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How to Become a Professional Cinematographer

The decision to become a cinematographer has likely been weighing on your mind for some time. If you’re considering this rewarding career, but you aren’t sure what steps you should take to get into the field of cinematic film production, we’re here to help you out. We’ve put together this list of steps to help you become a good cinematographer. Follow through, and you’ll soon be enjoying the career of a lifetime.

Step 1. Learn Basic Cinematography

Whether you spend a few weeks or several months educating yourself on basic cinematography skills and routines, the early educational steps that you take will likely make a world of difference in your success in the field. Now is the time to learn how to operate various types of cinema cameras and discover the value of high-end video output.

During this time, you should study basic video compositional techniques, lighting, sound, and film editing. Familiarizing yourself with each step of the production will help you to fully understand the entire process and how your role as a cameraman will come into play. 

Step 2. Get Inspired

The inspiration that you gather now will help you to put your camera skills into practice. This is the time to start building your portfolio of shots that show your skills and the progression that you make as you learn new techniques and work to become a better, stronger cinematographer.

There’s no single path that will lead you to cinematography. Rather, a love for production and camera operation with a passion for making a lasting impression on your viewers is likely what will lead you down the path to success. As you seek inspiration, use your skills and equipment to begin exercising your artistic eye to create amazing film productions.

Watch what others are doing, examine the techniques that are used in your favorite films and productions, and then work to recreate those in your own way. As you do so, you should also begin thinking about why you want to become a cinematographer–do you want to create meaningful productions? Are you interested in telling a story that is so breathtaking that you audience hangs on the edge of the seat awaiting the next scene? Perhaps you are interested in working with a large production group? Whatever the reasoning is, now is the time to determine your goals and start to work towards achieving them.

Step 3. Get on Set

The more time you spend on the film set, the better prepared you will be when you are working on the set yourself. Experience is your friend and a great teacher! Spend time on the film set so that you can begin to experience the surroundings and get to know the ins and outs of production. What you’ll learn just by being there is far more valuable than what can be taught in a workshop or classroom alone.


Step 4. Start Networking

As you work toward your goal of becoming a great cinematographer, begin networking with as many people from the field as you can. You never know when your connections will be able to help you out later on! Success in the field of cinematography often relies on the people you know so don’t waste anymore time–get out there and start meeting people!

Step 5. Develop Your Own Unique Style

In order to show what sets you apart from other cameramen you need to take time to develop your own style. Use your creative vision to develop a unique filming approach that will set you apart from the rest of cinematographers in the film world. While your experience will go a long way in helping you to get hired for a position, so too will your creative sense. Show off your work by producing visual styles that are unique to you.

Step 6. Start Seeking Job Opportunities

Now that you have produced a portfolio that showcases your unique sense of style and you’ve got a solid network of film members behind you, it’s time to start seeking job opportunities. In order to get hired, you’ll likely have to share you work first so make sure you have that portfolio in tip-top shape before you begin the career search.

As you seek opportunities, consider spending time around others that have similar experiences to you and are working in the field already. This will give you a competitive advantage against others should a job opportunity arise. If your name is fresh in the minds of the production crew as the job opportunity comes up, the chance that you’ll get hired is increased instantly.

Step 7. Start Building Your Brand

As you develop a creative vision, you should also start to cultivate your brand. What will set your work apart from others? How will you prove to potential clients that YOU are the person for the job? As you take steps to build your brand consider developing a website or some other place where you can host an online portfolio for others to see. Share your latest demos and your best work to help prospective clients reach you.

Now is also a great time to begin using social media to your advantage. Post your productions on Facebook and Instagram to share with those you know. As you grow and your experience widens, so too will your social reach.

Step 8. Keep Learning

Even after you have taken the steps to become a professional cinematographer you should continue learning as much as you can in the field. Your education will set you apart from those who are less educated and could later make the difference in whether you continue to succeed in this challenging industry. Don’t be afraid to pursue higher education, to take on jobs that challenge your newfound skills, and to find inspiration along the way. The best cinematographers are constantly working to learn new skills that can be utilized on the set.



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