Training your eye to be a better cinematographer is an ongoing process. Here are some tips that can help you improve your craft.
Training your eye is something that you will work on throughout your entire career. However, there are many ways you can keep building your aesthetic and selecting the best shots for your work — especially between shoots. Let’s take a look.
Take More Photos
Cinematographers can learn a lot from photography. Whenever I walk into a new place, I immediately start to think about how I would frame the place if it were a shot. By constantly taking photos, you can compare your initial framing instincts to a photograph. If the photo didn’t turn out as expected, then you know it would require a different approach. It’s much like going to the gym: by constantly experimenting and challenging yourself, you will build up your aesthetics and inclination to light and cinematography.
You can really challenge yourself by taking a camera with only one prime lens. Working under these limitations will force you to be more creative. Once you find an enticing frame, play around with the composition, focus, and angle. Approach it as an experiment — in some way that you may have never tried in the past.
Be a Student
Sometimes you just come across beautiful lighting occurring naturally. You may be seeing a beautiful beam of light punching through a window. Or it may be direct sunlight creating a beautiful texture on the the wall. By stopping and analyzing what you see in those moments, you can train your eye to find (or create) them more readily. If you see a beautiful, naturally occurring lighting scenario, stop and determine why it is that you like it — and how you could recreate it on set.
What inspires people varies greatly from person to person. If the mountains inspire you, then go to the mountains and study them. If photography inspires you, then go to a photography exhibit. Finding the right inspiration will help to train your eye by helping you understand more fully what you like and why you like it.
Don’t wait until your next time on set to experiment with a new lighting style or approach. If you’ve been thinking about starting to double diffuse your light sources, then do it in between shoots. Work out the kinks so you can really hone your approach to the aesthetic that you’re seeking.
Taking the time to train your eye as a cinematographer is a great habit. Be wise with your time in between shoots and invest in yourself and your education. By doing so, you can become a better cinematographer.