In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cinematography and Cinematographers

  • Introduction
  • Historical Overviews
  • Studies of Individual Cinematographers
  • Cinematography and Authorship
  • Interviews with Cinematographers
  • Trade Journals
  • How-To Books

Cinema and Media Studies Cinematography and Cinematographers
Patrick Keating
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0165


The craft of cinematography brings together a wide range of tasks, including camerawork, lighting, and laboratory processing. Much of the literature on cinematography focuses on specific technologies developed over a hundred years of film production. In how-to books, practicing cinematographers explain difficult technical points to aspiring filmmakers and other amateur readers. Technical questions also dominate the scholarly literature on cinematography, covering such subjects as the history of deep-focus cinematography or the opportunities for composition in CinemaScope. A second area of research addresses cinematography in its industrial context, explaining the changing position of the cinematographer within a particular division of labor, both on set and in postproduction. Here, Hollywood has received much of the attention, as in discussions of the cinematographer’s role within the studio system or more recent analyses of the craft’s shifting status in a digital age. Third, several scholars have examined cinematography’s relationship to ideology, both by considering how a particular film might employ a technique in a culturally significant way and, more theoretically, by studying the ideological effects produced by the most basic cinematographic technologies. Cinematographic aesthetics forms a fourth area of inquiry, exploring the craft’s relationship to other arts, such as photography and theater. Many of the most ambitious scholarly works combine all four of these approaches. Technologies can facilitate or hinder certain artistic options, ideologies may make certain creative choices seem inevitable, and the mode of production may determine what sort of art a cinematographer may aspire to make—or even determine if the cinematographer thinks of the craft as an art at all.

Historical Overviews

These sources span several decades of cinematographic history, sometimes focused on Hollywood, sometimes looking at the history of cinematography more broadly. Salt 2009 and Raimondo-Souto 2007 both favor technological history, showing how innovations in camera and lab technology shaped film style. Salt, whose book is particularly thorough on early cinema, supports his arguments with extensive statistics documenting the dominant trends in editing and cinematography. Other works adopt a biographical approach, celebrating cinematographers as artists. This celebratory tone is particularly apparent in Glassman, et al. 2000, a documentary using interviews to tell the history from the cinematographers’ point of view. IMAGO: The Federation of European Cinematographers 2003 and Salomon 2000 provide narrative chronologies of cinematographic history. The former is explicitly focused on Europe, while the latter expands the story to Hollywood. Fisher and Codelli 2013 aims for more global coverage, supplementing the usual case studies with examples from China and Japan. Coleman, et al. 2017 explicitly offers a “transnational” approach to cinematography, with individual chapters on artists in Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, France, and more. Similarly global in its outlook, Krasilovsky, et al. 2015 studies the careers of camerawomen around the world in documentary, fiction, and other modes.

  • Coleman, Lindsay, Daisuke Miyao, and Roberto Schaeffer, eds. Transnational Cinematography Studies. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017.

    Anthology featuring nine essays studying transnational cinematographers, such as those who make art films for a global market or those who contribute to multiple industries around the world.

  • Fisher, Bob, and Lorenzo Codelli. L’Arte della Cinematografia. Milan: Skira, 2013.

    Over 100 case studies of films from 1914 to the present, along with profiles of their respective cinematographers. Though not without gaps, the book aspires to be global in its coverage. In Italian and English.

  • Glassman, Arnold, Todd McCarthy, and Stuart Samuels, dir. Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography, 1992. DVD. Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 2000.

    Documentary history of cinematography, featuring interviews with prominent cinematographers and illustrated with images from influential films.

  • IMAGO: The Federation of European Cinematographers. Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography. New York: Harry Abrams, 2003.

    Includes two substantial essays: Michael Leitch on the history of cinematography in Europe, and Catherine Greenhalgh on cinematography as an art. Also includes two-page analyses of 100 major films, along with numerous illustrations.

  • Krasilovsky, Alexis, Harriet Margolis, and Julia Stein. Shooting Women: Behind the Camera, around the World. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2015.

    Global history of camerawomen in the fields of documentary, television, and fictional film production. Discusses issues of craft, such as handheld camerawork and effects, as well as issues of gender discrimination in Hollywood and beyond. Includes over a dozen interviews with cinematographers, operators, and other camerawomen.

  • Raimondo-Souto, H. Mario. Motion Picture Photography: A History, 1891–1960. Translated by Herbert M. Grierson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

    Decade-by-decade history of cinematographic technology, featuring extensive illustrations of cameras, dollies, and other equipment.

  • Salomon, Marc. Sculpteurs de lumières: Les directeurs de la photographie. Paris: Bibliotheque du film, 2000.

    Brief survey of cinematographic history in Europe and Hollywood, emphasizing the creative contributions of individual cinematographers. The second half explains the different roles of the camera and lighting crews. In French.

  • Salt, Barry. Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis. 3d ed. London: Starword, 2009.

    Monumental history of film technology, using statistical methods to explain the relationship between technology and style. Special attention is given to the first few decades of filmmaking; the rest of the book is organized by decade.

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