Are you an aspiring Cinematographer? We here at How To Film School have talked to some local cinematographers and lighting technicians and have compiled a list of tips to help all you young aspiring cinematographers out there get started. Now, some of these might be a little obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t realize how much work they need to put into their careers if they want to be successful.
Many people starting off in the film industry think that they will become the next Roger Deakins or Wally Pfister over night, what they don’t realize is that someone like Pfister worked at and improved on his craft for almost two decades before even meeting Christopher Nolan and shooting Memento.
5 Tips for the Aspiring Cinematographer
Study as many techniques as possible and try to be on top of the latest technology. The internet is a wonderful learning resource and this is only one of thousands of web sites where you can learn about film making, cinematography and lighting.
You can also buy books on cinematography there are hundreds of cinematography books on amazon.com. I also recommend getting a subscription to the American Cinematographer Magazine. It doesn’t end at that…watch movies! Pay attention to how the light falls, light quality and camera language. Cinematographers are always striving to be better and push the limits of the technology and you have the ability to be right there with them.
Get a DSLR
Photography is the basis of cinematography, through photography you will learn framing, composition, exposure, etc. If you are shooting 16mm or 35mm you can use your DSLR to get an idea of how your lighting will look before you roll on it. Not only that but most new DSLR’s have the ability to shoot HD video. That’s all that you need to start shooting and getting your work out there. You don’t need to invest in a $100,000 camera package to start shooting quality work.
You can find great deals on DSLRs at your local retailers or online. Some of the best online prices for DSLRs are from Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com. You also don’t need to invest in the best glass like Zeiss Cp2’s or Canon “L” Series either. Old Nikon lenses can be found on eBay and adapted to various mounting types.
Get out there and meet people, you don’t have to have a reel, website or business cards right away, although they help. The more film makers and enthusiasts you know the higher your chance of getting a cinematography job, any set job even. Networking can be done at parties, screenings, on set and even on social networking websites like Twitter or Facebook.
You could be as low as a Production Assistant on a movie and make good friends with other assistants or even the Production Manager. All it takes it saying “Hey, I’m into shooting and I’d love to work with you”. Done! You just networked and you’re on your way to getting that first Director of Photography job.
Get on Set
It doesn’t matter if you’re the cinematographer, a lighting technician, a production assistant or making food for craft. Get on some film sets and pay attention to how scenes are being lit, in fact pay attention to EVERYTHING. Many of the most successful and talented Cinematographers and Directors these days came from another department in the film industry. They worked for years taking in everything around them and learning from what other people did right and wrong. Imagine working on a feature film and studying how and why they lit and covered their scenes, then getting to see it all cut together. Sounds great, right?
This one seems very obvious, but you would be surprised how many aspiring cinematographers and filmmakers just leave it at that, an aspiration. Do you really want to Direct Photography? Well, get out there and shoot! Lights, no lights, standard definition, high definition…those are just words and words shouldn’t hold you back.
Experience speaks for itself and any experience is better than none. The more you shoot the more comfortable you’ll be with cameras, working with actors, directors and the more you’ll understand about lighting, composition and camera language. Not to mention the more people will see your work and be more likely to throw a job your way. So, shoot something, ANYTHING!
Those are my 5 Tips for Aspiring Cinematographers! What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
That’s the first of our ongoing 5 tips blog posts, please comment and share any tips you might have.
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