Cinematography is the backbone of cinema. In a visual medium, you need the best person controlling the camera, working in collaboration with the writer and director to translate the words on the page to images on the screen.
So how can you learn to be that person?
Through meticulous study, trial, and error of course!
Whether you're learning the basics or trying to take an advanced course, this list of books will cater to everything you want to know.
The 25 Best Cinematography Books
1. Cinematography: Theory and Practice by Blaine Brown
Cinematography is in a state of constant change, especially with the rise in digital. This book helps you keep track.
2. Painting with Light by John Alton
The first draft was written in 1949, so a lot has changed, but you'd be surprised what has stayed the same.
This is an extensively researched book great for beginners searching for knowledge.
4. The Filmmaker's Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition by Gustavo Mercado
Filled with how-to examples, this book is a practical guide for people who want to apply themselves in the real world.
5. Reflections by Benjamin Bergery
One of the new-ish books on the list, another practical guide.
6. Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers by Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato
A series of interviews filled with lessons and hurdles for typical predicaments within the world.
7.Writing with Light by Vittorio Storaro
Learn from a master who is considered to be one of the best cinematographers of all time.
8. FilmCraft by Mike Goodridge and Tim Grierson
16 professionals share stories of collaboration, problems, and successes over the course of their careers.
9. Every Frame a Rembrandt: Art and Practice of Cinematography by Andrew Laszlo and Andrew Quicke
Staging and framing can get complicated. This details how to get the most from your setups.
10. Behind the Lens: Dispatches from the Cinematographic Trenches by Jay Holben
A collection of the work and ideas of someone who's spent several decades working in practical production scenarios.
11. Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography by Bernardo Bertolucci, Marcello Mastoianni, and Sven Nykvist
Another practical guide filled with interviews from Europe's most prominent men behind the camera.
12. Cinematography, a Guide for Film Makers and Film Teachers by Bob Rogers and Kris Malkiewicz
More textbook than a book, this is a great place to start for students and for teachers who want to bring beginners up to speed.
13. A Man with a Camera by Néstor Almendros
Almendros is one of the best cinematographers of all time. Glean wisdom from someone who has done it on every level.
14. Lighting for Cinematography: A Practical Guide to the Art and Craft of Lighting for the Moving Image by David Landau
Like your information delivered in chunks spaced like a "how-to?" This is a step-by-step guide for you to put information into action.
15. The Camera Assistant's Manual by David E. Elkins
We all know you don't start at the top, you work your way up. This book tells you how.
16. Motion Picture and Video Lighting, Second Edition by Blain Brown
An updated edition of how to manipulate light and how it looks on screen.
17. Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson
Similar to others on this list, it's a firsthand account of what the job is and strategies to make you better.
18. The Filmmaker's Handbook by Ed Pincus
All the practical tips in the palm of your hand. What more could you want?
Put out by the ASC, this is a book written by the union, with information available to every member.
20. The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques by Joseph V. Mascelli
Despite the cute title, this allows you to reflect on what matters when you start to shoot.
21. Cinematography for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaborationby Jacqueline B. Frost
Working on set is a collaborative effort, but this book allows directors to better communicate with their eyes on set.
22. A Hidden History of Film Style: Cinematographers, Directors, and the Collaborative Process by Christopher Beach
The cameras keep changing, but the principles stay the same. See what timeless lessons you can learn.
23. Conversations with Cinematographers by David A. Ellis
This collection offers both famous DPs and some you may have never heard about, talking you through the way they broke in and their careers.
24. Cinematography in the Weimar Republic: Lola Lola, Dirty Singles, and the Men Who Shot Them by Paul Matthew St. Pierre
We have such a small understanding of who's shooting what across the world and across history, that this gives us the proper depth.
25. Understanding Cinematography by Brian Hall
The title says it all. It takes you through the theories and practical advice and settles on common practices and exercises.
What's next? The Best Books on Filmmaking!
The best way to learn about filmmaking is to do it. There is nothing else that can teach you as much. But in between projects, it's okay to read too.
Click to check them out.