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6 Savvy Tips to Help You Become a Pro Cinematographer


As a cinematographer, you are in charge of directing the cameras, much like a director directs actors on set.  And, since it is your job to bring the script to life through the lens of the camera, it is important you know and understand the skills required to become a professional cinematographer.

The job of a cinematographer is multi-faceted.  You must know how to set up film shots, light a set, and understand how each camera functions.  Plus, you have to know how to make the shot look good.  After all, the viewers need to be drawn to the production you help film.

Today, we will look at 6 expert tips for getting you on the right track to becoming a professional and in-demand cinematographer once you enter the film industry.


How to Become an In-Demand Cinematographer

1. Understand Your Job Description

In order to be successful in the film industry, it is important you know exactly what your role as cinematographer entails.  And while you contribute significantly to the video production process, understanding the differences between your role and those of others on your team will make for a better final product.

Here is a look at what cinematographers do (and don’t do).


  • Take on the title Cinematographer, Director of Photography, or Camera Operator.
  • Handle the lighting on set, unless a lighting director is present.  In that case, work together.
  • Maintain camera positioning, adjust lenses and filters, and direct prop setups.
  • Work with assistant camera people to get multiple angles of the same shot.


  • Direct actors.  That is the job of the film director.
  • Monitor audio.  This is the sound department’s responsibility.
  • Try to determine which angles are the best.  This is done by the editing crew, director, and producer.

Accepting your main responsibilities (and those of the video production crew) will encourage teamwork, reduce friction, and allow more room for a creative video production process.


2. Get on Set

Learning the process of an entire video production will help you once you enter the field of cinematography.  It is a good idea to try and get on set even before you become a cinematographer so you can see just how the process works. 


Get on film sets and pay attention to the details.  Notice how sets are lit, how directors make a scene come to life, and how everyone works together for a common goal.  Taking in your surroundings while on set will give you a real feel for what being a cinematographer will be like. 

Luckily, if you attend a premier video production school in Maryland, such as The Sheffield Institute for the Recording Arts, you will experience this hands-on training as you learn the film industry from the inside out.  Not only will you graduate fully knowing your position as cinematographer, you will also know how the entire video production process works, making you a valuable team player on set.


3. Start Filming

As mentioned above, hands-on experience is priceless when it comes to learning the ropes as a cinematographer.  And, while it may seem obvious to practice filming in order to become a pro cinematographer, you would be surprised how many people only hit the books and expect to know how directing photography works in real-time. 

Sheffield is great at teaching you the fundamentals that make up the film industry and we pride ourselves in teaching students using state of the art technology.  Plus, we let students actually perform their job duties as though they were already professionals.  This is one of the best ways to learn and how to get an edge on others entering the industry at your same level.


4. Network

Meeting new people that are in the film industry is a great way to learn more and open up future employment possibilities once you graduate from your Maryland video production school.  Network via social media platforms, community events, parties, and even exclusive screenings.  Build relationships with different members of the production crew – gaffers, grips, production managers, producers, and directors – so that you can get a feel for the entire production process. 

At Sheffield, networking plays a large role in employment placement upon graduation.  In fact, Sheffield is happy to help with job placement after you receive your video production education.  We offer help with resume writing, mock interviews, and networking skills (sometimes even introducing you to key players in the area) that will help you connect once in the job field.  And what’s better, these career services are available forever to those who graduate from Sheffield.


5. Watch Movies

What’s not to like about that?  Watching movies will fine tune your cinematography skills. 


But don’t just sit back and relax while watching your favorite films.  Do this instead:

  • View the film as though through the lens of the camera rather than through that of a casual viewer.  Make note of the different angles and shots and figure out why those were chosen over the other possibilities.
  • Watch how the camera moves throughout the film, how the lighting differs in each scene, and how you might have done things differently.  Try to understand why the camera moves the way it does and notice how it interacts with the set, props, and actors.

Adjusting the way you view films will strengthen the skills needed to become a professional cinematographer in Maryland.


6. Never Stop Learning

Sure, receiving your video production education in Maryland, especially from Sheffield, will help pave the way for you into a lucrative and satisfying cinematography career.  However, what will really cement you as a professional in the industry is the knowledge of the craft you can exhibit regularly.

  • Learn all aspects of video production, even those not related to cinematography.  Because the truth is, everything in video production is actually interconnected.  The more you know, the better your camera skills will be.
  • Read literature, attend meetings, join forums, and always discuss relevant current events with fellow production team professionals.  Stay up to date on new filming techniques and technological advancements.  Better yet, know anything and everything you can about all camera equipment you may come across.
  • Be the person that everyone consults when they have a problem or need a fresh idea.  You will be valued for your involvement in the art of video production, in addition to the skills you bring to each production set.

Dedicating your life to your career because you are passionate about it will make you stand out amongst the others vying for the same cinematographer positions. 

If you are looking for the perfect place to receive your video production education and are located in the Maryland area, contact the Sheffield Institute for the Recording Arts

Discover how our approach to video production education is above that of any other Maryland video production school.  See how our hands-on approach, industry professional instructors, and state-of-the-art technology and equipment will prepare you with everything you’ll need to become a quality professional cinematographer in the exciting film industry.

At Sheffield, we are passionate about video production and seeks those with the same desire to achieve their dreams in a seemingly impossible industry.  With the help of Sheffield, you can set the bar high and exceed all expectations in your career as a cinematographer.