Director of Photography Job Description, Skills, and Salary
Get to know about the duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and skills requirements of a director of photography. Feel free to use our director of photography job description template to produce your own. We also provide you with information about the salary you can earn as a director of photography.
Who is a Director of Photography?
A director of photography (DP) is a person who oversees the shooting of films, commercials, television shows, and other types of filmed productions. This term and “cinematographer” are frequently used interchangeably, while this is not permitted in all places because these vocations are sometimes quite different. In essence, the person is in charge of the appearance and feel of a scene in the movie.
Everything that impacts what the camera can do is controlled by the DP (i.e. composition, exposure, lighting, filters, and camera movements). The director of photography is in charge of the camera and lighting crews on set, as well as choosing the cameras, lenses, and filters that will be utilized.
The Director of Photography plays a critical role in assisting the Film Director in establishing the film’s aesthetic. The Director and DP sit down and debate the best approach for the “look” of the movie, commercial, or television program they are going to start during the prep time (before production).
They may have decided to make their project seem like Blade Runner. They’d watch the movie together and talk about how they’d approach shooting a project with a similar texture and vibe. They might also debate a look that they both like and relate to by looking at photos in books. That way, when it comes to technique and style, they’ll be on the same page.
While the Film Director works with the actors, the Director of Photography works with the crew to position the camera, lights, and anything else that aids photography during the shoot. On a minor project, the DP may have to work and communicate with as many as 20 crew members.
With the Director and Camera Operator, the DP sets the shots. He then lights the set and sits down with the Director to talk about how everything is going and how they can improve shots or set-ups. After filming, the DP will normally appear at a post house to do a Digital Intermediate, or DI, at some time during post-production.
That completes the show’s colouring and finishing. Whether it’s a commercial, a TV show, or a feature film, the Cameraman establishes the aesthetic of the film and ensures that the project’s time (DI) is met before it’s released. Depending on the scope of the project, this could take many days or weeks.
Transitioning to the position of director of photography might be difficult, but the following advice can help:
- Start creating: Whether you’re using a smartphone or a high-end camera, the first step is to create original work.
- Volunteer: Working on student films or other independent films might improve your résumé and help you obtain your dream job.
- Build your network: Opportunities are repeatedly overlooked in the film. It’s more likely that they’ll come from someone you know. Keep in touch with other film school students and industry professionals you meet.
- Practice often: Shoot what you observe and explore with different approaches to learn more about your craft.
What a director of photography does
Being in charge of everything the audience sees on TV is a big responsibility (which is pretty much everything). A Director of Photography doesn’t simply pick up a camera and start shooting; there’s a lot more to it. The duties of a director of photography can be seen in three stages which are: pre-production, production, and post-production.
A breakdown of the various duties carried out under these categories is explained below:
A cinematographer’s labour begins even before the film’s actual production begins. The director of photography will spend a significant amount of time deciding on the best method to interpret the screenplay and deciding on the cinematic style and visual feel.
- Brainstorm: A DP will be interacting with a large number of people. The reason for this is that it takes a community to make a film. The Director of Photography (DoP) will meet with the Director, screenwriters, production designers, and other department heads during this period of production to explore how the picture should look and feel.
- Storyboards: When making a film, having a storyboard is essential. After you’ve got a good sense of the film’s visual appeal and tone, go through the script and make visual representations for each shot. The storyboard will serve as a visual representation of the entire film, allowing the director and producers to begin scheduling and arranging the shoot.
- Location: Many films will be made within the safe confines of a studio. Some films, on the other hand, may just explore various parts of the globe. Have you seen the film Avengers: Infinity War? Only one of the most successful films in the last ten years. Brazil, Scotland, and the Philippines were among the locales used by the producers. Thano’s resting place was the Banaue Rice Terraces at the end of the story. You can nearly notice the rice terraces in the background if you view the footage closely and press your eyes shut tightly. The location manager will be accompanied by the Director of Photography in their hunt for the best site for the film. When a location is found, the DoP will assess the natural lighting (or lack thereof), equipment setup options, and whether it fits the film’s visual ambience.
- Assemble the needed equipment: The DoP is in command of the camera and lighting team; but, without the actual camera equipment, there isn’t much to be in control of. Cameras, lenses, filters, tripods, gimbals, audio, lighting equipment, and much more are all included in the equipment needed for production.
The lens choice, in particular, is something to think about early on in the process. There are many various types of lenses available, each with its own set of features. In general, you have the option of using a zoom lens or a prime lens. If you have a larger budget, you may be able to choose both.
The unusual anamorphic lens — a DoP favourite – is one sort of lens that a cinematographer should be familiar with. Assemble the dream team
While pre-production may appear to be time-consuming, the Director of Photography’s main labour begins during the production stage. The following is a list of the duties involved in this stage:
- Shooting: This is where the DoP shoots the film, which is unsurprising. The director of photography is responsible for directing the camera and lighting crew to pay attention to all of the following areas:
- Composition and framing: If the audience wants a full view of the scene, a master shot is best, but if they want to get up close and personal with the subject, an extreme close-up shot might work. It’s up to the Director of Photography to make the decision.
- Exposure: This refers to how much and what kind of light is required for a certain shot. What the audience sees and experiences is heavily influenced by the lighting configuration. You need to know what form of lighting is optimal as the head of cinematography.
- Movement: To make a DoP’s life easier, the way you move the camera affects how the audience interacts with the action.
- Lenses: The lens is critical to the narrative you’re telling. If you’re aiming for a master shot in the first shot, a wide-angle lens might be the way to go. If you want to create an extreme close-up photograph, a telephoto lens might be a better choice.
When the DP reaches the post-production stage, he or she will be rewarded with well-deserved applause. However, there is one final task to complete which is colour grading.
Colour grading alters the appearance and, strangely enough, the colour of a film. The director of photography must advise the colourist on the appearance of the colour pallet in other to improve the set design.
Director of Photography Job Description
Below are the director of photography job description examples you can use to develop your resume or write a director of the photography job description for your employee. Employers can also use it to sieve out job seekers when choosing candidates for interviews.
The duties and responsibilities of a director of photography include all of the following:
- Brainstorm how to visually interpret the narrative of the story with the director, production designer, and art department.
- Engage the services of a cameraman and lighting crew.
- Create or supervise storyboards and break down the script.
- Visit potential filming locations and assess their feasibility with the help of a location scout.
- Choose from a variety of digital and analogue cameras, as well as lenses and filters.
- Create a lighting arrangement for each scene.
- Make sure all of the camera and lighting equipment is in working order.
- Direct the camera and lighting personnel to ensure that the video is created as planned during the shooting.
- Adjust or tweak original lighting, frame, and movement ideas to accommodate changing conditions and script changes.
- Make any necessary makeup and outfit changes.
- Create the visual style for a film.
- Figure out what kind of lighting is needed in the shooting from the onset.
- Choose the most appropriate camera angles and frames for each scene.
- Order and test lighting and camera equipment.
- Direct camera movement and supervise a camera team.
- Choose the right film material for the job.
- Determine the aperture settings on the camera.
- Control the illumination, whether it’s natural or artificial.
- Consult with electricians to guarantee a sufficient supply of electricity.
- Filter, shutter angles, focus, depth of field, and camera distance.
- Edit visual aspects in post-production.
- A cinema, art, or photography degree is advantageous.
- A graphic work reel.
- Creative visual thinking.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Interpersonal skills that are second to none.
- The devil is in the details.
- Excellent organizing abilities.
- Ability to operate a camera technically.
Many production specialties, like that of a Director of Photography, need a mix of technical and creative abilities to varying degrees:
- Artistic vision and flair for photography
The DP creates the film’s visual aesthetic, thus he or she must be familiar with the camera and lighting methods and how to apply them to the story.
- Technical camera knowledge
A DoP must also have a thorough understanding of all of the many types of cameras, lenses, lighting, and other equipment. This understanding is crucial since many sorts of equipment can be used to complement the visual tale.
- Can both give and follow instructions
Many people will look to you for direction and directions as a cinematographer. It will show up in the post-production phase if you don’t give correct advice throughout the production phase. While the DoP is at the top of the food chain, you aren’t completely in charge of the jungle. You must first listen to the Director’s vision and accommodate it, before bringing that vision to reality. The DP must first comprehend the director’s vision before communicating it to a large number of individuals across two departments.
- Must be organized
During video production, the DoP must be extremely structured because he or she is directing a team of creators. To capture the scene, a cinematographer must maintain control at all times (within human capacities).
- Attention to detail
Every part of the visual output will require the DoP’s attention to detail. Assume that the actors’ makeup or clothes need to be changed. The actor then must contact the cosmetics or costume department to resolve any visual issues.
- Artistic vision and eye for photography. The DP is in charge of the film’s visuals, thus he or she must have a natural eye for capturing moving images.
- Technical camera skills. The DP must be able to handle a camera, understand what different cameras do, use a variety of lenses, expose a shot, and so on.
- Work experience: Start as an assistant in either the camera or lighting departments and work your way up. After that, you can work as a lighting technician or camera operator, and finally as a cinematographer’s camera assistant. Making connections with the line producer and assistant director can help you get hired as the DP on their next movie.
- Strong portfolio: Work your way up the camera department ladder on paid film shoots while also working as a cinematographer on unpaid film shoots to build your portfolio. Regardless of how far up the film production ladder you’ve climbed or where you went to school, the strength of your portfolio is critical to landing a job as a cinematographer.
- A DP must grasp the technical characteristics of the technology they employ to capture a moving image, as previously stated. That is, how the camera and lighting equipment operate together and separately to create the desired image in each shot. While a DP works in a field that involves moving images, understanding still photography can provide a solid foundation of expertise.
- Aside from technical abilities, directors of photography must also know how to set an emotional tone for each film they work on. A Director may want the visuals to capture what is being shot very realistically in some productions. On other projects, the Director may be more tempted to create graphics with a more stylized appearance to grab the audience’s attention. It is the DP’s responsibility to carry out the Director’s directions by grasping their creative vision and understanding how their equipment may achieve it through technical methods.
- A DP must also be able to lead and manage people. Though larger productions will provide support to a Director of Photography so that they can focus more intently on the task at hand, a DP must still manage the Camera and Lighting Departments, which requires knowing how to communicate with the crew and ensuring that they can carry out their responsibilities to achieve each desired shot.
All of these abilities–technical know-how, creative vision, and crew management–take time and experience to develop. That is why DPS must seize any possibilities that come their way to build knowledge and deepen mastery of their field.
How to Become a Director of Photography
Consider film school
Assume you already know you want to go to film school. In that situation, consider combining math and physics with art and design or graphic communication. In general, going to film school can help you better understand how all of the technical components of the industry function.
Get an apprenticeship
An apprenticeship is the ideal combination of employment and education. So, here’s your chance to make money while learning – to be honest, it’s not a bad concept. However, let’s just say you’re not the only person who thinks making money while studying all the do’s and don’ts sounds like a good idea.
Consider working in a different industry, such as a digital media firm or an art gallery. You will learn the fundamentals of photography in this manner, and you will appear far more beautiful than your fellow aspiring DoPs who are also looking for an apprenticeship.
Build a portfolio & get work experience
Everyone must begin somewhere. You must first learn to walk before you can run, as in any situation. Ascend the corporate ladder and expand your portfolio. Take on assistant positions, unpaid internships, and anything else that can lead to a career as a Director of Photography. Get as much photographic experience as possible, both still and moving photographs. A portfolio is necessary for impressing admissions tutors and film industry professionals.
Start working for an equipment company
You won’t have a hands-on experience with all of the technical aspects, but it’s a good chance to learn more about the gear and make contacts. Contact firms that lend out equipment, like Panavision or ARRI rentals… or simply thinking aloud – video? Inquire whether you can work for them as a kit runner or driver. Everything helps when you’re just getting started, including being close to the gear.
Networking all the way
Networking, unsurprisingly. Anyone can be the one to unlock the door to the world of filmmaking. You’ll be the one walking through, but you’ll need someone to pull the handle first.
Make a LinkedIn account. Find and join Facebook groups, pages, and other social media groups for people who are making films or movies in your area.
Where to Work as a Director of Photography
Directors of Photography go all over the world and shoot in a variety of locations. If you want to undertake this work, you must be willing to travel because production takes place all over the world.
It’s important to be able to roll with the punches and be a bit of an explorer once you start having a family because it may become quite complicated. Things will never truly be resolved since life moves rapidly and you never know what’s around the corner. It’s all about giving up control. Because this is mostly a self-employed position, there is no sick pay, maternity leave, or health insurance.
Self-care is crucial. With little sleep and long hours, life can become stressful. It’s critical to look for yourself; at the end of the day, it’s just a job, and you need to be able to step away and live a life of your own. It has the potential to be all-encompassing.
You may work a lot one day and then not work for six months the next, so you must manage your money and not spend it all at once. Consider the fact that this isn’t a settled way of life.
Director of photography jobs can be found in a variety of venues, including:
- Through personal connections
- Through a professional network
- On online job boards
Director of Photography Salary Scale
A Director of Photography working on a studio feature film might earn anything from $5,000 to $30,000 per week.
However, in any given year, directors of photography who work on studio-backed films make up a small percentage of all professional DPs across all mediums. As a result, a DP’s average annual wage is roughly $65,000.
The daily rate of pay for Directors of Photography varies greatly depending on several factors, including the type of production, the DP’s experience, and whether or not the DP is a member of a union like the International Cinematographers Guild, or IATSE Local 600, which sets a base rate for its members.
At the start of their careers, many new DPs may work for a small fee. Their daily rate could be as little as a few hundred dollars, especially if they start with students or short films. They may even work for free if they are seeking to build their portfolio.
DPS with more experience, such as those who shoot commercials or music videos, can earn more to $1,500 per day. When a DP joins a higher-profile project, such as a TV show or a feature film, they can expect to get paid more per day. A daily cost of $3,500 or more is not uncommon for such professionals.
Based on 6 incomes, an early career Photography Director with 1-4 years of experience gets an average total compensation of £35,000 (which includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay). Based on 7 salaries, a mid-career Photography Director with 5-9 years of experience gets an average total pay of £34,604. Based on 5 salaries, an experienced Photography Director with 10-19 years of experience gets an average total remuneration of £37,500.