Director of Photography

Job Description:

Provide creative direction to lighting and camera crews to bring a vision to life.

Job Category:
Culture, Media & Sport

What you will 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


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently

As well as:

  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptable)
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things (creativity)
  • excellent verbal communication skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Director of Photography (DoP), also known as a cinematographer, you don’t need specific subjects, but you should focus on developing a strong foundation in visual and technical skills. Becoming a DoP is more about gaining practical experience, building a portfolio, and pursuing relevant education or training. Here are some considerations:

  1. Art and Design: courses in art and design can help you develop your visual creativity, composition, and artistic skills, which are important for cinematography.
  2. Media Studies: If available, taking media studies courses can provide a basic understanding of film, video production, and storytelling techniques.
  3. Mathematics (Maths): Basic math skills are important for understanding aspects of cinematography such as lighting calculations, camera angles, and lens choices.
  4. Physics: Knowledge of physics principles can be valuable for understanding how light interacts with objects and the technical aspects of camera equipment.
  5. Computer Science: Familiarity with computer software and digital editing tools used in post-production can be advantageous.

Post School

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.

Working Hours 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.

Career Path & Progression:

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

Many DoPs work freelance. You could earn a salary significantly higher than average if you work on big-budget films.