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Tips for Selecting a Director of Photography

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 8/25/2010

Here are a few tips for trying to find the right Director of Photography for your film.

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    Find the DP

    The Director of Photography is one of the most important of the above-the-line crew members as their creativity is going to determine the overall appearance and character of your video images. The Director of Photography, which may or may not also be the camera operator, will help the Director to transfer the script into a series of images and then to execute those images when in production. The Director of Photography is going to make or break your film overall and so you want to take more care here than with any other part of crew hiring. Here are a few tips for actually hiring your Director of Photography during the film pre-production stages.

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    The Film Reel

    Your Director of Photography's film reel is where they will show you the work that they have done. This film reel shows a series of short samples from their Director of Photography work in the past, therefore demonstrating the type of work that they have completed. The film reel is a standard part of the resume for a Director of Photography as this is the way they give evidence of the type of work they have done in their professional and educational life. When looking at their film reel you want to look for how they navigate scenes with the camera, how they try to communicate story and character, what types of work they have done, and in general how they address a filmic situation. The type of filmstock they are on is not always as important, except that it will be an indication of the level of projects they have been hired on. You should also not be distracted by large wideshots as they will usually look impressive without any fault of the Director of Photography, though they always include these on the film reel.

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    Resume

    To match the Director of Photography's film reel you need to check out the Director of Photography's resume. It seems like common sense, but the Director of Photography's resume will outline their education and professional experience, and you need to see that the type of experience is going to match your project.

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    Meet Them

    It is important to meet with your Director of Photography and find out exactly who they are. See what ideas they have for your project and make sure that they have a clear idea of the angle you are trying to go at with your film. You want to find someone that can relate to your artistic vision and will be able to communicate easily. You, as the Director, is going to be working very closely with them so you should make sure that they already can interpret your script and commands and will be able to capture the types of images that you are looking for.

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    Film Equipment and Technique Knowledge

    You are going to want to have a Director of Photography who has a clear knowledge of both the mechanisms of filmmaking and the film equipment that is used. Even if they will not also operate the camera you want them to be able to talk about the camera you are using and understand how to put together a scene, which means a clear understanding of film editing as well. It is going to be a good idea to see if they have a full film education on the Director of Photography's resume. Make sure that they have a clear understanding of what each of the other film crew positions do.

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    Price

    The Director of Photography is where you want to spend the money, but you still do not want to bankrupt your film production. Find someone who is going to work with your budget ahead of time, and this will also be a testament to their commitment to your project.