How to become a director of photography: Toby's story

Meet Toby, 25, from the south west of England. He works for a video production and training company as a director of photography. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

I was quite an anxious kid. I didn't really like crowds or new people. But working in this industry has really helped me come out of my shell.

  • Toby is a director of photography and works closely with a film director to create beautiful images for video productions. He uses different kinds of cameras, lenses and light to create the right look and feel for different scenes.

  • At 15 he did a work experience placement at a production company in Swindon, learning video editing and using cameras, which motivated him to apply for a Media degree in Birmingham.

  • After graduating, he was lucky to get an internship at a production company, CTVC in London, where he got exposure to different aspects of the job such as going on shoots and editing in the office. He has flourished there and has already won two BAFTAs.

What to expect if you want to be a director of photography

Directors of photography manage lighting and camera crews on TV and film productions to create the right look and feel for images.

  • Director of photography salary: Variable
  • Director of photography working hours: 39 to 41 - you may be freelance

What qualifications do you need to be a director of photography?

  • Typical entry requirements: You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a relevant subject such as Photography, Art, Drama or Film Studies. You can take a college course to develop your camera skills before looking for work. Relevant courses include a Level 2 Diploma In Creative Media Production & Technology, Level 3 Certificate in Media Techniques or Level 3 Diploma in Photography. It may give you an advantage if you can find a course that offers practical experience and possibly a work placement. You could start first as a runner, then as a camera trainee and work your way up. You'll need a lot of experience before you can move on to become a director of photography. You can improve your prospects by developing specialist filming skills like aerial, night-time or underwater photography. You may be able to get training through one of the new entrant training schemes that broadcasters and film bodies offer, for example:  
    ScreenSkills – jobs and skills training in film, TV, VFX, animation and games
    BBC trainee schemes
    Channel 4 training scheme
    ITV Careers

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

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Tamsin: camera operator
Corinne: photographer
Taylor: freelance filmmaker