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Cinematographers use cameras, lighting and related equipment to create the desired visual mood for a film or video production.

  • Avg. Salary $55,709.00
  • Avg. Wage $34.45
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 1,500
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Camera Operator, Director of Photography, Motion Picture Camera Operator, Videographer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Cinematographer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Directors of Photography
NOC code: 5131.7

Interest in co-ordinating and overseeing all aspects of camera work and lighting for motion picture, video and television productions


Interest in determining lighting specifications, lenses, camera angles, backgrounds and other elements to achieve desired visual effects


Interest in supervising camera operators and other crews in setting up cameras and lighting equipment; and in instructing crews on technical aspects of filming such as focus settings, distances of shots and changes in lighting; may set up and operate cameras to film scenes

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 20, 2017

Cinematographers use lighting, lens selection, filtration, exposure and focus to create a particular look on motion picture film stock, videotape or digital files. Standard and high-definition video and film are used as original mediums for documentaries, national commercials, feature films, movies of the week and television series.

A cinematographer's primary responsibility is to define an appropriate look and determine how best to achieve it. Results are not instantly visible when using motion picture cameras; they only become evident during editing. Therefore, cinematographers must rely on their knowledge and experience to anticipate the effect production decisions will have on the final image.

In general, cinematographers:

  • control and create the photographic or electronic images for every second of film and video footage
  • select the type of camera, lighting equipment, film, video camera menus, filters and lenses to be used
  • adjust cameras for desired focus, exposure, composition and other settings
  • participate in file or image processing and grading of digital file-based media and video images for computer editing
  • participate in the transfer process, in which film negatives are digitally transformed to video images for computer editing
  • alter video camera menus to achieve a desired effect
  • work closely with directors and other production crew members.

Depending on the size and scope of the project, cinematographers may be directors of photography or they may operate and set up camera and lighting equipment themselves. When acting as directors of photography, cinematographers may also:

  • attend production meetings and collaborate with directors regarding lighting and camera needs
  • direct the work of technical crews such as camera, lighting and grip teams
  • prepare and administer budgets.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 20, 2017

Cinematographers experience a variety of working conditions, depending on the type of production (for example, documentary or television series) and where a film is being shot. They may work on location in all kinds of weather or indoors on a sound stage.

Hours of work also vary greatly. For example, cinematographers may have to photograph dawn over the foothills or twilight on a mountain lake. Those employed in motion pictures may work long hours (10- to 12-hour days) with short deadlines. Travel is often required.

The work can be stressful when last-minute changes are required or when people have conflicting expectations.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 20, 2017

Cinematographers need to possess:

  • creativity and talent
  • appreciation of the composition and feel of visual images
  • willingness to put in long hours practising their art, developing their own style and keeping up with technological changes
  • ability to visualize the finished product before its completion
  • ability to learn by doing
  • good communication and leadership skills
  • interpersonal and networking skills to successfully market their work
  • entrepreneurial skills to be successfully self-employed as an artist
  • ability to work independently and co-operatively with others.

They should enjoy directing and co-ordinating camera and lighting work, finding innovative ways to do things, and working with equipment.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 20, 2017

Cinematographers need a solid grounding in both the theoretical and technical aspects of the work. It is still possible to enter the field by gaining practical experience as a videographer or stills photographer, but this can take many years.

There are no post-secondary programs specifically in cinematography currently offered in Alberta.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Alberta College of Art and Design

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

The Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA) and the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF) offer courses in cinematography on an as-needed basis. Post-secondary schools also may offer related continuing education courses.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 20, 2017

Above-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Most cinematographers are self-employed artists who work on a contract basis for:

  • production companies
  • television studios
  • advertising agencies
  • independent film producers
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)
  • others involved in making films, videos, documentaries or advertising features (for example, independent music videos or local commercials).

To gain experience, aspiring cinematographers may work as lighting or grip technicians, camera assistants or camera operators. Or they may volunteer on independent film or video productions or with local cable production companies. With experience, they may find work as camera assistants for established cinematographers. FAVA and CSIF serve as resource centres for inexperienced cinematographers who wish to gain experience by volunteering for film projects.

Large production houses such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the National Film Board (NFB) have a few full-time cinematographers on staff. Most often, though, they contract work out to freelance cinematographers.

Cinematographers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5131: Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the Information, Culture and Recreation (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook (PDF) in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Information, Culture and Recreation industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 1,800 Albertans are employed in the Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations occupational group. This group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.2% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 40 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As cinematographers form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for cinematographers.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 20, 2017

Cinematographers' incomes depend on their talent and experience. Freelance cinematographers negotiate contracts on a job-by-job basis, so incomes may vary considerably from person to person, and from year to year. For those working within a union such as IATSE, wage guidelines are set out in the union agreement.

Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations
NOC code: 5131

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $37.58 $29.62 $23.39
Overall $19.23 $44.04 $34.45 $28.59
Top $20.00 $59.46 $38.70 $31.19

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
Information, Culture, Recreation

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


2015 Vacancy Rate

Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Visual Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 20, 2017

Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers website:

Canadian Society of Cinematographers website:

Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta website:

International Cinematographers Guildof the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 669 website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 20, 2017. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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