Profile: director of photography

Andrei Austin describes the role of director of photography (DOP), detailing the challenges involved and skills needed to be successful.

Working closely with the director, the director of photography is responsible for the overall 'look', or visual identity, of a production. A combination of practical, technical and creative expertise is required. They must also be flexible in order to adapt ideas instantly, and to be able to take decisions quickly.

"A picture paints a thousand words." – Andrei Austin

Knowledge of photography, painting and particularly of the moving image is essential as a DoP has to interpret the script and turn this into a series of images that capture the story being told. They must understand lens and camera technology and will often be required to be familiar with a range of different cameras. A DoP will usually have studied film or photography to degree level and will usually begin their career as a 2nd assistant camera operator, gradually working up through the roles in the camera team.

DoPs are required to work on set, often away from home, for long periods of time. They may work across TV, commercials and feature films.

Andrei talks us through the equipment and techniques he used while filming on Waking the Dead. As he explains, the main skill DoPs need to develop is an eye for a picture and an understanding of how shot size, colouration, lighting and focal length can affect the mood and feeling that is conveyed to the viewer.