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7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography

Jourdan Aldredge

Try out these 7 tips and tricks to expand your skill set and improve as a cinematographer.

Cover image via Shutterstock.

Like any artist, a good cinematographer must constantly look for ways to hone his or her craft. While it’s easy to say “practice, practice, practice,” it’s harder to find creative and pragmatic ways to expand your knowledge base, day in and day out.

Let’s explore seven tips and tricks that can help you become a better cinematographer.

Take Up Photography

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Photography
Image via Shutterstock.

It’s simple and it’s true: cinematography shares many of its principles with photography. However, you could argue that the stakes are higher in photography as a single frame must maximize all of its elements to convey a feeling and tell a story. Camera settings like exposure, color temperature, and depth of field are as important as framing concepts like the rule of thirds; focus; and foreground, middleground, and background.

Here are some resources on how to improve your cinematography with photography (and vice versa).

Use Instagram

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Instagram
Image via Shutterstock.

Like it or not, Instagram is not only a cultural phenomenon for sharing food pics, it’s also a powerful tool for aspiring cinematographers. Depending on how much you want to utilize its potential, Instagram can be a great means to try new perspectives and develop an understanding of what makes certain images stand out. With its in-depth editing options covering everything from contrast to pulling out colors in highlights and shadows, it’s a great program to keep you constantly trying new things.

Practice Storyboarding

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Storyboarding
Image via Shutterstock.

While it may not be the most glamorous part of the profession, storyboarding is often a major part of a cinematographer’s job. A good cinematographer must often painstakingly storyboard every shot throughout an entire film — often by hand. If you’re a forward-looking individual, check out some of the many online and app options to streamline storyboarding. But make sure you’re ready to dive in deep, as storyboarding is where a true cinematographer can shine.

Try Different Cameras and Lenses

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Cameras and Lenses
Image via Shutterstock.

A good director of photography needs not only a comprehensive understanding of cinematography but also an astute knowledge of camera technology. Finding ways to shoot on different cameras — either by renting, borrowing, or buying — is a great way to expand your camera repertoire. When you do try different cameras, try to understand each camera’s strengths and weaknesses for your specific cinematography style.

Use Different Aspect Ratios

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Aspect Ratios
Image via Shutterstock.

Another way to get a cinematographer out of his or her comfort zone (which is important for growth), is to practice shooting in different aspect ratios. A good cinematographer should have a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to shoot in everything from a 1:1 box to 2.35:1 cinemascope. A DP will have a major say in what aspect ratio is right for a project and will make their selections and recommendations based on what the story dictates.

Learn to Color Grade

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Color Grading
Image via Shutterstock.

As film crews are continuing to shrink and roles continuing to merge, a good cinematographer in today’s multifaceted environment needs a good understanding of color grading — if not how to double in that role altogether. If you think about it, it really makes sense for a DP to know how an image is going to color in post and how to shoot intentionally to prepare for those results.

Watch Tutorials

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cinematography — Tutorials
Image via Awesome Cinematography Tutorial: The Flip Shot.

We truly live in a golden age of information as pretty much anything you want to learn, you can learn online by watching videos. Filmmaking may be one of the great examples of the democratization of knowledge, as there are an endless number of videos that can explain everything from cinematography basics to camera breakdowns to a litany of concepts, tips, and tricks.

You can also keep developing your cinematography by subscribing to channels like PremiumBeat’s YouTube channel or keeping tabs on our archives here.

What are your tips and tricks for improving at cinematography? Let us know in the comments.

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