We know the title and recognize some of the greats, but what does a director of photography actually do on a film production? To shape a film’s visual aesthetic, the DOP must have a very deep knowledge of cameras, composition, lighting, and film history.
Racheal Mambo, a Director of Photography with over 10 years’ experience in the film and television and events business in Uganda shares from her experience.
According to her, the Director of Photography who is also sometimes referred to as a cinematographer is supposed to:
Tell a story visually.
-Manage the camera and light crews
-Break down a particular scene or scenes which also involves dissecting the screenplay
-Create shot lists, floor plans, and lighting diagrams
-Make decisions about cinematic elements such as lenses, filters, lights, and other camera/lighting requirements.
-Make decisions about aspect ratio, digital effects, image contrast, and frame rates.
-Make decisions about camera movements and film lighting techniques to prompt a specific emotional responses from an audience.
-Liaise with the director and colorist during the color-grading phase on a project
To plan for a shoot, it is advised that the Director of Photography is always ready, and this is how:
‘’Be prepared. Give your self fully to the project, Know the script. Plan your shot list,plan for your lighting, Make notes in your script. Bring up visual suggestions, questions, and ideas. Have conversations about styles to emulate, other film’s this story reminds you of. The better you know the project the better you’ll be able to help serve it. ‘’
-Be an artist (but a reasonable one)
-Time is of the essence and great cinematography needs not be painstaking. At the same time, treat your shots, and each frame, like a work of art you want to get right.
-Don’t be afraid to break some of those rules that instructors drilled into heads. Some rules were made to be broken. Playing it safe leads to getting into the habit of average/mundane shooting. Your best cinematography might appear when you think out of the box.
-Being a cinematographer is as creative as it is technical. Make sure the ideas you bring to the table are grounded in a knowledge of the scripted material.
On the Most Important Qualities a D.OP must posses
Be A Nice Person: It's not just your work that gets you hired, it's how well people can work with you on set. If I may quote some of the people that inspire me,
‘’Killer work will open the door but being a great person will keep the door open. Be a good, decent, fun person to work with and you'll find that lots of agencies and companies will go out of their way, even if it's out of their budget, to work with you.’’ -Matt Mangham
-Envision Each Shot: With time and experience, envisioning your shot will allow you to know whether a shot will work or not. All the little details matter and make the difference between a good film and a killer film.
-Excellent written and verbal communication.
-Exceptional interpersonal skills.
-Attention to detail. Be Detail Oriented: Study all your past work. Look at all the little things that bother you, so you can correct them in the future.
-Good organizational skills and technical camera operating skills
-Be Confident: Make sure your clients and crew have complete trust in your abilities, to reduce stress and raise morale.
-Know What You Want: Do everything you can to be prepared in the pre-production process. -Know what your client wants, plan, and research accordingly.
Racheal graduated from the prestigious Kampala Film School with a Diploma in Film TV, Video production, majoring in cinematography and editing. She is an expert in every facet of the filmmaking process and is involved in every step of production from pre-pro, to shooting, through post production.
Some of the big productions she has been a part of include: Bed of thorns, Kemi, Live your dream, Speak up series , among others.