What is a DP?

Professional film production requires the work of large amounts of people. Everyone knows the roles of director, or writer, or producer. Most people also know that there is an editor (or editors) on every film project. One of the roles that is talked about slightly less is the DP, director of photography.

I often use this term a lot because this is what I want to be someday. A director of photography, according to IMDB’s movie terminology glossary, is “a cinematographer whose job is to manage the recording of a scene as desired by the director”. The DP works directly alongside the director to create the visual feel of the film. While the director is the primary creative artist over the project, the DP works in the technical realm and helps the director achieve his look and feel through camera selection, angles and lighting.

I recently read a blog article on Lights Online Film School that featured an interview with Niklas Johansson, a professional DP. In the interview he answered some questions about a few specific projects he worked on and walked us through his decision process on what cameras and lighting he chose and why.

Here are a few things I gathered from the interview.

1. Know your director
As a DP, it is really important to sit down with the director ahead of time before the shoot. Establish and understand the feel the director wants, then, with the budget given, decide on what camera, lenses and other equipment you need. When you know what the director is looking for, you can better prepare and therefore deliver accordingly.

2. As a director, use the DP’s knowledge and skill set
Johansson mentioned that he doesn’t “like directors who just use [him] as a tripod.” He continues to talk about the fact that most DP’s are have been on many more shoots than most directors. As a director, it will benefit you to use the knowledge of your DP. Don’t just use them to hold the camera.

3. Get a good Gaffer
The people who work hand-in-hand with the DP on most film sets would be the Grip(s) and Gaffer(s). A Gaffer’s job is to set up lighting and other electrical equipment. A DP needs to be able to rely heavily on the Gaffer to achieve the look he so desires. Johansson goes to the point of saying, “A good Gaffer is like a good marriage. Try to hold on to that person forever.”

If you have any interest in Film Production, I encourage you to check out Lights Online Film School (link above). This article was jam-packed with quality knowledge about cinematography and the in’s-and-out’s of how to be a DP.


One thought on “What is a DP?

  1. kas08b says:

    I found it interesting how the director and DP play off each other. The relationship between the two is more give and take than I had previously thought.


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