5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become a Better Cinematographer
If you want to up your cinematography game, here are a few tips that'll help you do it.
Whether professional or not, everybody and their mom is out shooting videos and photos. So, what can you do to make your images stand out from the rest? Well, photographer Peter McKinnon has shared 5 simple tips that will help you become a better image maker, tips that primarily center around better ways to approach capturing a scene.
Though McKinnon's video is geared toward photographers, the lessons still translate well in the world of filmmaking. Let's take a look at each of his tips with a little bit of a cinematic twist:
Shoot from different perspectives
There's always another way to skin a cat. Capturing a scene from different angles can not only help you tell your story in a more dynamic way, but it can also help your work stand out from that of others. But I think the main lesson here, which is something McKinnon sums up nicely, is to just be an intentional filmmaker—someone who thinks about their stylistic and technical choices instead of going with what they've always done or what's easy and tried and true. Like he says, take 10 seconds and really think about how you're going to shoot something but for you shoot it.
When McKinnon talks about shooting through stuff, the effect he's referring to is depth, which is incredibly important to create when dealing with a 2-dimensional art form like film. Capturing objects in the foreground or background help create the illusion of depth and allows your audience's eye to look into the frame rather than just at it. You can do this by framing up your scene in such a way that there are foreground and background elements, and whether or not you want to shoot with a shallow depth of field to create bokeh, like McKinnon mentions, is up to you.
A good way to push the limits of your own creativity is to try to do something new. McKinnon suggests thinking of how others tend to shoot a scene and just try to do it the exact opposite (of just differently). For example, think about how standard dinner table scenes unfold: it's usually a series of over-the-shoulder shots of two people sharing some dialog. The fact that the vast majority of these kinds of scenes are shot this way gives you a great opportunity to change it up and try something no one has tried before.
Lighting and composition
I combined the last two tips because they say essentially the same thing: technique is important. Lighting is often the biggest reason why an image looks either good or bad, and composition, if done right, is one of, if not the, the main workhorses of visual storytelling. One thing that will take you to the next level as a filmmaker is ensuring that both of these elements are effective at, yes, making your shots look beautiful, but also, more importantly, at serving your story.