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What Does A Director Of Photography Do?

What Does A Director Of Photography Do?

As a director of photography (DP), you will be in charge of all things aesthetically pleasing as well as technically sound for your respective crew members and, more importantly, the person watching your work!

Your job is to make sure everything looks good and that the other people working with him or her are able to focus solely on their jobs while he or she keeps the rest of the film under control.

Typically, there’s only one DP per movie, but some directors have a lot of scenes where they require different styles and settings. That’s when being versatile as a DP becomes very important!

And although it may seem like a simple position, making creative decisions and sticking to them takes years of practice. It also requires you to know which style works best with what kind of film so that you can create an appropriate look for whatever project you’re hired to shoot.

But before we get into specific positions, let’s talk about how DPs typically spend their time.

Organize equipment


A DP also makes sure that all of your gear is organized, cleaned, and working properly. They make sure there are enough lights for each shot, and that each light is used efficiently to achieve the best look for the scene or film.

They may organize lights into battery packs, softboxes, gels, reflectors, etc. According to Hollywood tradition, DPs usually begin their career as assistants who get trained in lighting under the masters.

Then they move up by doing more involved work such as light painting or creating atmospheric effects with natural light. Some hone their craft shooting commercials or feature films while others find success in still photo editing or producing television shows.

But no matter what path someone chooses it needs to be done with passion and professionalism. The profession can quickly turn cutthroat if people do not put in the effort to keep up-to-date on technology and production methods.

Plan shots

what does a director of photography do

As a DOP, your job is to plan great shots. You will be given a scene or event to photograph, and you will have time to look through your own library as well as those of the production to find potential eye-catching images.

From there, you will develop ideas for what could make an interesting photo. These might be totally new photos that you create or things such as silhouettes, long exposures, low light photography, or close up pictures.

Once you have found inspiration, it’s time to get down to business! You will take all these concepts and combine them into one perfect shot that would work best in our current situation.

Your artistic vision should always matter more than whether something is easy to do, but if it is fun, then why not? If a concept doesn’t feel right, then don’t force yourself to make it look good; instead try another idea until you find one that does.

That being said, filming is a lot of logistics so sometimes there isn’t much time to think about how the camera looks so you just have to quickly figure out how to use it effectively.

Organize cast and crew

what does a director of photography do

As a DP, your job is to organize and manage the people that work with you in production of the film. This can include actors, writers, directors, producers, and others!

The director will give you instructions for each scene, but he or she will usually leave it up to you as an artist to figure out how to best convey their vision through photography.

You will also be given a list of locations, and you will have to find ways to make them feel like they are part of the story.

In addition to taking pictures, the DPO will help coordinate logistics such as finding props, wardrobe, and backdrops. They may even take charge of ensuring everyone has enough food and drink after a long day of filming!

Lastly, the DP helps ensure safety by making sure equipment is working and watching for potential hazards.

Take pictures

what does a director of photography do

A director of photography (DP) is an integral part to having a successful film or video project. They work closely with the producer, creative directors, and other members of the crew to ensure that the shots they plan and execute are meaningful and aesthetically pleasing.

Their main responsibility is taking great photographs. This can be done in many different ways depending on what type of movie being made and what genre the production has. For example, a drama like The Revenant may call for intimate close-up photos whereas something like Man Of Steel requires more expansive wide angle views.

There are of course limits to this as time and resources allow, but the DP usually makes sure there’s enough coverage given their respective limitations.

Review photos

what does a director of photography do

As a director of photography (or DOP for short), your job is to make sure that the rest of the team has what they need to put together the final product into a movie or show. You do this by reviewing all of the shot materials, making sure nothing is lacking and also taking extra time to review and critique how things are photographed.

Your main responsibility as a DOP is to make sure that everything in the film looks good and is well lit. This includes setting light meters, choosing lighting sources, finding natural balance, experimenting with different shooting styles and genres, and using appropriate camera lenses and shutter speeds to achieve the look you want for each scene.

While some directors handle themselves very well and don’t require much help from others, most have at least one key person who they work closely with to ensure their vision is completed. For many filmmakers, this individual is the producer, but it can easily be someone else such as the editor, art department, set decoration, or even the actor/s.

Edit photos

what does a director of photography do

As we mentioned before, the director of photography (or DPO for short) is in charge of ensuring that each shot looks good and is aligned with the film or video being produced. They also make sure all lights are working and adequate exposure is given to subjects.

Their main tool in this process is editing. The term “editing” refers to changing things about a photo. For example, some people like to call it “light painting,” so instead of just using bright light, you use low-intensity light to create an effect. Some artists even say that editing is creating!

Editing can be done quickly or slowly depending on what effects they want to achieve. People who edit love doing it because there are so many ways to do it, and every artist has their own way. Many have special software or tools that help them do their thing more efficiently.

Review videos

what does a director of photography do

As with other members of the crew, DOPs are usually not involved in the film’s narrative. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to do!

Most DP’s create at least one additional element for each shot of the movie — sometimes it is a setting, like a room or a landscape, sometimes it is an object or person, etc. This element can be clearly seen in the frame and contribute heavily to the overall look and feel of the scene.

Some directors ask their DPO to experiment with different lighting styles or camera angles, which is why most cinematographers have several shooting modes. Some are very natural light while others require more expensive gels and lights.

And even when the director uses special effects or CGI, the DP typically adds some extra background geometry or textures to match what was done before. All these things help tell the story and add flavor and depth to the scenes.

Art direct

what does a director of photography do

As a director of photography, your job is to make sure that the rest of the team knows what they are doing and supports you in executing your vision. You as a DP will take lots of shots, use different lighting styles, pose actors, design sets, etc.

You will also be involved in choosing lenses, developing concepts for coverage and depth, and finding ways to creatively convey an idea or story.

Your success depends largely upon the people around you who work under you. Teamwork is very important!

General tips

As a DP, it’s helpful to know some basic camera terms so that you can talk about them with other DPs and gaffer (lighting technician) teams. Here are some we’ll go over today.


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