What does a director of photography do?
What does a director of photography do? Since the director of photography is responsible for putting the filmmaker’s vision on camera, they play a crucial role in the storytelling process. A director’s working relationship with their DP involves intense collaboration that frequently spans several movies.
What does a Director of Photography do?
The person in charge of designing a movie’s appearance is the director of photography, also referred to as the DP or cinematographer. A skilled DP will enhance a filmmaker’s vision and present notions and ideas the director might not have thought of. It’s no accident that many filmmakers and cinematographers collaborate, like Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski or Spike and his NYU classmate Ernest Dickerson, who photographed six of his films.
Everything that influences what the camera can record is under the DP’s control (i.e. composition, exposure, lighting, filters, and camera movements). The director of photography chooses the cameras, lenses, and filters that will be used during a shoot and is in charge of the camera and lighting crews on location.
A director of photography collaborates with whom?
Camera operators film the shots. They ensure that the camera setups and cameras are ready for use. They operate the camera and pay attention to picture composition as the film is being made, all the while paying attention to the director and director of photography. It’s a senior position, a significant advancement for the focus puller. In order to increase their employability, many camera operators will learn additional talents like Steadicam, airborne, or underwater experience.
A Steadicam is a device that maintains the camera’s steady motion no matter how quickly the operator moves or how uneven the ground may be. The Steadicam operator is in charge of assembling the device, balancing the camera on it, and ensuring that the shots are successful. They have received specialized training, and many are camera operators. Because the Steadicams are hefty, the labor is physically difficult.
While filming a movie or television drama, script supervisors watch the action to ensure no lines of dialogue are missed.
First assistant camera or focus puller
All of the pictures are in focus thanks to focusing pullers. They assemble cameras, evaluate lenses, and compute distances. Since it costs money to reshoot if the film isn’t as sharp as it should be, they are trustworthy and accurate. They foresee focus issues and alert the director of photography to them. Dramatic films and television shows contain these.
Second assistant camera or clapper loader
Clapper loaders provide equipment preparation and maintenance as well as tape or file stock control for the camera department. They are in charge of documenting every take and slating it, and they collaborate with the script supervisor to keep the continuity notes, camera logs, and other material organized before giving it to the editor.
Digital imaging technician (DIT)
DITs are in charge of making sure the cameras are configured with the proper digital settings.
The film (data) from the camera is transferred into the cards or drives by the data wrangler. They create log sheets that provide information about the files’ contents and keep track of the video that has moved from the shot to post-production.
Video assist operator (VAO)
For directors to view what is being shot, VAOs, or video aids, test the playback systems function.
Trainees assist the camera department with equipment movement and camera testing.
During pre-production, what does a director of photography do?
The director of photography spends a lot of time planning the film’s visual style during pre-production.
- Brainstorm: The production designer, director, and other leaders of the art department collaborate closely with the DP to develop the look and feel of the movie. What is the tone of the film, for example, is a question the cinematographer poses during this stage. What color scheme is used? What other movies’ aesthetics influenced this one? Which visual effects are necessary? Using mood boards or lookbooks, directors and cinematographers frequently communicate with one another during this stage.
- Scout Locations: The director of photography will go location scouting with the location manager or location scout. The location will be evaluated by the director of photography (DP) for natural light (or lack thereof), available space and setup, and whether or not it fits the aforementioned visual style of the movie.
- Prepare the Camera Equipment: The DP will provide the line producer with a list of the necessary gear, including cameras, lenses, filters, and film material, which they can rent or buy.
- Create the team: Many directors of photography (DPs) have a team they can rely on after working on a variety of films, and they frequently use the same camera and lighting crew from film to picture. Additionally, they collaborate with the line producer to assemble and hire the staff. The key roles that work most closely with the DP are:
- A person operates the camera. The director of photography (DP) may double as the cameraperson for lower-budget movies. The camera operator will be given instructions on how to hold and move the camera and how the DP will construct the shot.
- If there is a Steadicam system in the movie, the Steadicam Operator sets it up such that it can stable the camera while it is moving. To accommodate the shot, the Steadicam operator will control the Steadicam system while the DP will compose the shot.
During production, what does a director of photography do?
The majority of the director of photography’s work is done during production when the movie is being made.
- Block Shots: The director and the DP will collaborate to select how to shoot a specific scene.
- Shoot: The DP oversees the camera and lighting crews during production, keeping an eye on the following things:
- Composition and framing: The arrangement of the elements within the frame.
- Exposure: How a scene is lighted and how much light the camera captures.
- Lens and filters: The director of photography (DP) selects the camera lens and must take into account several factors, including the story they are telling (emotional scenes may require a lens specifically designed for close-ups), their distance from the subjects (is there enough depth of field for certain lenses), the amount of light available (certain lenses are better for capturing natural light than others), etc.
- Camera movements: The DP gives the camera operators instructions on how to position the camera and move it around the scene.
- Go over dailies: Raw, unedited film from that day’s shoot is referred to as “dailies.” The director and DP go over the dailies to ensure everything is in line with the original plan.
During post-production, what does a director of photography do?
With the exception of one more post-production step that impacts the movie’s visual appearance, the DP’s job is almost completely finished.
- The film’s appearance and color are adjusted using color grading. The DP advises the colorists on how the color palette should look because they are in charge of the movie’s color scheme.
What Are the Steps to Becoming a Director of Photography?
Transitioning to a director of photography position can be challenging, but these tips should help:
- Start a project. The first stage is to produce your own original work, whether you’re using a smartphone or a high-end camera.
- Volunteer. Working on independent or student films can improve your resume and help you land the position of your dreams.
- Increase your network. Opportunities in movies are frequently not advertised. Instead, they usually originate from those you know. Maintain contact with fellow film school students and any industry contacts you make.
- Practice frequently. Shoot what’s in front of you while experimenting with various approaches to advance your art.
If reading this makes you fatigued, imagine how a director of photography must feel at the end of the day! Without a doubt, they are responsible for a vast number of tasks.
But when the ultimate product is a visual feast, all those duties are worthwhile. Consider how much effort was put into creating a scene the next time you see one.
You might now have a greater understanding of it!
FAQs on What Does a Director of Photography do
What is the difference between a cinematographer and a director of photography?
A person adept in using and manipulating a camera to produce a desired visual approach or effect is referred to as a “cinematographer.” Director of photography and cinematographer are terms that are frequently used interchangeably. The director of photography (DP) is the most senior employee at the head of the cinematography department and is responsible for overseeing personnel and equipment on the set. The DP collaborates with the director to create every shot, working as a technician and an artist.
Does the director of photography operate the camera?
The cinematographer, often known as the director of photography (DP or DoP), is also referred to as the lighting cameraman or first cameraman in the film industry. The DP can use a camera operator or second cameraman to set the controls or operate the camera on their behalf.
How do I become a director of photography?
Beginning your career in a junior position, such as a 2nd Assistant Camera on short films and promotions, can help you advance to the position of director of photography. You can eventually develop the abilities needed to advance to 1st Assistant Camera, Camera Operator, and DoP.