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Get Rolling: 15 Useful Cinematography Tips and Tricks for Beginners

15 Useful Cinematography Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Cinematography is what you have seen in movies so far. Yes, we are talking about the art of motion picture photography. Cinematographer is the person behind all the creative scenes that you see in movies and videos. Are you an aspiring cinematographer too? Check out some tips and tricks of cinematography with Buzzle that will help you get that perfect shot!
Tanaya Navalkar
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Cinema Trivia
  • In 1888, Louis Le Prince directed the first motion picture named "Roundhap Garden Scene." It was barely two seconds in length!
  • And in 1895, Lumiere brothers held an exhibition of their short films that marked the birth of cinema and motion picture industry as well.
Cinematography is the heart of filmmaking, and is considered as an essential part of it. It is a way of creating motion pictures with a blend of technical ability and visually-creative storytelling. Anybody can set up a camera and start filming, but it requires skills to control the final product that the viewer will see on screen. It is completely in the hands of a cinematographer to make a film or video look good (or bad). That is why a cinematographer is also called the Director of Photography. The lighting has to be beautiful, camerawork should be creative, and editing should be smooth. However good and interesting a story may be, if these three elements are missing, then your story would be pointless and boring.

We have compiled a list of some useful tips and tricks for beginners to get started. Get rolling!
Some Basic Tips
Learn
Try and learn as many techniques as you can, and equip yourself with the latest technology. Internet is a wonderful source of learning where you can learn ABC to XYZ of cinematography. The best way you can learn cinematography is by watching as many movies as you can! Pay attention to every single detail, camera angles, lighting, exposure, etc.
Get a DSLR for Yourself
Photography is the foundation of cinematography. Through photography you learn framing, composition, exposure, angles, etc. You can use your DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) to get an idea of the lighting required and shooting techniques before you start rolling the bigger lenses.
Master Your Camera
Get acquainted with all the functions of your camera. Functions such as aperture and focus will help in improving your camerawork.
Plan Your Shoot
Plan your shoot well ahead of time. Try making a video that people would want to watch. Think about where you want people to see the shot from. Get the story right. It should be captivating. Try visualizing your story even before you pick up your camera and start filming.
Know Your Location
Scout for the location well before the schedule, in daytime preferably. You will get know about the lighting and natural colors in the surrounding of the location, and make your work easier. Check for background noises that may interfere with your filming.
Make Your Own Movies
The more you shoot the more you'll get a hang of it. You'll get know about lighting, composition, position, etc. A great shot does not depend on the equipment that is used but on the techniques and tricks involved. Try shooting in every possible situation. Make sure your perception of a situation suits the tone and mood you're trying to capture in your lens.
If you really want to get into filmmaking, then get in touch with someone who is in the same field. Offer to assist them and establish contacts so that you get experienced on the various aspects of filmmaking.

These were some basic and most important tips for beginners. Now, let's get more technical.
Tips for Beginners
Experimenting with short films is the best way you can learn and gain experience. Be highly creative.
Head room and Nose room
The first thing that should pop up in your mind before you start shooting is how to position people on camera, especially the faces. Head room means the area between the head and top of the frame. Make sure you keep it minimal, just enough such that it does not feel crowded.
In the same way, there should be enough nose room i.e. the area in front of the face. The position of the faces should be in such a way that they are looking in the direction where there is an open space. The images may feel claustrophobic and unbalanced if you don't take care of these two factors.
Rule of Thirds
It is one of the most important part of framing an object. It is an artistic point of view in which the object should be positioned according to the breakdown of an image into a 3x3 grid.
Camera Angles
Camera angle is the angle at which a camera is positioned when filming a scene. Try shooting from down low or up high. High-angle shots look down on the object, and low-angle ones look up at the object to make it big and prominent on the screen. Experiment with moving the camera at different and strange locations. Try to get the camera to a new place and angle that nobody has experimented before. Don't make it a habit of filming at eye level every time.
Lighting
Besides the equipment and cinematography skills there lies the most important part of filmmaking, the lighting. It is the very substance of filmmaking. It defines the way the subject appears in terms of character and quality. It can create an emotional response in the viewer. White balance in cameras is needed so that it can properly adjust to the colors of the room or other surroundings. Each image needs to be tested and lit effectively before applying. The best way to learn about lighting is to find images and scenes from a movie you like, and then, analyze how the lighting was done. Try attempting it yourself. Lighting outdoors and in the studio is quite an art, and a unique technique in itself. Variations in lighting and sound effects can be done to make horror movies. They usually need dark lighting and shadows to increase the eerie and creepy levels.
Continuity
There must be a flow in the flow so that it makes sense to the viewer. The shots are recorded in bits and pieces, after which they are edited and presented as one complete scene. Continuity means that the object remains the same and does not get altered in between the shots of a particular scene. The scene should not look broken.
Closeups
Closeups are close and detailed shots of a subject. Closeups can be medium and extreme. Over-the-shoulder shots are typical closeups that are generally filmed over a subject's shoulder towards another subject. Framing a balanced and visually pleasing closeup requires a bit of judgment and practice.
Cutting
Cutting means organizing shots in a proper sequence. The flow of the scene should be natural and not broken. Cutting on action is another technique of moving to the next shot from the other to show the events that take place simultaneously.
Focus
Always focus on your subject's eyes unless the shot requires you to focus on something else. The audience may not like it if the background is sharp and eyes are soft. Try focusing the camera manually rather than relying on auto focus. For a more dramatic effect, you can move the focus of the shot from one subject to another without editing by changing the focal length of the camera.
Film Editing
Film editing or composition means the order and arrangement of images in a shot. To capture the attention of a viewer, you have to keep the shot balanced, or arrange it in a frame. Other than shots, the space, light, colors, and other elements are also an important part of a composition. The shots should be visually interesting. Avoid jump cuts by showing the same subject from a different angle. You cannot skip your homework in this! Try watching as many movies and TV shows as you can. Don't most of us crave for such homework? The way shots are edited can make the audience wonder about what is happening.
These were some basic tips and terms that should get you thinking in regards to a career as a cinematographer. They may vary according to the location and requirements. Try experimenting as much as you can. Eventually, you'll get know which technique works best for you and which doesn't. In short, you just need camera, imagination, and the knack of presenting it to the audience in the exact way you see it! If you have any other useful tips, please feel free to add them in the comments below. So, get rolling!