What is a Director of Photography?

Written by 90 Seconds
Last updated: October 4, 2023
What is a Director of Photography?

A Director of Photography (DOP) also known as Cinematographer is a creative leader during a video production. It’s a position full of responsibility, and the Director of Photography must have camera skills, lighting knowledge and the ability to work with the entire camera crew to create the esthetics of the film.

They work closely with the Director of the film in an effort to bring the Director’s vision to life. During the video production, the DOP will work closely with the lighting crew, the Costume Designer, and Hair and Makeup in an effort to make the project go smoothly.

Director of Photography is part of the executive team that gets a production from conception to finish. They take a careful assessment of all locations, and develop a list of equipment needs for the entire production.

Director of Photography is responsible for coordinating the camera crew, making sure equipment is all working, and testing out special lenses and filters. The Director of Photography needs to lead a crew of other photographers with precision.

Primary roles

Coordinate with the Director

The Director of Photography must understand the scope of the entire video production and be able to determine what types of equipment will be needed.

They must have a strong understanding of lighting needs, and be able to work well with the Director to establish what their creative vision is for the production.

The Director of Photography must be highly organized, and be able to lead a team of photographers during a video production. Their job is to be in control of capturing the scene before them using the right equipment and meeting the style requirements of the Director.

As the leader, they must also understand how to use all of the equipment used during the production and be able to instruct others if necessary.

This is not a simple photography job, but one which requires good managerial skills as well as excellent photography and lighting techniques.

Most people who want to become a Director of Photography work as an Assistant Photographer first in order to learn the role more closely.

While it is possible to learn some of these skills in school, experience is generally necessary before one is hired as the Director of Photography for a video production.

Secondary roles

A natural leader

The Director of Photography will also work closely with all other department leaders during the production.

As the leader of the visual team recording the production, the DOP will call for the makeup or costume department if necessary to ensure that all people involved in the video look appropriate.

The job requires the ability to pay close attention to details, and to know how to fix any visual problems that arise.

Good communication skills are essential for a Director of Photography, as well as the creative eye to make a production look great. The DOP makes sure that the production is capturing all of the footage it needs to be successful.