Three critical qualities of an effective cinematographer

Sharing a vision is no simple task. Even the closest of companions often find themselves at odds when working towards a common creative goal because art is subjective and its interpretation is as well. So how can a creative director be sure that the cinematographer he chooses to collaborate with will effectively recreate his vision?

The cinematographer is experienced.

In his seminal analysis of expertise The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance, Dr. Anders Ericsson concluded the obvious: expertise comes with experience. Specifically, he determined that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in any pursuit. That’s 20 hours of practice each week for 50 weeks over the course of ten years.

Clearly, an experienced cinematographer has developed techniques and processes that make the production of a film more expedient without sacrificing quality. However, experience offers more than fine-tuned skills and a storehouse of industry knowledge. It also provides lessons in working cooperatively within a creative team, listening intuitively to the vision of the creative lead, and remaining open to the ideas of others.

He has a pioneering approach towards his industry.

Technology changes at an exponential rate. In the blink of an eye, an au courant cinematographer can lag behind the forward momentum of the industry’s tools. From VFX to VR, the modern cinematographer must push the boundaries of traditional technologies and conventional techniques to experiment with innovation while staying fluent in the most current dialect of the creative vernacular.

This confident appropriation of new technologies allows the cinematographer flexibility when making decisions from one project to the next. His bag of tricks – pulled together over years of focused study and application – includes enough diversity to permit him to move fluidly among mediums, choosing the best tools and techniques to facilitate each client’s unique vision.

This confident appropriation of new technologies allows the cinematographer flexibility when making decisions from one project to the next. Cinemagraph by Kenny Morrison.

He works cooperatively with diverse personalities on a creative team.

Drama’s place is in front of the camera lens, not behind it. While there’s no question about the complications that can arise among a team of strong-willed creative types, an effective cinematographer is able to collaborate with diverse personalities without needlessly stirring up egos and conflict. He’s open to differing ideas and opinions, proactive in problem-solving, and flexible in decision-making.

By checking his ego at the door, the cinematographer allows the director’s vision to take center stage. He’s able to make the stakeholders’ vision his own vision, leaving room for the natural evolution of a film.