How to become a cinematographer

SAE Digital Film Students

In the world of film and television, there are a number of professions for those of us who don’t aspire to be a Hollywood star. Skilled professionals can pursue fields such as camera operator, grip, electrical, production, and even director. In addition to these roles, many creative professionals are drawn to the field of cinematography, which involves the art of motion-picture photography. Great cinematographers need technical training and hands-on experience in the field to bring their visions to life. SAE Institute Digital Film graduates learn the skills required to begin a career as a cinematographer. 

But what does a cinematographer do? And, could you become a cinematographer? Learn more about how to become a cinematographer and what this profession entails.  

What does a cinematographer do?

“When done correctly, cinematography allows the audience to see into the soul of the movie!” (Hakim Robinson, Program Chair of Digital Film, SAE Institute Atlanta)

A cinematographer is “a person who oversees or directs photography and camerawork in movie-making, especially one who operates the camera”. This means that the cinematographer, also known as director of photography, is the person responsible for creating the look of a film or TV show or even a music video or commercial and interpreting the director’s vision. In short, they are the person in charge of making the movie look stunning. 

Cinematographers are a part of a production crew and work closely with the director. They determine how each shot should be composed, map out camera angles and movements, and normally supervise the camera and lighting crews. They also work with the actors as well as all other departments like the production designer and wardrobe for a cohesive look.

The duties of a cinematographer are varied, and range from participation in location scouting and storyboard production in pre-production, scene coverage, camera placement, shooting during production, and color grading in post. 

Why is cinematography so important?

The visual narrative of a movie is as important as the dialogue, and it can make or break a film. Cinematography uses moving images to convey emotion, deliver information, and enhance the cinematic experience. Each visual element should serve and enhance the story and be cohesive to create an overall look, the mise-en-scene, and create the wow factor, especially when seen on the big in-theater screen. Many filmmakers decide to spend a huge part of their budget on cinematography to ensure it will look incredible in cinemas and remain in our minds for a long time. 

What skills do I need to become a cinematographer?

A cinematographer has to be a good technician and have a strong technical knowledge of camera equipment and lighting. They possess a great eye for detail and an ever-flowing stream of creativity. They also need to have strong leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills. 

How to become a cinematographer

You might be wondering what the best path towards becoming a cinematographer entails. For most people, getting the right education for this career is the best way to get started. There is a range of degree programs and options. SAE Atlanta’s Digital Film Associate program gives you a great foundation of everything you might need to get started in the field and can be completed in only 16 months. 

During the program, you will be taking 16 different courses. You will immerse yourself in subjects like storytelling, film production, editing and post-production, camera, and lighting, and you will also take a career preparation course in order to develop professional life skills needed to advance in the industry. Subjects include marketing, networking, writing resumes, and interviewing skills.

Interested? Simply call us at 1-800-872-1504 or fill in this short form.