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Cinematographer

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

  • Avg. Salary $67,553.00
  • Avg. Wage $33.86
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 2,300
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

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

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Directors of Photography (5131.7) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Producers, Directors, Choreographers and Related Occupations (F031) 
  • 2011 NOC: Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations (5131) 
  • 2016 NOC: Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations (5131) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

42%
42%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Cinematographer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Directors of Photography
DIRECTIVE

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

INNOVATIVE

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

OBJECTIVE

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

Duties
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Cinematographers use lighting, lens selection, filtration, exposure, and focus to create a particular look. They may work on motion picture film stock, videotape, or digital files. Standard and high-definition video and film are used as original media 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. Cinematographers must rely on their knowledge and experience to anticipate the effect production decisions will have on the final image.

In general, cinematographers may be expected to:

  • 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
  • Work closely with directors and other production crew members

Depending on the size and scope of the project, cinematographers may also operate and set up camera and lighting equipment themselves. When working as directors of photography on big-budget, dramatic feature films or television projects, cinematographers:

  • Attend production meetings and collaborate with directors and the grip department (lighting and camera crew) regarding their needs.
  • Act as head of the camera department. The camera crew looks to the director of photography for leadership direction in all aspects of their work, including health and safety issues.
  • Direct the work of technical crews such as the grip team.
  • Prepare and administer budgets.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Cinematographers experience a variety of working conditions. These may depend 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 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 (12-hour days or more) 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 17, 2021

Cinematographers need:

  • Creativity and talent
  • An appreciation for the composition and feel of visual images
  • A willingness to put in long hours practising their art, developing their own style, and keeping up with technological changes
  • Communication and leadership skills
  • Interpersonal and networking skills to successfully market their work
  • Entrepreneurial skills to be successfully self-employed as an artist
  • An ability to visualize the finished product before its completion
  • An ability to learn by doing
  • An ability to work alone or cooperatively on a team

They should enjoy directing and coordinating camera and lighting work, finding innovative ways to do things, working with equipment, collaborating with others, and leading teams.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 17, 2021

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. For example, an individual may work as a videographer or as a part of the camera department within sectors such as film and television. However, advancing through this path can take many years.

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

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.


Related Education

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

Alberta University of the Arts

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Prairie College

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 17, 2021

For those seeking certification as a director of photography, the requirements and application information can be found on the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG 669) website.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 17, 2021

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

  • Production companies
  • Television studios
  • Advertising agencies
  • Independent film producers
  • Others involved in making films, videos, documentaries, or advertising features (such as 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. The Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA) and the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (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.

For those on contract, work may be erratic depending on the needs of the market.

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

In Alberta, the 5131: Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.2% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Cinematographers’ incomes depend on their talent and experience. Freelance cinematographers negotiate contracts on a job-by-job basis. Incomes may vary considerably from person to person, and from year to year. For those working within a union such as the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG) Local 669, wage guidelines are set out in the union agreement.

Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations

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
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $36.80 $27.59 $26.87
Overall $15.00 $45.67 $33.86 $34.70
Top $17.00 $47.40 $35.56 $37.14

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.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
Information, Culture, Recreation
ALL INDUSTRIES
Educational Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

42%
42%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

0%
0%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

1%
1%

Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 17, 2021

Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF) website: www.csif.org

Canadian Society of Cinematographers (CSC) website: www.csc.ca

Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA) website: fava.ca

International Cinematographers Guild (ICG) Local 669 website: icg669.com

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 17, 2021. 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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