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Director of photography DP, DoP, Cinematographer

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Directors of photography manage lighting and camera crews on TV and film productions to create the right look and feel for images.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

 You'll usually need paid or unpaid experience of:

  • operating cameras and testing equipment, like lenses and filters
  • lighting and planning for any camera and lighting equipment that might be needed
  • photography and capturing images with light
  • working with a camera crew

A ‘reel’, or portfolio, of your work to show to employers will be helpful.

A degree in a related subject, like art, drama, photography or film studies, stills, may also be useful, but isn't essential.

You could also start as a camera trainee or runner, and move on to 2nd assistant camera (AC), then 1st AC, before applying for work as a camera operator.

Creative Skillset has more information on careers in the film industry.

2. Skills required

You’ll usually need:

  • creative ability 
  • communication skills
  • the ability to lead and motivate others
  • an eye for detail, and a steady hand
  • IT skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll work with directors, camera crews and lighting departments to get the right frame, lighting and mood for a film or TV programme. You’ll plan camera angles, shot sizes and lighting.

Before filming, you’ll discuss with a director how a script will be translated for the screen. 

You’ll then:

  • visit a location (known as a recce) before filming to check its suitability
  • order filming and lighting equipment
  • test equipment 
  • manage all aspects of filming, sometimes operating a camera
  • supervise the camera crew to decide on any special camera moves
  • work closely with the lighting team to decide on lighting techniques
  • review film footage with the director

4. Salary

You’ll usually work freelance and be paid a fee for each individual contract or project. Rates will vary based on the type of film and budget.

You could be paid up to £65,000 a production. 

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours will be long and irregular. You may need to work 12 to 14 hours a day during filming, including evenings and weekends.

You could be based in a film or TV studio, or on location. 

You may need to travel in the UK, or overseas. 

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could work on TV and film productions with bigger budgets, or become a director or producer.

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Last updated: 11 September 2018