How to become a Cinematographer – A complete educational guide!


Look at this for example from the movie “The Jungle Book – 2016” –  Mowgli meets Kaa.

When you look at the video, everything seems to flow so smoothly that we don’t even notice how each shot is different. But if you want to be a cinematographer, it’s time to start noticing. The shots of this scene look something like this

Now you see 9 different shots taken from different angles, some are close-ups of Mowgli while some are so far, and look how the mood is set so dark with low lighting. 

Who made all these decisions??? Yes, a cinematographer!

Cinematographers, now known as Directors of Photography are like the eyes of the film. They decide the overall visuals of what we see on the screen, be it the angle of the shot, placement of light, or the composition of the same. Read the blog further to know more about how to become a cinematographer – the education, skills, and job preparation required.

Who is a Cinematographer? 

In order to generate dynamics on screen, a cinematographer combines the skills of a director, editor, and photographer. Lighting, camera movement, the chosen lenses, and other factors are all under their artistic input.

They typically participate from the storyboards to post-production during the whole production lifecycle. In order to generate the pictures you see on film, they collaborate with the director.

Learn more: How to become a Film Director – A complete educational

How to become a Cinematographer? [Step by Step Guide]

Step 1: Stream Selection 

Cinematographers usually require a degree in photography or video production or other such related fields which needs to be chosen post your 12th. Therefore, after 10th you may choose any stream that you like. Humanities/Arts would be a better choice since it will usually have people with similar interests. 

Step 2: Certificate courses and Project Courses 

If you’re unsure about cinematography you may test it out by registering for a range of time-efficient and pocket-friendly online courses. There is no prerequisite for them, thus you can enrol in them after getting your 10th grade.

Certificate Course Institute offering the Course Duration 
Photography Basics and beyond: from smartphone to DSLR Michigan State University through Coursera  3-6 Months 
Getting your film off the ground Michigan State University through Coursera  1-3 Months 
Learning Cinematography: 1 Narrative Fundamentals LinkedIn Learning 2 hour 44 mins 
Learning Cinematography: 3 hands-on Techniques LinkedIn Learning 45 mins 
Psychology in Filmmaking: Create Films with stronger emotions Udemy 1 Hour 
Cinematography Masterclass: The Complete Videography Guide Udemy 6 hours 
Cinematic Lighting Udemy 5 hours 
Cinematography 101: Absolute beginner course Udemy 1 hour 

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Step 3: Educational Qualifications to become a Cinematographer

How to become a Cinematographer after 12th? 

A) Undergraduate/diploma course in India

Cinematographers don’t really require a degree. However, formal training is always preferred. The following are some of the undergraduate degrees that you can pursue: 

Undergraduate Degree Duration 
Bachelor of Fine Arts – Major in Film
3-4 years 
BA in Film and Media Production3 Years 
Bachelor of Mass Media 3 Years 
Bachelor’s in Film and Television Production3 years 
BFA in Motion Picture Arts3-4 years

There are also some diploma/certificate courses that you can do. Some of them to check out include: 

Diploma Courses  Institute offering the course Duration 
Certificate Course in Cinematography Whistling Woods 3 Months 
Course in Cinematography Institute of creative excellence 3 Months 
Certification in Cinematography and Lighting Mumbai Film Academy 6-12 Months 
Diploma course in cinematography ZIMA 6 Months 
Certificate course in cinematography Deviprasad Goenka Management College of media studies 6 Months 

Also read: Career As A Film Critic

B) Top Colleges in India: 

  • Wilson College 
  • St. Xaviers college 
  • Loyola college 
  • Mithibai college 
  • Ruia College 
  • Amity University
  • Jamia Millia Islamia University
  • Banaras Hindu University 

If you want to pursue a degree from film school, then the following are the best options: 

  • Film and Television Institute of India, Pune
  • Whistling Woods International, Mumbai
  • AAFT, Noida
  • Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute
  • International Institute of Mass Media (IIMM), Delhi
  • MIT School of Film and Television, Pune
  • YMCA, New Delhi
  • JNU, New Delhi 
  • Ramesh Sippy Academy of Cinema and Entertainment, Mumbai 
  • Sixteen by Nine Media, Pune
  • Annapurna College of Film and Media 

To become a Cinematographer abroad 

A) Undergraduate/Diploma Courses abroad 

Some of the courses abroad that you can check out to become a cinematographer are: 

Undergraduate Course Estimated Duration 
BA Hons in Cinema Studies48 Months 
Bachelor of Arts in Cinema Studies48 Months 
BA/BFA in Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts48 Months 
Associate in Arts degree in Video Arts24 Months 
B.A. In Cinematic Arts 120 hours 

You can even pursue some diploma courses if you don’t want to invest so much time and money in such courses. Some of them that you might want to check out include 

Diploma/Certificate Course Institute offering the course  Duration 
Certificate in FilmmakingNew York Film Academy Many options available 
Advanced Diploma in Digital Cinematography Ontario College 3 Years 
Advanced Diploma in Broadcasting – Film, Television, Digital Media and RadioCentennial College36 Months 
Graduate Diploma in Film and TelevisionDeakin University12 Months 

B) Top Colleges 

  • Berkeley City College, USA
  • Vanderbilt University, USA 
  • Ulster University, UK
  • University of Colorado Boulder, USA 
  • The University of Chicago, USA 
  • New York University, USA 
  • University of Toronto, USA 
  • National Film and television school, UK 
  • Wiltshire College, UK 

Step 4: Job preparation required for a Cinematographer 

A Cinematographer’s job is not easy to get. It requires an adequate amount of hard work and portfolio creation. Some of the tips to get you started are given below: 

  • Start small: 

Helping out on a movie set and watching a professional in action would be a wonderful place to start. Therefore starting small as a cameraman or videographer helps. Many of the abilities required to be a skilled cinematographer are developed via practice and experience.

  • Get the right equipment.

The tools needed for a film shoot depend on the project, the setting, and the director’s vision. The cinematographer chooses the appropriate cameras, lenses, filters, lighting, digital media, and other tools to contribute to the visual style of the movie. Before a film shoot, the DP also makes sure that the appropriate rigging is set up.

  • Practice photography

It’s crucial for prospective cinematographers to experiment with filmmaking and still photography in order to discover what makes for effective shot composition. Think about taking time away from filming to capture as much video and images as you can, while only accepting lighting jobs. The more you comprehend the fundamentals of film photography, the more naturally you can apply what you’ve learned to express tales through images.

Skills required to become a Cinematographer 

  • Technological knowledge 
  • Flexible Creativity 
  • Storytelling 
  • Visualisation 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Decision making 
  • Communication 
  • Imagination 
  • Graphics and video editing 
  • Photography 

Salary of a Cinematographer 

Salary in India for a Cinematographer 

A cinematographer’s pay is greatly influenced by the film’s producers, performers, box office performance, distribution method (theatre or OTT), and a number of other factors. However, Glassdoor reports that the national average producer compensation is $31,678 per month.

Salary Abroad for a Cinematographer 

The situation abroad is unchanged. However, the following provides a basic picture of how much a cinematographer makes depending on the different film industries:

Country USA UK Canada France Germany Australia 
Average salary per year $59733£29748.C$4000045,100 EUR€53,346AU$63026

Know more: Career as a Creative Director

Top Production houses in India

Usually, cinematographers work on a project basis. However, if you are just starting out, you may check out these production houses to see if they have any vacancies: 

  • Reliance Entertainment 
  • Dharma Productions 
  • Cape of Good films 
  • Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment
  • Phantom Films
  • T-Series Super Cassettes Industries Ltd.
  • Emmay Entertainment Pvt. Ltd
  • Zee Studios
  • Salman Khan Films
  • Pooja Entertainment India Ltd.

Top Production houses Abroad 

  • Universal Pictures 
  • Warner Bros 
  • Columbia Pictures 
  • Walt Disney Pictures 
  • Marvel Studios 
  • Paramount Pictures
  • 20th Century Fox
  • RatPac-Dune Entertainment
  • Legendary Entertainment
  • Relativity Media

Cinematography is fun if you like working with cameras. Like duh! Right? But what I mean is knowing what part of the story you want to focus on with your camera angles is a satisfying process in itself. Thus, while you are choosing to be a cinematographer, ensure you like the creative process of storytelling through the lens!

Day in the Life of a Cinematographer


FAQs about how to become a Cinematographer

What credentials do I require to become a cinematographer?

A bachelor’s degree is required for cinematographers, who can further their education in fine arts or technical colleges that provide courses in cinematography theory and practice. Additionally, they need sharp eyesight, good hand-eye coordination, a creative eye, and a working knowledge of technology and digital cameras.

Is becoming a cinematographer challenging?

When the director and cast are chosen, you are responsible to oversee the entire camera department and be prepared to shoot. A cinematographer may be under a great deal of pressure to deliver. It’s your responsibility to address issues as they arise in order to realise the director’s vision.

Are a cameraman and a cinematographer the same?

The cinematographer, often known as the director of photography (DP or DoP), is also referred to as the lighting cameraman or first cameraman in the film industry. The DP has the option of using a camera operator or second cameraman to set the controls or operate the camera on their behalf.

Where may a filmmaker find employment?

Although their pre-production and post-production job may include scouting out locations, working on site, or analysing footage in a studio, cinematographers primarily work on film sets and studios.

What advantages do cinematographers enjoy?

The following benefits are also possibly connected to this position:
— The capacity to collaborate with other creative people in a creative atmosphere.
— Ability to travel, observe, and interact with new people and things.
— Working in a fast-paced atmosphere is a must.
— The capacity to operate independently.

How many hours a day does a cinematographer work?

You won’t be clocking out at 5 o’clock every day if you choose to work as a cinematographer. Be prepared to work a lot of unpredictable, unsocial hours. Filming can happen whenever it suits the needs of the project because of the nature of the industry. Sometimes, you could even have to work on the weekend.

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