What is the role of the DoP/Cinematographer in a production?

  • The Director of Photography creates the visual identity, or the look, of the film/production;
  • A DoP works with the director, camera crew and lighting department to achieve the visual aspects;
  • A Cinematographer/Dop also managesall aspects of filming: from ordering and overseeing the production equipment, through to site visits for recces and reviewing footage.

What skills do great DoP/Cinematographers need most?

  • a director of photography should have good technical knowledge of photo-chemical and digital processes;
  • they must have good technical and operational knowledge about all camera equipment;
  • possess an in-depth knowledge of lighting techniques and how to achieve them;
  • come with considerable industry experience (most have been promoted to DoP after mastering other production skills and aspects);
  • the needs to be flexible in order to adapt ideas instantly (ideas may occur ‘on the fly’, actors may improvise their best work, conditions may change that need an immediate response);
  • they must be able to take decisions quickly (crew down time is costly and actors ‘lose character’ stopping and starting);
  • understand about photography, painting and the moving image;
  • carry an artistic vision for the production and all their work;
  • always be creative (challenge their beliefs – test new ideas, make mistakes and continuously develop);
  • always pay precise attention to detail (a telegraph pole in a period piece might take days to correct in post production);
  • personal attributes include having good colour vision;
  • second to the director, but very much a decision maker too, a DoP must be able to give and accept direction;
  • to respond quickly, to correct without causing friction, to ensure the best is always on offer, the director of photography should also have excellent communication skills;
  • difficult DoPs seldom get called back, no matter their skill set, the best are diplomatic and tactful when working with cast and crew;
  • understand and know all about health and safety legislation and procedures.