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Do good Still Photographers make good DP's?


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#1 Richard Benjumea

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 02:14 PM

Hey everyone, i'm an aspiring filmmaker interested in having complete creative control over my films : writing, editing,directing etc.. Though I would love to learn and be my own Cinematographer, i feel that I need someone with their own objective views regarding the lighting and moods needed for any one of my films...
Getting to the point, my friend is a great still photographer with an amazing eye, and a knack for capturing the right moment, with the right emotions at the right time (which I think is a DP's most important task) Though I know still photography and film photography may have their own different worlds, I want to know if his skills would translate well onto the moving medium, and if any one of you guys have had this experience or are in fact a converted still photographer.

thanks!
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#2 e gustavo petersen

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 04:12 PM

Good still photographers can make for a good cinematographer but that comes with a few qualifiers. From a technical standpoint, all the skills of a still photographer translate over to film and video cameras. Obviously, new technical knowledge will have to be learned but for the most part the aspects of exposure and image quality will translate.

What changes is that this person is not capturing "a moment" but rather "moments of time". And those moments will need to be stitched together by an editor into a cohesive story. That coupled with time management on set, larger crews, and the differences of lighting a static frame version a moving one are but a few new challenges your still photographer friend will need to overcome.

While the work appears to be similar in many respects, they are very much different. One is not the subset of the other and are, to use your word, each "have their own different worlds". Ultimately, it's up to that person and their ability to adapt which will determine how well they'll make the transition but having a strong foundation in the fundamentals of photograpahy is a great start.
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 04:46 PM

Sometimes. Eric mentioned many of the concerns. Another is that the two crafts, while using similar skills, have very different lighting expectations. Most photographs have absolutely no concern with realistic lighting. This creates some problems when the photographer doesn't know when to stop lighting and overlights the hell out of everything. That is the most common thing I ahve noticed with photogs-gone-DP: horrendous overlighting.
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#4 Yutine Fung

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 10:38 PM

I'm thinking the opposite. My photography teacher gave me an account of how his film students tend to check out lighting kits for a photographic shoot, which he found overlighted. He actually suggested us to use only one or two light.

I'm a good still photographer, but I couldn't say I'm a good DP(not at this point). 'Cos as a still photographer, you usually have a direct control on whatever you shoot. However, a good DP needs to work well with his team(director, production designer, editor, AC, etc.) And there're so many things a DP needs to know in addition to photograph the moving subjects.

Btw, Chris Doyle was invited to be a DP when he was taking photographs on a street in Taiwan. But this's an extremely rare case...
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#5 Julia Gers

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 11:40 PM

I really want to be a cinematographer and want to go to art school. I love photography and wish I was a professional photographer. In college I might try to double major in cinematography and photojournalism. Several people have told me I've got a good eye when it comes to photography. I am kind of worried that when I get to learning about cinematography more in college that it will be totally different from photography and I will feel like I'm starting it all from scratch and that my experience with photography won't matter. That, of course, is really just the worst case scenario. I really hope it's not like that at all.
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#6 Yutine Fung

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 01:09 PM

Hey Julia, I think that depends on which school you go to. I'm majoring in Cinematography, and my school actually suggests us to take photography class. Therefore, I'm now a film student taking both film and photography classes.
Btw, I don't think anyone can be a good cinematographer without a passion in photography :-)
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#7 Julia Gers

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 01:57 PM

would cinematography and photography majors most likely have some classes together like "intro to lighting", or something like that?
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#8 Yutine Fung

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 05:50 PM

would cinematography and photography majors most likely have some classes together like "intro to lighting", or something like that?


While I was at RISD(great school for photography major), I saw they had a lighting course for their photography major.
But at my school, there's no lighting course at all. There're basic cinematography and advance cinematography just for film/cinematography major students.
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#9 kpv rajkumar

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 09:21 AM

I want to know if his skills would translate well onto the moving medium, and if any one of you guys have had this experience or are in fact a converted still photographer.

hi, richard ! i'm one of those converted still photographers who moved into cinematography/videography with only a lot of gumption and confidence in the absence of any formal film school training. i should encourage you by saying that today i'm making a living by shooting decent corporates/commercials which could not have been possible but for my do or die exposure as a still photographer shooting with film. i did move on to digital still photography due to market compulsions. so cheers and go get your friend ! rajkumar
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#10 kpv rajkumar

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 09:25 AM

I really want to be a cinematographer and want to go to art school. I love photography and wish I was a professional photographer. In college I might try to double major in cinematography and photojournalism. Several people have told me I've got a good eye when it comes to photography. I am kind of worried that when I get to learning about cinematography more in college that it will be totally different from photography and I will feel like I'm starting it all from scratch and that my experience with photography won't matter. That, of course, is really just the worst case scenario. I really hope it's not like that at all.


you sure have good eye , julia ! i can see that ! :P rajkumar
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#11 Richard Benjumea

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 12:16 PM

Thanks guys for all the advice.
I guess just like the art of Film itself, there are no real rules to follow when choosing people to work with. The important thing is to trust your heart. Hell, it would be my first film as well, so theres no better trial than a trial by fire. Besides filmmaking is all about experimenting.
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#12 christer ehrling

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:13 PM

I have been working as a still photographer for the past thirteen years, and during the last two I have been thinking a lot about moving into cinematography. What's held me back is the technical threshold to overcome, and the lack of self confidence.

During a trip to LA a couple of months ago I met this old friend who's made it as a commercial DP/director. As we spoke, I told him about my ideas. He said that with my skills, I had many of the necessary tools already. That boosted my confidence, and got me thinking. I began watching some of the movies he had been involved in, breaking down the scenes and analyzing them, and found that I actually shoot in basically the same manner, I just do it in stills rather than in moving images. That made me realize it may not be a hopeless dream after all.

Back in Sweden again I persuaded my studio colleague to team up with me. We are planning to do a one-minute movie to begin with, as a commercial for a denim company that my buddy's been shooting for. We got the winter to do tests and get familiar with the tech part, as well as the idea in itself. Even if the two disciplines have a lot in common, I am very well aware of the differences too.

So, if you have made the transition from still photography to moving images, can you tell some more about how you did it? What was hard, what was easy, common pitfalls, etc. I'd like to hear some stories, if you have them.

Many thanks in advance.
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#13 Danny Lachman

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:33 AM

Photographers know exposure, but not necessarily consistency.

The mind set between photography doesn't translate directly into cinematography - cinematography is all about creating series of images that go together in context and photography is usually all about being out of context.

I don't think anybody who strictly does photography or cinematography would transition quickly into the other craft because you become trained into a mind set of how to make the most effective images with your selected craft - adding/subtracting the time dimension is just that - an entirely new dimension to consider in your approach.

I'm not saying a photographer couldn't transition into cinematography and make good stuff, but I think they would probably take some time to shake off the bad habits/ unoriginal types of techniques every one does. Like how an amateur photographer would at first think it's really cool to take every photo with a dutch tilt (shudders), or a cinematographer/editor overdoing the camera shake (shudders).

(I moved myself from cinematography into photography)

my 2 cents.

Edited by Danny Lachman, 15 November 2007 - 12:34 AM.

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#14 Danny Lachman

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:47 AM

Couldn't quite get the thought down in the last post - so here goes -

A photographer has a head-start in cinematography, but not necessarily any more potential.
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#15 David E. McMurray

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 02:53 AM

Hey everyone, i'm an aspiring filmmaker interested in having complete creative control over my films : writing, editing,directing etc.. Though I would love to learn and be my own Cinematographer, i feel that I need someone with their own objective views regarding the lighting and moods needed for any one of my films...
Getting to the point, my friend is a great still photographer with an amazing eye, and a knack for capturing the right moment, with the right emotions at the right time (which I think is a DP's most important task) Though I know still photography and film photography may have their own different worlds, I want to know if his skills would translate well onto the moving medium, and if any one of you guys have had this experience or are in fact a converted still photographer.

thanks!


In my experience I have worked as an AC for a Still Photographer who was shooting film with a film DP/Director. They were co-Director/DP. The photographer ended up working with talent, a very little lighting and a little make up. The film DP/Director did the lighting. And they did lot of stuff together. Music Videos, industrials, commercials for about three years I think. But its too much to DP/Direct a narrative film. You can write, then direct, then edit. Forget DP.

When I say forget DP, I mean lighting. You can hold a camera if you want to... but you should be focusing on the acting. When was working as a DP, the only thing I wanted to hold was a light meter.
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