December 13, 2014 at 10:41AM


Explain The Tangible Value of a Director of Photography

Please try to be objective as possible, regardless of your actual opinion on the matter. I want people to use their real world experiences or technical education to substantiate their arguments on this-is-why-we-pay-this-person-money. Do not make assumptions about my opinion on the matter.


Look at how the scene is lit. The DP (Director of Photography) is the one who orders where the lights go and provides a huge portion of the tone of the scene. I've worked with DP's who also tell the camera operator exactly where to step and how to position the camera.

Not exactly tangible, but the DP's art is all in the visuals. I think it was Evan Luzi (The Black & Blue) who stated something like; "One of the best jobs on set are those that no one notices until you do a poor job. No one thinks about a shot's composition until there is none."

December 14, 2014 at 1:27PM

Christopher Brazil
Audio/Video Tech

Consider the DP the director's eyes on set.... Director has a vision the DP executes it. DP's are seen as technical people but i think a DP is firstly an artist followed by a gear-head. I Normally read a script and figure out the tone of a scene then think about how the scene could be lit plus the movement of the camera if the Director doesn't know how he/she wants the camera to be moved. When you think about it too, the DP is in charge of all the other techs on set so he's the assistant manager that's in charge of all things technical to the director who is the overall manager. So this role is super important, and its also important that if you are a director you spend time to see how capable you DP is and figure out their style and their techniques to see if its the kind of skill set you need for your production.

December 14, 2014 at 6:19PM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op

I'd say there are three main aspects of the DP's job: technical, logistical, artistic.

Technical: they know how light and film work, they understand exposure, dynamic range, contrast. They can tell you how a scene will look on different film stocks. They understand why a 50mm may work better for this scene than a 35mm. They know how much light is required to get a decent exposure that will produce an acceptable end product.

Logistical: where to put the camera, how to move it and ensure that the lighting remains consistent from day to day, angle to angle. Understanding what the actors are likely to do, how they move, how the scene is blocked and then lighting accordingly.

Artistic: creating the mood and tone for a scene that fits the content, the director's intentions and the film as a whole. Look at the difference between The Godfather and Annie Hall - both lit by Gordon Willis, each completely unique in look, but each lit in a way that suits the film.

There's an interesting chapter in Mike Figgis' book 'Digital Filmmaking' where he asks - half jokingly - whether we'll even need DPs in a digital film world. The point he arrives at is yes, we will, but their job will be far less about the technical/logistics role and more about the art. He argues that a lot of the norms of cinematography come from what suits the guys who own the kit, so we all now expect a certain 'look' of our films, even though we know this is divorced from reality. If a person runs through the woods at night with a torch, we shouldn't see their face, they shouldn't have delicate rim light around their hair and shoulders... Yet that's what we've come to expect from films, because that's what films look like. And he argues we should challenge that - the world doesn't have three-point lighting, so why does every character in a film carry it round with them like a weird halo.

I do wonder if over the next decade or so you'll get a generation of DPs who've grown up with digital and are less bothered about perfectly lit scenes in the Hollywood tradition, and are more about pushing the envelope to see just how much - or how little - you can get away with. I remember reading that Danny Boyle specifically hired Anthony Dod Mantle for 28 Days Later as he wanted someone who was a digital-era DP, who would understand the aesthetic that he was after rather than constantly challenging Boyle and telling him it would look awful and never work.

No idea if that answers your question, but hopefully it was interesting to read...

December 15, 2014 at 2:53AM

Jon Mills

dps have a multi faceted role.

they're [normally] the camera and lighting expert
they should understand how to evoke emotion with the image (composition and lighting)
on smaller sets they could also be operating the equipment

in most cases the director doesn't know how to create emotion and mood with the composition, framing or lighting of the shot and without a dp would be left without a leg to stand on

on some smaller shoots they director may have former experience has a dp or understand the role enough and so combine the roles together.

December 15, 2014 at 3:51PM

Joel Spence
Cinematographer / Camera Op / Editor

A Director of Photography provides the knowledge, experience and direction necessary to expertly craft and control images to enhance the telling of the film's story.

The DoP should be an expert in controlling and creating images. This applies to both technical and creative concerns. They understand how the integration of camera position, framing and light placement controls the viewer's reaction to an image and how their eye travels through the frame. This gives the DoP the capacity to really control the viewer experience, what they see, what they don't, what they understand and where they are being led to.

This is exactly why a good DoP can be of tremendous help to a film and its director. Once the director outlines what they are looking for a DoP can run with it, contributing aesthetically and technically to the overall effectiveness of the final work. A good DoP is not simply a technician but a creative and aesthetic contributor to the successful execution of a film.

December 17, 2014 at 7:31AM

Production Manager / Producer

A guaranty of formal unity during the shooting, that light/color/tone in the #38 shots are the same in the 278# shots. You can easily lie on that with grading in a Vimeo distribution but on a big screen it's another story.

Experience, fast and confident way to work, abilities for improvising when using accident or natural environment, keeping a "do it yourself" spirit to resolve problems, knowing how to manage director thoughts trough his technical staff.

December 17, 2014 at 1:15PM


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