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Director of Photography

A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera (the art and science of which is known as cinematography). The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP or DoP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The cinematographer is sometimes also the camera operator. The term cinematographer has been a point of contention for some time now; some professionals insist that it only applies when the director of photography and camera operator are the same person, although this is far from being uniformly the case. To most, cinematographer and director of photography are interchangeable terms.


The English system of camera department hierarchy sometimes firmly separates the duties of the director of photography from that of the camera operator to the point that the DP often has no say whatsoever over more purely operating-based visual elements such as framing. In this case, the DP is often credited as a lighting camera operator. This system means that the director consults the lighting camera operator for lighting and filtration and the operator for framing and lens choices.

In the American system, which is more widely adopted, the rest of the camera department is subordinate to the DP, who, along with the director, has the final word on all decisions related to both lighting and framing.

The cinematographer typically selects the film stock, lens, filters, etc. to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify aperture and shutter angle. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other. The director will typically convey to the cinematographer what he wants from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.

On some shoots, a director may assume the duties of the cinematographer, especially when shooting nude scenes or in other physically intimate settings where the director wishes to have as few people as possible present.

Some of the crew who work under or closely with the cinematographer includes:

Camera operator
Focus puller (1st assistant cameraman)
Clapper loader (2nd assistant cameraman)
Second unit
Assistant camera trainee (camera production assistant)
Gaffer, best boy, and electricians (also called Set Lighting Technicians, Lamp Operators or nicknamed "sparks" or "juicers")
Key grip, best boy grip, dolly grip, grips
Production designer and art director
Costume designer
Color timer or colorist

In some countries, cinematography is a unionized field.


Major international organizations involved in the advancement of cinematography include the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) and the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC). These bodies are neither labor unions nor guilds, but are instead educational, cultural and professional organizations.

There are other similar organizations in many countries, including Argentina, Canada, Germany, Italy and Spain.

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