How to Become a Cinematographer
Cinematographer Job Duties
Skills or Qualities Needed to Become a Cinematographer
Cinematographer Salaries
Influential Professionals In Cinematographer Field
Leading Cinematographer Organizations
Top Cities for Cinematographer Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Cinematographer

Videography and camera operation courses are offered at many colleges and universities, and many potential cinematographers obtain film degrees from four year universities. Various film schools focus on different aspects of filmmaking. It is important for cinematography students to study camera operation, camera equipment, and computer technology, as so much of modern-day cinematography uses computers.

Potential cinematographers can also join audio-visual clubs to get more experience, and subscribe to cinematography magazines to follow the industry. It is possible for people to work as production assistants to observe and learn about cinematography before they become cinematographers. Some employers require that a cinematographer have a bachelor's degree, but this is not always the case.

Experience is important when becoming a cinematographer, with technical training and artistic experience both being important factors. Some cinematographers undergo an apprenticeship period, when they study and work under a more experienced person in the field.

What does a Cinematographer do?

Cinematographers film movies and television shows, using cameras in various mounts. Stationary cameras, cameras mounted on a track, and cameras mounted on a crane are only a few of the many different cameras used in cinematography. Cinematographers may specialize in movie making, for example, or television programs. Many cinematographers focus on one genre - documentaries being a common one.

Cinematographers are generally responsible to the director of the film or television program being shot, but they bring their own expertise and artistry to the project. Major film projects may have more than one cinematographer, with each one working on a different camera or camera set-up. Smaller productions can usually only afford one cinematographer, but directors of all levels often stay loyal to one cinematographer, hiring him or her for each unique project.

The hours for a cinematographer vary considerably, depending upon what project they are currently working on and where the shoot is in the production schedule. Cinematographers may have periods of time when they work long days or are required to be on night shoots at times.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Cinematographer?

Cinematographers need good eyesight and a talent for visual composition. Experience can help with the visual artistry needed, as well as the technical knowledge that is necessary for the job. A cinematographer must have the ability to work independently as well as the interpersonal skills required to work well under a director and over camera technicians.

How much does a Cinematographer make?

In the motion picture industry, the median yearly salary in 2006 was $40,060. The middle fifty percent of all cinematographers in the United States made in between $26,930 and $59,440 in the same year. Cinematographers tend to make more money in the motion picture industry than in the television industry. These figures can vary considerably, based on what specific field the cinematographer is working in and whether he or she works for a production company or as a freelancer.

The field of cinematography is expected to get even more competitive in the near future, since it is such a popular major in college. Experience and seniority can help cinematographers advance in the fields well as in the pay scale.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Hal Mohr was a noted cinematographer and one of only six in the field to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mohr won the Academy Award for Cinematography in 1936, made remarkable by the fact that he wasn't actually nominated, but won on a write-in vote, before the Academy deemed write-in voting illegal in the contests. His Oscar was for the 1935 film A Midsummer Night's Dream, and he won another for The Phantom of the Opera in 1943.

Another influential American cinematographer, Gregg Toland, pioneered such techniques as deep focus. This technique, as well as innovative lighting styles, is partly credited for the success of Orson Welles' film Citizen Kane. In the 1930s, Gregg Toland was well-respected, despite being the youngest in his field in Hollywood. Much of his cinematography on Citizen Kane was experimental, encouraged by Orson Welles. Toland actually designed some of the cameras and lenses used on that set to further achieve his desired effects.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The most prominent cinematography organization in the United States is the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This society has had its headquarters in New York City since its founding in 1969. Located at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is one of twelve organizations at the Center. The Film Society of Lincoln Center puts its focus on both American cinema and cinema around the world, attempting to specifically focus on new filmmakers. The Society is also known for hosting the New York Film Festival each year and publishing the film journal Film Comment.

What are the top cities for Cinematographer jobs?

Cinematographers are expected to face serious competition in the near future, due to more interest in the field, and this may change which cities are good for cinematographer jobs. However, currently, Hollywood and Los Angeles, California are the top cities for cinematographer jobs in the United States, as they are obviously the center of much of the movie and television industry. New York, New York comes in closely after these California cities, and is followed by Miami, Florida, where the Center of Cinematography, Arts, and TV is located.

Other Careers of Interest

A professional photographer takes photographs for a living. No matter for what purpose the photographs are to be used, he's responsible for the...

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