What does a director of photography do?
Directors of photography are responsible for the photographic heart of a production.
They read the screenplay and work closely with the director to discuss the look and feel of a film. They then research how to create the look through lighting, framing and camera movement and what they will need in terms of kit and crew to achieve this.
On each day of filming, DoPs and their camera crews arrive early to set up and rehearse. Working with the director, the DoPs do blocking (decide the exact movements of both actors and camera). They discuss any special camera moves or lighting requirements with the camera operator, gaffer and grip. Each shot is marked up for focus and framing by the focus puller and then the DoP oversees the lighting of the set for the first take.
It’s the job of DoPs to make sure every shot is usable and flag them when they’re not. They view the rushes (raw footage) with the director and work closely with the colourist in post-production. On smaller productions they shoot as well.
What’s a director of photography good at?
- Photography: have an eye for composition, know how to tell a story through a shot, understand camera and lighting techniques, know how to use them to affect emotions
- Technical knowledge of cameras: have an in-depth understanding of all motion picture equipment, cameras, lens, monitors and lights
- Editing knowledge: understand the post-production work flow, have a good eye for colour in the editing process
- Making decisions: think quickly, often under pressure
- Organisation: plan, know how to do things and how long it will take, get the right kit and crew, manage the budget, think about logistical and artistic considerations at the same time
- Communication: ensure everyone in the team knows what’s expected, work closely with the grips and the gaffer, lead the team and resolve conflicts in situations that can sometimes be stressful