I’ve been confused by this word ever since it has been widely used by wedding videographers.
In the world I WAS in, a cinematographer was primarily for someone who has done film, a movie of some sort, someone like Christopher Doyle. Then suddenly everyone carrying a video camera for your wedding or making that cheesy pre wedding video has become a cinematographer.
When did that happen? Since when did their stuff go on to the cinema?
So I had to go read and find out what has changed and I found some stuff on the internet :
The primary difference between a videographer and a cinematographer is the skill set that the latter has learned and honed through years of study and experience.
I’m not saying videographers lack experience, I’m saying they lack experience or knowledge of how to shoot cinematically.
Cinematically? What the heck does that mean? It means shooting as if for television or film- i.e. the cinema. Cinema is where the term cinematographer is derived from. There are many ways to shoot cinematically. Skills like lighting, camera composition, moving the camera, multiple camera angles, special effects – all work together to make the final production look different than a “video”.
Take lighting. My friends often ask me why their videos look like home movies even though they might have a really nice HD camera. I tell them the biggest difference is not the camera at all. It is how you light. Famous filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and James Cameron have said many times that lighting is EVERYTHING. A cinematographer lights the scene properly. This means controlling the light to enhance the look and feel. Most videographers just plop some lights down near the person they are filming and press record. Which is why their business videos looks like, well, a plain business video.
A videographer is a camera operator on a small crew or working solo
Drawing a line between film production and video production isn’t the best way to distinguish between cinematographers and a videographers. What typically distinguishes videographers from cinematographers is that videographers operate with much smaller crew sizes, often working solo. Unlike a cinematographer, a videographer operates the camera. Commonly, the term videographer is akin with cameraman or camera operator. Videographers are often associated with event videography, live TV, small commercials, corporate videos and weddings. Since videographers often work solo, they commonly handle other elements of production, including editing, sound, lighting and more.
As stated above, a cinematographer works with a large crew, and is responsible for artistic and technical decisions regarding the photography of a motion picture in accordance with a director’s vision. A videographer, by contrast, works with a much smaller level of production, is usually the camera operator and probably works solo; overseeing a project from start to finish.
Why are videographers calling themselves cinematographers?
If the distinction between cinematographers and videographers is fairly clear, why all the confusion? Since the defining lines have blurred with the advent of digital cinema, videographers have taken the opportunity to either use these titles interchangeably or create a false hierarchy. Another major contributor has been the popularity of DSLR video cameras, which create a more film-like, cinematic image. This, in combination with the public’s perception of videographers, have led many companies and freelancers to differentiate by categorizing themselves as cinematographers rather than videographers.
Wedding “cinematographers” try to mimic Hollywood
In addition to the use of DSLR, a cinematographer (in the way the term is currently being used in the wedding industry) also creates a specific product offering. Due to the recording limitations of most DSLR cameras, continuous recording isn’t possible. So most DSLR-equipped videographers are forced to offer multiple cameras and highly-edited products. Rather than event coverage, cinematographers opt for narrative-style or documentary-style “short films” or “story videos”. Whether or not these products are best for weddings remains to be seen. These short films or highlight videos tend to show very little of the actual event (about 10-15 minutes at most) and are edited Hollywood-style, with a speech or separate recording acting as narration for a flashy story. These video products often take several weeks or several months to edit, and it’s rare that the customer receives their raw footage.
A cinematographer is NOT better than a videographer
Professionals differentiating themselves by use of DSLR videography are aiming to create a false hierarchy between a videographer and a cinematographer. As just explained, when a video professional defines themselves as a cinematographer or their work as cinematography, it more-than-likely means they’re using a DSLR, nothing more. They’ll tell you that a cinematographer creates art, while a videographer simply records an event. They’ll tell you that a cinematographer captures a feeling, not just a moment; or that videography isn’t creative and doesn’t involve storytelling technique. This is all nonsense.
A videographer is just as focused on all the qualities that make compelling video. Having a camcorder vs. a DLSR doesn’t make one a lesser professional. Sure, DSLRs have made way for more cinematic imagery, but the qualities that make a great videographer have little to do with equipment. When shopping for video professionals, don’t let cinematography weigh heavily on your decision. More than anything else, cinematography simply a marketing term.
I personally feel that people should just stick to being videographers and let the cinematographers earn their title.
During my search, there was a Singaporean wedding videography website that kind defended the use of Cinematographer. Yeah yeah, call it whatever you want to make your job sound more atas. A layout artist and graphic designer are 2 different jobs.
Until the day I see a wedding film done cinema style instead of the soap opera effect, then you can start convincing me that you’re really a cinematographer. Most of you guys don’t even know colour grading.