The director of photography, also known as the DP or the cinematographer, assists the film director by establishing the visual look of the movie. As a DP, you'll help tell the story through the artistic and technical decisions you make regarding lighting, film stock, shot selection, camera operation and other elements. A DP's duties and responsibilities include the work he does before, during and after film production.
The director of photography works with production designers, art directors, set dressers and even wardrobe crew and hairstylists to help establish the look of the film and its individual scenes. The decisions made in this area should support the script and the director's vision and result in imagery that the camera can capture.
-Film Stock Selection
The selection of film stock can dramatically influence the look of the film. The varying concentration of light-sensitive emulsions on film stock determines the color tones and the degree of graininess viewers see. The decisions made primarily in pre-production -- but also including methods of printing the film in post-production -- help set the mood and advance the film's plot. For instance, an urban crime drama might use a grainy stock to reflect the gritty setting and mood, while a more upbeat feature might be shot on a film stock that supports a lighter, airier palette.
In lighting the film, the director of photography might settle on an icy blue look to suggest a physically or emotionally cold environment, or warm shades to set a nostalgic or heartwarming tone. Gordon Willis, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer who worked on "The Godfather" and its sequels, earned the nickname "The Prince of Darkness" for his dramatic and starkly lit compositions.
In rare cases, the director of photography actually operates the movie camera. More typically, he oversees the camera crew and makes sure the director gets the film he envisioned through the way it's shot. This involves choosing the number of cameras involved, and their placement and movement. It also involves framing of the scene, overseeing the use of camera filters and aperture settings, and selecting special equipment. For example, David Lean's cinematographer on his sprawling epics "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago" was Freddie Young, an early British devotee of the wide-screen CinemaScope lens -- ideal for his director's vast, panoramic landscapes.