you aren't one-sided and versatile.

• You can use excerpts from full scenes or a montage of shots. If you choose to do excerpts, you can give a more in-depth look into your work. Montages show diversity.

• Select shots that will tell a story about yourself.


If you are into film and photography, this is an excellent opportunity to combine those loves and have an exciting career. Want to read about other photography career options? Check out this article on various jobs in photography: Highest Paying Photography Jobs


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