INDIA  :   Education

Lights, camera, action!

Saturday , 09 January 2016

The success of the Indian film industry is no longer a secret. Beyond Bollywood, regional cinema is thriving. With growing interest in the various forms of cinema in India, a career in cinematography can be lucrative and satisfying

Complex in terms of technicalities, cinematography is in many ways the essence of life. Or in more professional terms, it is the job of a cinematographer to showcase a director’s way of seeing life. With the worldwide success and expansion of Indian cinema, especially Bollywood, the demand for professional cinematographers has increased. Some of the renowned cinematographers in India are P.C. Sreeram, Ravi K Chandran, Anil Mehta, Balu Mahendra, S. Ravi Varman and so on.

What does the job entail?

It was only with the success and expansion of cinema, that the job of a cinematographer, also known as director of photography, became prominent. Handled by the movie director in its infancy, filmmaking was pretty much a one-person job before the roles split up. Being a cinematographer is now a highly specialised and technical in nature. We as a layman give all the credit to the director, but to make a film picturesque is the job of a cinematographer. Being a cinematographer requires a lot of technical expertise, thus, doing a good course at a film institute comes in handy. As per definition, cinematography is the process of recording visual images for the cinema and subsequent development of recorded images in sophisticated photo laboratories. The cinematographer’s art requires attention to scene compositions; conceptualising and supervising special effects and lighting; and choosing locations, cameras and film stock. In short, the cinematographer heads a crew which provides the photographic images and visual effects conceptualised by the director of ad, feature, television, and corporate films. A cinematographer also needs to have a vision and imagination to envision what the camera shot will look like before it is captured. The modern techniques required to direct a film and produce picture-perfect results can only be handled by a cinematographer, making his/her job extremely importance. Good hand-eye coordination, passion for photography and lots of creativity, are a few prerequisites  to become a successful cinematographer.

Career prospects and educational requirements

With the increase in the number of feature, advertisement and documentary film production companies, as well as new TV channels being launched every other day, cinematographers have a large number of career opportunities. The immense popularity of cinematography as a career option, has led to the establishment of various institutes conducting specialised courses in this creative field. Cinematography has emerged as a very promising career, as after completing a course in cinematography, one can join any small or big organisation as an assistant. Earlier, films were the only avenue available to aspiring candidates, whereas now with the growth of various channels, opportunities with production houses that make short films, documentaries and television serial, have increased manifold. One can also freelance for advertising commercials and music videos. A cinematographer can also find plenty of job opportunities with feature and ad film production companies; innumerable television channels including the state-run, Doordarshan. It is always desirable for newcomers to start their careers as assistant cameramen to learn the ropes and rise in gradual steps. As mentioned earlier as well, with the expansion of the film industry, the scope for a cinematographer has increased as well as the demand for trained personnel in the fields of highly sophisticated cameras, lighting and special effects, who have sound theoretical and practical education.

A graduate or undergraduate degree in cinematography is desirable from a college or university. Besides, one can complete a certificate course in the area to prove that you know something about the field. Passing 10+2, is the minimum required qualification for any aspirant.

Top institutes

In the recent past, a number of institutions have come up in India, offering courses in the field of cinematography at multiple levels that include diploma, certificate, and postgraduate degrees, besides various short-term courses. The curriculum of these courses comprises camera and lighting, electronic cinematography, sound recording and so on. While in the initial years the candidates are taught theories of direction, editing, sound, production, camera, art design, and get a basic grounding in all disciplines of cinema, the later years focuses on practice and studio visits. Usually, institutes offer two-year programs. Several institutions in India offer courses in cinematography. Some of the prominent institutes are:


A cinematographer’s earnings vary, depending upon location, experience, and employment specifics. Importantly, cinematographers make more money working for films than for the television industry.  In India, a fresher is paid nothing less than INR 15,000 per month which rises up to INR 50,000 to INR 2 lakh per month, depending on their experience and performance. Of course, one of the most attractive parts of being a cinematographer is that you can gain notoriety by winning awards. Rameshwar Naidu, a successful cinematographer who worked with several renowned directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali said: “It is a very fascinating profession that requires a lot of hard work, imagination and last but not the least, traveling.” He adds: “It can get really exhausting sometimes, but at the same time when you see people appreciating your work in theaters, it’s a great feeling. I would urge more and more aspiring students who are interested in art to try their hand at this phenomenal career opportunity.”