What is Cinematography?

What is Cinematography?


I’m approaching the 8 month mark at my new role as Cinematographer at Picture This Studios,  I hadn’t previously used the title Cinematographer before working here; I used to use the title of film producer, video editor or videographer. When I first met Picture This Studios they really emphasized to me how important it was that what they produce is Cinematography, rather than Videography or Video Production.

I previously thought of Cinematography as simply something that would be shown in a Cinema, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Wikipedia describes Cinematography as “the science or art of motion-picture photography by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as film stock.” So I guess that would define what I do in a scientific manner, but surely the same would apply to video production?

In the case with Picture This Studios, their use of the term Cinematography isn’t just to grab your attention, it is the foundation of what we produce for our clients in the art of storytelling.

So I did a bit more research on what defines Cinematography against Videography or video/film production. Much of how I previously worked applies to the definition of Cinematography, as a passionate visual producer I’ve always strived to make something that’s interesting to watch no matter the subject.

Traditionally cinematography used be shot using film with massively expensive cameras that your average Joe couldn’t get their hands on, and videography was done on more affordable cameras to document family events and happenings, either with VHS tapes or on a very low resolution digital format. Now as retail cameras and the choice is rapidly improving, the line between cinematography and videography has blurred.

Nowadays someone who would refer to him or herself as a videographer as their profession would usually cover jobs such as seminar coverage, corporate events, instructional videos and even weddings. A cinematographer may do many of those jobs as well, but the process from the beginning has a different philosophy, and involves more creative freedom.

A Cinematographer treats whatever project they’re working on with creativity and an excitement to capture a story. A cinematographer should consider the end product when they’re filming, as this can influence how the story is shot and help direct the creative process.

Slightly to the contrary of considering the end production, a cinematographer also seeks out visual opportunities that weren’t part of the plan to film. Rather than simply documenting your subjects, be it a bride and groom, a product or an event, cinematography should include unexpected visuals that make it more interesting to watch.

As for the process of camera work, one way to undeniably make your shots look impressive and much more cinematic is to add movement. We love using this method with our productions at Picture This Studios, using sliders and camera stabilizers to move around our subjects, or to reveal something in shot. These methods are most definitely used in cinema frequently, and that’s probably why we associate the smooth camera movements with cinematic productions.

With all this in mind I would like to conclude with our new Wedding Cinematography showreel. I wanted to create something that not only showcased our camera work, but is a cinematic piece in itself. Taking influence from film directors Salomon Ligthelm and Khalid Mohtaseb who use a lot of fast cuts and old voice over recordings, I wanted to create something with a lot of emotion and to show our passion for film making and cinematography.