10 Must Read Books for Cinematographer
What’s that you say? A book? You do remember books, don’t you? We know they’re pretty old school but sometimes there’s nothing quite like committing yourself to reading a book about what you love, in this case, cinematography books! It’s also a great to have a bookshelf that inspires you to learn and to study. If you want to be a great cinematographer, you really do have to research and educate yourself on this unique art. This article lists ten such books on cinematography and lighting that you shouldn’t start without.
Remember, cinematography is not ‘which camera to buy’. It is the art of brewing aesthetics, composition, movement, exposure and lighting. You better ensure your brew is tasty.
Here are my picks:
A Shot in the Dark
By Jay Holben
Lighting, it’s all about the lighting and this book takes us deep down into the theory of lighting and the contribution it has to film. A Shot in the Dark: A Creative Guide to Digital Video Lighting on (Almost) No Budget teaches us how to improve our amateur footage to that of a professional film production.
Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
By Blain Brown
This book goes into the concepts and thought processes of being a cinematographer. Shooting with artistry, efficiently and professionally. This is a leading book in the field of cinematography that also goes into the more practical elements of equipment and technology.
Reflections: Twenty-One Cinematographers at Work
By Benjamin Bergery
A great read for some case studies of film lighting by some of the world’s leading cinematographers. The book includes lighting diagrams, reference images and shots from footage to accompany the case studies and highlight the content.
Painting with Light
By John Alton
John Alton is best known for his highly stylized film noir classics T-Men, He Walked by Night, and The Big Combo. During the early days of cinema, Alton earned a reputation as one of Hollywood’s consummate craftsmen through his visual signature of crisp shadows and sculpted beams of light.
Storaro: Writing with Light
By Vittorio Storaro
Three times Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro is surely one of the greatest cinematographers in history. Storaro shares his thoughts and insights into the world of cinematography and gives a comprehensive look at the art of film.
By Kurt Lancaster
In today’s world, where everyone is able to shoot in raw relatively inexpensively, Lancaster takes a look at the birth of the new cameras shaping history. Shooting and Color Grading with the Ikonoskop, Digital Bolex, and Blackmagic Cinema Cameras.
Cinematographer Style Book (Vol.2)
By Various Cinematographers
This is the second part of the much loved Cinematographer Style Trilogy. Of course, go and grab the first book too! This book is full of transcripts packed with advice and tips from world renowned cinematographers.
Film Lighting: Talks with Hollywood’s Cinematographers and Gaffers
By Kris Malkiewicz
Based on extensive interviews with leading cinematographers and gaffers in the film industry, this is another must read for all aspiring and practicing cinematographers. The book goes into detail on innovation within the industry, establishing visual concepts and much more.
Master Shots Vol 1, 2nd edition: 100 Advanced Camera Techniques to Get an Expensive Look on your Low Budget Movie
By Christopher Kenworthy
Regardless of your budget you will want your film to look as good as possible. As a cinematographer, it’s important to understand how you execute professional looking shots whilst working within your budget. This is a great book for all indie filmmakers, especially those with a keen cinematography eye.
Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know
By Jennifer Van Sijll
This book crosses over a into directing and screenwriting. The last of our cinematography books goes into how masters of those arts, like Tarantino, use cinematography to help to tell their stories. Jennifer Van Sijll writes about how to use cinematography to pump up action, create memorable characters and energise your film.
That’s the list. There’s only so much books or teachers can teach you. Eventually you have to start doing things yourself. You have to learn to teach yourself. It’ll take a lot of failure before you see consistent successes, and that’s the point of it all.