Making a film isn’t just a normal process; it takes a lot of experience and a creative eye to help bring a script to life. This is where cinematography comes into play.

What is Cinematography? An inside look at cinematography

Cinematography is an essential part of filmmaking, and it takes a lot of practise, creativity, and nuance to become good at it, let alone great. 

This article will look at the question “What is cinematography?” and the art and craft of cinematography in fine detail. 

This will hopefully help improve your cinematography skills in one way or another, let’s get into it. 

What is cinematography?

What is Cinematography? An inside look at cinematography

Cinematography is essentially the craft of filmmaking and visually capturing your script. It’s also the science of capturing a picture by using light and a sensor to capture your video footage. 

Cinematography is capturing a series of shots that are put together to tell a story. There’s a lot that goes into cinematography both before the production starts for a film, as well as during the production of the film. 

We will delve into the ins and outs of this later on in the article and help you become a master of cinematography.

What does cinematography consist of? 

There are multiple elements to cinematography, from shot composition all the way to the finer details like the choice of lens. 

No matter how big or small it is, each component of cinematography is integral to the cinematography. Below, we will explore each individual element in a little more detail. 

Shot Composition

Shot composition is a massive part of cinematography. It’s the base of the cinematographer’s process; it’s inconceivable to miss this step before you begin filming. 

Shot composition consists of the way the elements are managed on screen. They are arranged in a way that adds to the story being told, and to enhance a characters profile. It’s a visual way of telling your story by arranging items to complement the scene. 

There are many ways to improve your composition in terms of adding leading lines, altering the depth of a shot to tell a story and using the rule of thirds. 

Check out our in-depth our ultimate guide to shot composition in film. 

Read More:  Top tips to improve your shot composition.

Camera Angles

camera angles

Camera angles are a crucial part of cinematography. Camera angles tell a lot about the shot. A camera angle can be used to display a character’s emotion in a tense scene, or it could be used to display the location. 

For instance, if you are filming a crucial scene to the overall story. The protagonist has a heart to heart with their partner as their partner decides to leave them for their rival. 

An extreme closeup will allow the audience to be at the character’s eye level and take in the character’s angst, sadness, and anger. This will engage the audience. 

They will subconsciously put themselves into the character’s shoes and connect with them on a deeper level. It improves the engagement of your film and therefore provides the audience with a high-quality cinematic experience. 

On the other end, this may be used to introduce the audience to the protagonist’s world. An extreme wide shot or a wide shot will display to the audience where the character is and establish the characters’ world.  

Read this: A guide to framing: 6 essential camera angles to tell your story 

Camera Movement

The movement of the camera can add suspense to a scene, and it certainly adds to the emotion. It’s great to combine this with a close-up shot to capture the protagonists emotion. 

The combination can help to resonate with the audience and allow them to feel how the main character feels.

You can move the camera to follow the character if they’re running into a hostile environment to give the audience context. 

Or, if the characters having a heartfelt chat with their loved ones. A static shot combined with the right angle will portray the emotion in a way the audience can understand and consume on a human level.



Lighting is incredibly important when it comes to cinematography. You need to have the correct lighting planned beforehand as it adds to the atmosphere. 

Although there will be a lighting specialist on set, it’s imperative that the cinematographer works with the lightin specialist to ensure that they understand what they need for each scene. 

For instance, you don’t want light that represents happiness or has a lot of brightness in a dramatically sad scene, it will confuse the audience no end. 

You want the lighting to match the mood, to help build on the atmosphere – it will help bring the film to life, and push a scene from good to great.

Focus and Lens

Focus and lens

Choosing the correct lens and then setting the focus to capture the scene in the best possible way is a challenge to most cinematographers, but it’s an essential part of cinematography. 

You want to have the focus to match the scene, is the protagonist looking through binoculars? If they are, you will want to use a superzoom lens with a clear, crisp focus to emphasize the character gazing through the binoculars. 

Or have they gone on a massive rager? If so, you will want to blur that focus no end, maybe a little shaky as the protagonist stumbles home to bed. 


We hope this article was of use to you! Let us know in the comments what you thought, and also what you want to hear from us next. 

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