The cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the person responsible for the recording of a film, television production, music video or other live-action piece. The cinematographer is the chief of the camera and light crews working on such projects. They would normally be responsible for making artistic and technical decisions related to the image and for selecting the camera, film stock, lenses, filters, etc. The study and practice of this field are referred to as cinematography.

A camera crew sets up for scenes to be filmed on the flight deck for the motion picture Stealth with the crew of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

The cinematographer is a subordinate of the director, tasked with capturing a scene in accordance with the director's vision. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary. In some instances, the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence, while in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify exact camera placement and lens selection. Such a level of involvement is less common when the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other. The director will typically convey to the cinematographer what is wanted from a scene visually and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.

The scenes recorded by the cinematographer are passed to the film editor for editing.


Outdoor gear protects the camera operator and camera.

In the infancy of motion pictures, the cinematographer was usually also the director and the person physically handling the camera. As the art form and technology evolved, a separation between director and camera operator emerged. With the advent of artificial lighting and faster (more light-sensitive) film stocks, in addition to technological advancements in optics, the technical aspects of cinematography necessitated a specialist in that area.

Cinematography was key during the silent movie era; with no sound apart from background music and no dialogue, the films depended on lighting, acting, and set.

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) was formed in 1919 in Hollywood, and was the first trade society for cinematographers. Similar societies were formed in other countries. For example, the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC). Their aims include the recognition of the cinematographer's contribution to the art and science of motion picture making.[1]

Societies and trade organizations


There are a number of national associations of cinematographers that represent members (irrespective of their official titles) and are dedicated to the advancement of cinematography, including:

Cameraman along with the equipment for making cinematography.
Camera operator with support rig.
  • the Polish Society of Cinematographers (PSC)
  • the International Federation of Cinematographers (IMAGO)[2]
  • the Uruguayan Society of Cinematographers (S.C.U)
  • the Lithuanian Association of Cinematographers (LAC)
  • Cinematographers XX
  • Illuminatrix

The A.S.C. defines cinematography as:

A creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than the simple recording of a physical event. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft that the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive and image-manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process.[3]

Noted cinematographers


The Academy Award for Best Cinematography is an Academy Award awarded each year to a cinematographer for work on one particular motion picture.

A number of American cinematographers have become directors, including Reed Morano who lensed Frozen River and Beyoncé's Lemonade before winning an Emmy for directing The Handmaid's Tale. Barry Sonnenfeld, originally the Coen brothers' DP; Jan de Bont, cinematographer on films such as Die Hard and Basic Instinct, directed Speed and Twister. Nicolas Roeg, cinematographer on films such as The Caretaker (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964), directed Don't Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Ellen Kuras, ASC photographed Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind as well as a number of Spike Lee films such as Summer of Sam and He Got Game before directing episodes of Legion and Ozark. In 2014, Wally Pfister, cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's three Batman films, made his directorial debut with Transcendence, whilst British cinematographers Jack Cardiff and Freddie Francis regularly moved between the two positions.

See also



  1. ^ The ASC Vision Committee
  2. ^ "IMAGO – International Federation of Cinematographers". 2023-09-26. Retrieved 2023-10-02.
  3. ^ Hora, John (2007). "Anamorphic Cinematography". In Burum, Stephen H. (ed.). The American Cinematographer Manual (9 ed.). ISBN 978-0935578317.