The 25 Best Cinematography Books

The best cinematography books can teach you everything you need to know about working a camera. So what titles should you read? 

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. 

3. Film Lighting by Kris Mankiewicz 

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?  

19. American Cinematographer Manual

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 Collaboration by 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.      

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Your Comment


A lot of those books are on a very similar subjects. Which ones would I read and why? Or all of them? Did you read them all? What do you think about them, which are your favorites, which ones are best to start with?

February 15, 2020 at 10:20AM



April 21, 2020 at 7:15AM

Kilpy Mor

Digital Cinematography: Fundamentals, Tools, Techniques, and Workflows by David Stump ASC has lots of practical & technical knowledge & techniques.

July 7, 2020 at 9:35AM

Jendra Jarnagin
Director of Photography

My go to desk reference book is the “American Cinematographer Manual” aka filmmakers Bible.

December 26, 2021 at 1:38AM, Edited December 26, 1:38AM

Ava Ethan

Thanks for the great book recommendations! I can also recommend you where I often look for information about books. Yesterday, I read there the summary of Charlotte Temple. This gave me an understanding of what the book is about and in what genre it is written. I'll try to find something there about cinematography too!

January 24, 2022 at 7:23AM, Edited January 24, 7:24AM