I realise that a lot of things can be learned on your own without attending a course. I went to university and the majority of the things taught can be self-learnt - even engineering. The only issue is that you have no idea where to start and where to get the best resources.

Are there any textbooks or online video sets that teaches cinematography well? By cinematography I mean less about scripts/acting, and more about the visual and the auditory feel.

The videos on YouTube are not very consistent (even large channels) - most are either too amateurish, factually wrong or trying to push you a certain product. The difference is stark when you compare YouTube 'cinematic videos' with filmmakers (even indie ones). I'm pretty sure that there are hidden gems on YouTube but it's not easy to find. My point is that I want to learn from the professionals instead of amateurs.

2 Answers 2

  • Read American Cinematographer.
  • Check out this famous series of “master classes” KODAK Cinematography Master Class. In this previously linked excerpt, it's John Seale who takes a bunch of students through a scene from the film “Dead Poet Society”. And here you have other bits from the same series.

    What you get is professional film cinematographers working on set or in a studio with students to solve lighting issues. It may be too advanced for you (I don't know what you know), but this is the sort of work that happens all the time on sets ... although only in the head of the DPs (or in pre-production meetings when the script, the characters and their motivation are discussed).

    And, I just found out, after a quick search, that the series is still ongoing!. Do yourself a huge favor and start watching it -- the old and the recent stuff.

  • Kodak, the old film stock company, still has some good stuff for students and budding cinematographers available on their website. Check this page out: it's a bunch of informative PDF etc. on cinematography, like how to read a slate, workflow, filters, etc. There's a lot it seems.
  • Work on film sets, and see how they light things. Ask questions. Take notes. And then shoot your own stuff (short documentaries, short films), with/about your friends, family, whatever. Take photos, digital and traditional, always on manual (learn to use light-meters). Shoot black and white and then color, which is harder.
  • Also, it's not (ever) about the gear you use, but about your eye, your taste, understanding color and light and framing in relations to scripts (and experience on sets).
  • Watch the best lit films ever made, the small ones and the big ones (mainly the small ones 'cause they have no budget to light things).
  • Look at classical paintings and ask yourself: where's the light coming from? Why is it lighting this part of the frame and not this? What is it saying? What's the story?
  • Finally, keep at it. Make connections. Show up early and leave late. Make connections. Smile and work hard. Keep at it. Becoming part of a community of filmmakers is absolutely vital. If one doesn't exist where you live, create it.

And I say all this with an MFA degree from one of the best film schools in the US.

  • I started off by watching a lot of self-proclaimed filmmaker-vloggers online and I realise it stunted my growth quite significantly. Just wanted insight from someone who is actually in the industry - who would you recommend?
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 12:03
  • Yeah, you wanna go for the top people: setting up a camera and talking about three point lighting is not going to get you very far after a while. There is some good stuff on utube though. I've edited my long answer for reflect that. Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 10:17

Don't overlook paid sites, I formerly used Lynda.com, purchased by LinkedIn a few years back, and they have pro grade video & photography courses. Keep in mind that framing, composition, and lighting are the same for both photo and video.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.