The Ultimate Cinematographer's Resource Guide
I get asked all the time about my go-to resources for learning the craft of cinematography. Individuals who never went to film school and just starting out, to my fellow peers. Like my previous post Practicing Your Craft Off Set it’s essential to become a life-long learner and what you do on your days off are just as important as time on set. This is my complete list of the best books, magazines, podcasts, and videos about the art and craft of cinematography and beyond. Let’s get started!
Books / Publications
Camera angle, continuity, cutting, close-up, and composition. The Five C’s of Cinematography offers a cinematography 101 course in the most fundamental of basics. It’s not just for the noobie though, for me, the concepts were a great refresher and reminder of the importance of all 5 elements to the language of your film.
This was one of the first books release that showcased the secrets of cinematography to students and enthusiasts. The examples are a little out-dated and archaic, HOWEVER, the concepts of good composition and the art of lighting are practically timeless. For that, this is a must-read. with over 110 feature film shot, John is a master and it is showcased in his wealth of knowledge. The book focus on lighting in different scenarios and what his approach is to dealing with various scenes.
This book is the PERFECT book for the very beginner. This covers it all, camera color science, concepts, set operation, the art of exposure, lighting tools, and so much more. This is the ULTIMATE resource for any cinematographer and has just about any thing and everything related to our craft. It is a big book, and quite the read, but you will be glad you did! A whole bachelors program in one book haha!
The most technical of the books, this covers everything lighting tech related you could possible ever need. This is one of those great resource books that has an encyclopedia worth of information. Certainly, not the most riveting of reads, but one that looks great on a coffee table so show off that nerdy side!
Okay, if you are only going to get two books out of this whole list you NEED to get these, and the hour and a half doc that accompanies this. I have never gleaned so much useful and practical advice out of any source than this. Jon Fauer interviewed over 110 of the top cinematographers from all around the world and compiled their complete discussions into two books. You get insights from Roger Deakins ASC BSC, the late Gorden Willis ASC, and Bill Dill. This is an absolute treasure and one of those books you could re-read 20 times and still gain insights. The books, and the movie, are a must-have. The reviewer Yousef Linjawi puts it on amazon perfectly, “I have also found this book to be one of the utmost comprehensive discussions related to STYLE. How does each artist finds creative inspirations within them that enhances their contribution to tell the story. I have very well enjoyed reading each view point made about What is Style? and Where does Style come from? and What's the relationship between Technique and Technology?”
Just do yourself a favor and pick up a let it blow your mind.
A lot like the Cinematographer Style books, this comprehensive book documents the conversations with some of the top cinematographers from all over the world. What’s really cool about this book is it is broken up into sections and topics. So you can go to blocking and hear from a few DPs and gaffers on their insights on that topic, or say HMI technology. This is a great resources to read what others are saying about a particular problem you may be having. An enjoyable read and yet another great resource of the any-level cinematographer!
The perfect coffee table flip-through visual resource to get you inspired and your brain thinking about camera blocking and the phycological impact of a particular angle.
The description on amazon introduces this book perfectly, For in this book, Sidney Lumet, one of our most consistently acclaimed directors, gives us both a professional memoir and a definitive guide to the art, craft, and business of the motion picture. Drawing on forty years of experience on movies that range from Long Day’s Journey into Night to Network and The Verdict—and with such stars as Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, and Al Pacino—Lumet explains how painstaking labor and inspired split-second decisions can result in two hours of screen magic.
With over 50 films to his name and 13 Oscar nominated films, he knows a thing or two about making movies haha! This book gets into the nuts and bolts of what makes a film so great and the story unforgettable. Hell, cinematographers need to know the concepts of a great story just as well as the director and writer to create the most impactful images. This book will reveal the needs and wants of any director you may work with, and working better with your director is a win-win.
Everyone will agree, if you are a storyteller of any kind, that means you, you need to soak in Story by Robert McKee. The defacto manual on storytelling and story structure. This book is assigned to every film student, and for good reason. My entire worldview shifted after reading this book, it opened the door to the secrets of a great story. Oh, and it will ruin films for you, like revealing the Wizard of Oz, this book flings the curtain wide open for all to see. You will never look at a script or copy the same way ever again. I don’t know how else to convince you, you need this in your life.
Walter Murch has been referred to as “the most respected film editor and sound designer in the modern cinema” with three oscars and nine nominations he knows his stuff. Films like Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. Why is there an editing book in this resource for cinematographers, you might ask? Remember our five C’s of cinematography? Continuity and coverage are key elements to our job and know how an editor thinks and what they are looking for is critical to delivering the right footage. This book is another defacto film student book and it will cover all the bases.
A slick monthly publication that goes behind the scenes and gets the most nerdy on the latest productions from all over the world. Mostly technical, but always informative. They include a digital version as well.
A monthly publications that focus on A.S.C. members and their roles on the latest productions. This is a great resource and even have a section called “shot craft” dedicated to the basics of cinematography for new comers. The ASC mag is perfect for any level cinematographer. They include a digital copy of the magazine as well.
Roger Deakins personal website and forum where he regularly answers user’s questions and posts behind the scenes of his films. An incredible resource and not always technical. Roger does a great job of taking you through his thought process and the why behind the how. It is incredible how Roger is so available and open through his website. You need to be taking advantage of this. Sign up now and ask a question!
There are a lot of great resources and channels on youtube, gems in the rough, but there is also a lot of shit as well. A buddy of mine, Tyler Grimm, reminded me the other day about how much behind the scene footage there is from just about any production. Basically an endless amount of disk bonus features! Find the project you want to learn more about and search for BTS on youtube, you’ll be surprised at how much there is!
Along with behind the scenes footage there are great channels on the art of cinematography. Pages like Every Frame a Painting, Lessons From The Screenplay, Film Riot, Cooke Optics TV, Wolfcrow, The Hollywood Round Tables, DP/30, ArriChannel, just to name a few.
I can attest to the wealth of content cinematographer Shane Hurlbut A.S.C. provides on his monthly subscription service Shane’s Inner Circle. It is a “boots on the ground” kind of approach to lighting, camera placement, breakdowns of his feature films, shoot prep, camera operation and tests. He covers the nerdy tech and the overall concepts in both blog and video form. The videos he producers are top-notch and go all out. For me, it has been well worth the subscription and getting to ask Shane questions and comment on the postings has been really helpful to me. This takes the behind the scenes video on youtube to a whole new level.
You might not think about podcasts, being it’s not a visual medium, however, you should! The amount of interviews with other filmmakers and DoPs are practically endless. Hundreds and hundreds of hours from the best. Podcasts are perfect for those long commutes or work out sessions. I have to say, I am obsessed with listening to podcasts and are one of my main resources. Here are a few…
By far, my favorite podcast for cinematography out there. Patrick O’ Sulivan is a fantastic host and covers it all. With 161 episodes and counting, he is an entire film school in one podcast. His interviews with other DoPs are great and the breakdowns of his own work is very clear and informative. A blog post accompanies each episode so you can follow along with the breakdowns. He offers a patreon profile as well with extended content. Patrick’s interview with Rupert Sanders is particularly interesting!
Hosted by Evan Bourcier, he interviews some amazing talent and talks about the business side of being freelance in a competitive market! With interviews from DoPs like Greig Fraser A.S.C., Bradford Young A.S.C., Ryan Booth, and Jared Hogan there is something for everyone! His interview with steadicam op. Ari Robbins about his work on La La Land is particularly riveting. Evan has a patreon account for extended content.
Hosted by Ben Consoli, he interviews everyone from sound designers to costume to a visual effects supervisor. There is something for everyone on his show. What I love about this show is listening to a diverse set of voices from people all across the industry.
Shane's Inner Circle
Shane gives away quite a few of his episodes in the inner circle for free on your favorite podcast platform! He goes over user questions sent to him via his inner circle and each episode is based on a specific topic so you can easily find the episode you need.
Another great podcast about the art and science of cinematography. The two co-hosts have great banter and keep it lively and fun! They interview top professionals and include Rachel Morrison A.S.C., Roberto Schaefer A.S.C. A.I.C., and my favorite episode Larry Fong, ASC. At the end of each episode they do a segment entitled “war stories” from all of their guests!
The official podcast of the A.S.C. Interviews with various A.S.C. members on the latest productions.
Of course, my blog here is trying to be a resource to you all. I am slowly creating content to hopefully help you out. Stay tuned for more BTS and blogs. I have a blast putting these posts together and I get just as much out of them as you. Thank you for checking this out!
Did I miss anything? Was this helpful? Comment and let me know!