Director of photography

Alternative titles for this job include DP, DoP, cinematographer

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

Average salary (a year)


Typical hours (a week)

39 to 41 irregular

You could work

freelance / self-employed away from home

How to become a director of photography

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • working towards this role
  • specialist courses run by private training providers


You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a relevant subject. Examples include:

  • photography
  • art
  • drama
  • film studies

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • a foundation studies diploma in art and design 
  • 1 or 2 A levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree

More information


You can take a college course to develop your camera skills before looking for work. Relevant courses include:

  • Level 2 Diploma In Creative Media Production & Technology
  • Level 3 Certificate in Media Techniques
  • 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.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course

More information


You could start first as a runner, then as a camera operator 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.

Volunteering and experience

It'll help if you can get paid or unpaid experience with:

  • community film productions
  • amateur or student film projects
  • independent film production companies or camera equipment suppliers

You can search for film and TV companies to approach for experience through media business listing services like PACT and The Knowledge.

Other routes

You may be able to get training through one of the new entrant training schemes that broadcasters and film bodies offer, for example:

You could also take short courses in camera operation run by film schools, regional screen agencies and private training providers.

More information

Professional and industry bodies

You could join an organisation like the British Society of Cinematographers for industry news and latest developments in camera techniques and technology.

Further information

You can get more advice about working as a director of photography from ScreenSkills.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks


  • visit a location (known as a recce) before filming to check its suitability
  • order filming and lighting equipment
  • test equipment 
  • manage all aspects of filming, sometimes operating a camera
  • supervise the camera crew to decide on any special camera moves
  • work closely with the lighting team to decide on lighting techniques
  • review film footage with the director

Working environment

You could work on a film set, at a film studio or at a TV studio.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could work on TV and film productions with bigger budgets, or become a director or producer.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

We can't find any apprenticeship vacancies in England for a director of photography right now.

The Find an apprenticeship service can help you with your search, send alerts when new apprenticeships become available and has advice on how to apply.

Courses In England

Are you interested in becoming a director of photography?

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