Cinematography, an integral element in the art of making motion pictures, literally refers to the combined art and science of using a moving image camera. It is the process of recording visual images for the cinema and subsequent development of recorded images in sophisticated photo laboratories. Cinematography comprises of all the processes beginning from the choice of lighting and camera until video and audio of a particular scene is recorded perfectly.
A person qualified in the art of cinematography is called Cinematographer or Director of Photography (DP). The Cinematographer is regarded as one of the most senior and important technician in the film creation process. The cinematographer is the person who actually plans and coordinates the actual filming of the movie. A cinematographer is the person responsible for turning the director’s creative vision into a production-feasible reality on screen. Being a creative designer, cinematographer translate the written text to meaningful images. In other words, what you see on screen looks the way it does because of the cinematographer.
Cinematographers work closely with the director and give a film its unique visual look and identity. They are responsible for composing each scene to be shot, decides lighting and camera angles as per director's requirement. To succeed as a cinematographer one need to be creative, have a strong interest in cinema and the arts, as well as knowledge in design, and principles of photography. A course in Cinematography is essential to enter the field. Cinematographers primarily monitor the use of photographic and lighting equipment. They often have to work odd hours and travel to remote shooting sites, and may have to work in outdoor locations in stormy weather.
Cinematographers film movies and television shows, using cameras in various mounts.
A career in Cinematography is suited for artistic people with good hand-eye coordination, passion for photography and lots of creativity. With the increase in the number of feature, advertisement & documentary film production companies, and new TV channels being launched every other day, Cinematographers have immense career opportunities.
Cinematographers play an important role in film production. They work in coordination with the director, right from the pre-production stage of planning a shoot. Often, a Cinematographer will be asked to work with the camera operators, lighting team and other production staff in a variety of roles to capture the script's scene on film. In short, Cinematographer heads a crew which is required to provide the photographic images and visual effects conceptualised by the director for advertisement, feature, television and documentary films. As Cinematographers require to handle a huge crew, they are expected to know about most of the work processed during the shooting of the film. They are responsible for the selection of camera, lens, filter, and film stock. He is the one who has to give the final image to all the imaginary efforts of the director.
Earlier Cinematographers learned on the job by working as junior cameraman. But today, highly sophisticated cameras, lighting and special effects demand trained personal with sound theoretical and practical education. Cinematographers may specialize in movie making, television programs, documentaries, ad films etc. Most of them start their career and advance their skills through experience they gain while working with a senior Cinematographer as assistant. Once they prove their talent, they can freelance as an independent Cinematographer. But the road to fame is tough especially in films, and one has to have a lot of perseverance to succeed in the field.
Cinematographers can find employment with film production units, television or video industries, studios etc. in India as well as overseas. Earlier, films were the only avenue available to aspiring candidates. But now, with the coming up of various channels they have immense opportunities with production houses that make short films, documentaries and television serials. One can also freelance for advertising commercials and music videos.
Educational: The minimum requirement for admission into a cinematography programme is plus two. After plus two one may go for various certificate and diploma courses in cinematography to acquire knowledge in the field. Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune; Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata, Zee Institute of Media Arts and Whistling Woods International in Mumbai are some of the prominent institutes that conduct courses in Cinematography.
Course curriculum includes live shooting with digital cameras, exposure to advanced digital shooting technology and computer software's for creating visual effects for individual shots, exposure to motion graphics, experience with live studios and so on.
Personal attributes: More than the educational qualification, Cinematographers need an artistic vision good eyesight. A cinematographer must have the ability to work independently, as well as have the interpersonal skills required to work well under a director and over camera technicians. They have to be detail oriented, hardworking and passionate towards work. He should have a high sense of imagination and foresightedness. Good technical ability and knowledge of cameras and lenses is also essential for a Cinematographer to be successful. Expertise in computer animation and digital editing may also prove to be of great help.
Cinematography has become a well-paid career option, since the role of a cinematographer cannot be undermined, as he plays several roles in planning and coordinating a film. The salary for cinematographers varies based on the employer type, professional experience and location of the job.
Freelance cinematographers can earn anywhere between Rs.5,000-10,000 per day. Cinematographer working as an assistant can get between Rs.15,000 to Rs.20,000 per month. For those experienced hands sky is the limit. All this depends upon his creative skill and amount of success he gets commercially with his work.