Cinematographer - Technical Skills, Qualifications, Courses

January 22, 2020

Cinematographer - Technical Skills, Qualifications, Courses

What does it mean to be a Cinematographer in India?

Who is a cinematographer? One could call a cinematographer a director of photography. They handle the cameras and related equipment and translate the directors vision of the movie on video. Cinematographer’s job is to get the right moment director wants, captured on camera in a correct way. There is a very close relationship between the director and the cinematographer about how each shot is to be captured.

A crew is required to help cinematographers with the work to be carried out. The crew consists of camera operators, camera assistants, focus pullers, gaffers, and the lighting crew. At the end of shooting and production, a cinematographer ensures that that all the footage that is captured during shooting remains intact and the processing of the film is done exactly to his/her specifications.

Cinematographers Technical Skills

A cinematographer needs to figure out what lens of the camera to use, what angle, how each scene will be lit, and which camera filters will be used for that shot. Computer and

photography skills are necessary for this profession. This is important because of the special effects and the technological knowledge that is needed for this career. A good cinematographer needs to be imaginative to envision what the camera shot will look like before it is captured.

Other skills to be learned are about working with lighting to get the most out of the shots.
To be a successful cinematographer one definitely need to work hard, have passion and dedication to the film and TV industry. Cinematographers also are responsible for equipment, storage of data as well editing of the data along with adding special effects. A cinematographer plans while the camera operator shoots the footage. People who wish to become cinematographers may do assistants work on major film or television sets. One can also gain experience by filming commercials or instructional videos.

Qualifications Required for Cinematography

One needs to have a graduate or undergraduate degree in cinematography. This should be from a recognized college or university. You can also complete a certificate or a diploma course in cinematography.

Courses of Cinematography in India

Lot of institutes in India offer courses in cinematography at various levels. One can obtain a bachelors or a master’s degree in various aspects of cinematography including Digital Cinematography. Many diploma opportunities are too available. Some of these are listed below:

Eligibility Criteria

  • Class 12 or graduation depending on the course to join.

Cinematography Studies

Various aspects of cinematography skills and techniques are taught in these courses. These include understanding film stocks, cinematography techniques, role of cinematographers, cameras, lens and lighting and using exposure meters

Top Colleges of Cinematography in India are:

  • Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune
  • National Institute of Film & Fine Arts, Kolkata
  • L V Prasad Film and TV Academy, Chennai.
  • Centre for Research in Art of Film and Television (CRAFT), Delhi.
  • Satyajit Ray Films and Television Institute, Kolkata
  • Whistling Woods International, Mumbai.
  • Many more

Job and Career Opportunities

Production houses in Mumbai and Hyderabad employ cinematographers. Some offer internship jobs before taking one as a full time employee. A good experience is needed for you to be accepted as a qualified candidate.

What are the Salary Prospects? In Hollywood in United States, an average salary of $40,000 to $80,000 per annum is paid to a cinematographer. It all depends on one’s experience and skill. Cinematographers earn better salaries working for motion pictures rather than working for the television industry. In India, apprentice cinematographer is paid Rs. 84,000 – Rs. 1,50,000 per year. An experienced cinematographers’ is about Rs. 5,00,000 – Rs. 10,00,000 a year.

Some of the top Cinematographers in India and Overseas:

In India

  • BaluMahendra
  • Rajeev Ravi
  • Sujith Vasudev
  • Jomon T. John
  • Manikandan
  • Anil Mehta
  • Rajiv Menon
  • Nirav Shah


  • Roger Deakins
  • Michael Ballhaus
  • Conrad L. Hall
  • Vittorio Storaro
  • Stanley Cortez
  • Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Bill Pope 
  • Jack Cardiff 
  • Kazuo Miyagawa 
  • Robert Bur

Life as a cinematographer is hard but interesting. The job is very satisfying and one gets to interact with lot of people including celebrities. The job means travelling to lot of locales including different countries. There is lot of chances available for advancement and recognition in terms of awards. Cinematographers can be eligible for awards from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press, Filmfare awards and other bodies which recognize such work.

Long hours and late nights of work are defiantly one of the downsides into becoming a cinematographer. Cinematography is a very popular course in most colleges who offer the course. Cinematographers enjoy stable employment and thus a very attractive career. One

can work at places where the major film and television industries are located such as Paris, London, New York, LA, Mumbai, Hyderabad, New Mexico and many more cities.

A famous choreographer once said “It's the persons focus and drive to create and master lighting, composition, storytelling through a lens and shaping 2D imagery to be immersive, deliberate and supportive of a narrative that makes one a top notch Cinematographer”. Equipment definitely helps. So follow your dream and passion to wield a camera and Get, Set Go…..

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I always wanted to pursue cinematography. This article is a great write up since it provides essential updates and information in order to brush up my skills and shape up my dream.

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