‘Another shot, Please!’ – Career of Cinematographer

Cinematographer Career

‘Let’s go for a movie!’ – And you instantly jump out of your bed with excitement and joy. But do you know or have you ever thought what it takes to transform a hand-written story to a 360 degrees visual delight?  You won’t, unless you are the person who instead of eyeing the stunning grooves of the actor, look for the kind of lights that must have been used during the shot!

This is where the cinematographer comes. He is the person who instills soul and life to the story of the director.They are the key person who can make the movie great or worst. So career opportunities are plenty in this industry once you prove your potential.

Cinematographer Meaning

A cinematographer is the master of camera and lights with which he plays and creates great visuals in movies or in any television production. He is also called the director of photography – and doing very much justice to its name he is responsible for taking that perfect shot where the scene depicts the visualization of the director.

A sketch artist and his pencil

If you ask me how a director and a cinematographer related – I will say, it is the same relation that a sketch artist shares with its pencil where the sketch artist is the director and the pencil is the cinematographer. The sketch artist envisions the art, and it’s pencil implements it on paper.. Can a sketch artist survive without a pencil? Or will you at all believe that he is a sketch artist until his pencil does the job? No right – that is exactly the aura of a cinematographer.

Cinematographer Education.

Cinematography is a lot of art but more of technique too. There is a lot of learning involved like the right light, the right time, the right camera and right everything to produce the right shot! And this is where the course in cinematography is going to help you. There are a lot of film institutes which provide diploma or degree courses in cinematography.  

To learn a technique like this, you definitely have to perform it – and the schools provide you with the platform and space to put your own thoughts and execute it: It’s like learning while doing. And here it becomes extremely important to tell you the importance of ‘Learning on the job’ in cinematography:

For a lot of acknowledged cinematographers, industry has done what school couldn’t. They learnt while they were on the job assisting and observing the head DP, and in some years they were found teaching their juniors. So, for those who want to seriously learn it, intern with a DP in a production house (I assure you that it is going to be your best pick!)

Keep Learning

If you are an artistic person, write this in golden words – Art has no end, so you need to keep learning everyday. This is how you will develop and it will eventually show in your work. Above all you will be working with technology which is so rapidly developing that with each day there is a new feature in your camera. Every film will be different and every shot will be different. Your proficiency should be such that you can ace each one of them!

Work environment

After I have equipped you with the qualifications you will need to create motion picture. (I meant movies!) let’s discover how is going to be like –

I am not going to be an envoy and say that it will all be like a dream but I will definitely say that if you have seen a dream, you will have to endeavor for it. Your work will mean long working hours and days of no sleep – no break. You will have unscheduled calls at awkward timings by so many celebrated people. Someday the hero of the movie may call you at 2 am at night to say that, ‘I think I am well-rehearsed for the shot, can we have a take now?’

But you can’t complain or shut them down – that’s going to be your career, your bread and butter! Don’t worry; there are a lot of favors too:

  • Like I said earlier every shot, every movie, every television serial, every project will be different than the other. So if you thought that you will have the same routine work – then you are highly mistaken. Your job is going to be so exciting with so many new challenges everyday!
  • Have you ever heard of ‘playing in a team is always better than a solo player?’ Then you are extremely lucky, because you are always going to work with a team – camera operators, gaffers, lighting crew, camera assistants, assistant DPs and etcetera. You team members may be different with each project.

You will be constantly communicating with the director to interpret his thoughts and accordingly co-ordinate with the set designers and lighting crew to achieve that applause from the audience and the director. It’s not just the movies where cinematographers are called for, they are also found in the making of television shows, documentaries and advertisements as well.

Cinematographer Skills

Now when you know your work and your working conditions, there are few basic characteristics which I think you should develop in yourself before you further move in the direction of cinematography:

  • Creative and technical: I know these terms are extremely contradictory and you may think that a person can be either. But believe me in cinematography you will need both. You need to be highly creative with your work and extremely technical with all the tactics.
  • Budget means Budget: Remember this, Directors love the cinematographers who follow strict budgets. So if you want more work, work within the stated budget.
  • Maestro in Camera skills: Your camera will be your everything. It is the only medium through which you can show your work. So you need to be adept with the minutest feature of the cameras and its applicability.
  • Team Building skills: So if you remember I told how it is an advantage because you will always work in a team. And you definitely don’t want to turn this advantage to a disadvantage. So work on your team-building skills, communicate with people and check your compatibility with others!
  • Great ‘Lighting-sense’: We all know how important light is when it is about photography or videography. You should be totally aware about the strength or weaknesses of natural or electrical lights. In your coursework you will have a detailed study about light, but if you start playing with lights in your initial days itself – it will only turn to be your another strength.

Cinematographer Salary

Now when you all decked up to be the next most talked about cinematographer, you will be still apprehensive about one thing – but how much will I be paid? Will it give me a good living?

In US dollars

The average income of a cinematographer or a DP varies greatly with location, experience and skills. In United States, average salary of a cinematographer is $40,000 per annum. While, in California which has the highest paid jobs for cinematographers all over the world, recorded an annual salary of $61,540 in 2010.

In Indian rupee

In India, a fresher will be paid somewhere between RS 84,000 – RS 96,000 a year. With experience of around 8-10 years on an average, you will find yourself earning as much as Rs 480,000 – Rs 600,000 a year. The numbers of those who were behind the famous movies like Star Wars, Avatar or Bahubali is so much that a quote might just destroy its authenticity.

Related Article: Let’s Capture The Moment The Right Way – Career In Photography

And finally we are at the end of our reel life to get back to the real life. So until the next time we meet keep taking shots and turning visions to movies – you are doing a ‘cinematic’ job!

I hope to see you soon in the theatres when I read your name on the big screen. All the best, Cinematographers!

Don’t forget to tell us your success stories. We at Careerhi5 will be waiting eagerly.

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