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A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera (the art and science of which is known as cinematography). The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The term cinematographer has been a point of contention for some time now; some professionals insist that it only applies when the director of photography and camera operator are the same person, although this is far from being uniformly the case. To most, cinematographer and director of photography are interchangeable terms. Sometimes, however, the term director of photography can refer to the person who supervises the photography in a videotaped television production. For example, Larry Boelens's credit on the Mikhail Baryshnikov Nutcracker was "director of photography", although the production was shot on video.[1][2]



In the English system the director of photography (DP) differs from that of the camera operator to the point that the DP often has no say whatsoever over more purely operating-based visual elements such as framing. This system means that the director consults the DP for lighting and filtration and the operator for framing and lens choices. Lighting cameraperson both operates and lights, this is especially true in documentary production.

In the American system, which is more widely adopted, the rest of the camera department is subordinate to the DP, who, along with the director, has the final word on all decisions related to both lighting and framing.

The cinematographer selects the film stock, lens, filters, etc., to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify aperture and shutter angle. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other. The director will typically convey to the cinematographer what he/she wants from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.

Societies and trade organizations

An elite group of American cinematographers are members of the American Society of Cinematographers (A.S.C.); this organization represents the upper echelon of talent and is dedicated to the advancement of cinematography. Membership is by invitation only. Equivalents in other countries include the Canadian Society of Cinematographers (C.S.C.), the British Society of Cinematographers (B.S.C.) and the Australian Cinematographers Society (A.C.S.) Members of these organizations are entitled to put designatory letters after their names (e.g., M. David Mullen, ASC).

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