December 14, 2016

The Toughest Challenges and Greatest Lessons of Being a Professional DP

What is it like to be a professional cinematographer?

Working as a cinematographer is definitely a worthwhile aspiration, but how much do you know about the life of a professional DP? It's certainly an important piece of the puzzle when deciding on the career path you're going to take, which is why this video from Film Riot is so helpful. In it, DPs like Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later), Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull), and Paul Cameron (Westworld, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) share tons of insight on what life is like as a cinematographer, as well as advice for younger DPs interested in going pro.

There are a lot of great takeaways from the video, but we jotted down a few for you to chew on and mull over.

Challenges of the job

Every profession has its difficulties, and being a DP is no different. From the politics to staying focused to having to deal with pestering producers to basically living out of a van for months at a time, being a cinematographer means being a nomadic artist who must learn to roll with the punches. Paul Cameron sums it all up nicely when he says:

I think the hardest thing about being a director of photography is eating most of your lunches and dinners in parking lots around the world, sitting in vans for more time than you spend in your bed, and being away from your wife and your family for greater periods than you think."

Advice for young DPs

Each DP had a lot of great tips—even some that directly contradicted each other, but here are a few that were especially inspiring.

  • "Keep bashing away at it; keep fighting for what you believe in." Anthony Dod Mantle
  • "A lot of times you take what comes along." Michael Chapman
  • "Do the work you want to really do and focus and go after the work you feel is appropriate for you." Paul Cameron
  • "Get another job." Michael Seresin

If you're a professional DP, what is on/off set life like for you? What advice would you give to aspiring cinematographers? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment

2 Comments

Well, the biggest challenge for me is to start working as a paid DP. I'll worry about those other challenges later.

December 15, 2016 at 9:27AM

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The biggest challenge, if you actually have any talent, is fighting your way thru the multitude of talentless 'cinematographers' to be seen.

And, 'to be seen' means, by someone in the industry.

December 16, 2016 at 9:51AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
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