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Films and Books to Read in order to Excel in Cinematography (2 replies and 3 comments)

Stephanie CA
3 months ago
Stephanie CA 3 months ago

Hey Roger,

I hope you are well in these difficult times. I was wondering if you could answer my question.

I would like to get better at my cinematography skills and I was wondering 'what would be the best films to watch and books to read that will help me excel as a Director of Photography'.

There are so many different books and movies that people recommend but they don't say a little bit about how they could help me (what makes them beneficial). So I don't know if they are reliable.

Kind Regard,


3 months ago
dmullenasc 3 months ago

When I was in college in the 80s, I basically decided to read them all, including 60 years worth of American Cinematographer issues. If the topic is interesting then don’t be too selective... a WW2 history buff doesn’t read just a couple of WW2 books.

But certainly there are some popular standards to start with.

“Masters of Light” is an interview book conducted in the early 1980s so covers most of the important cinematographers of the 1970s. It is seminal. “Cinematography Screencraft” is similar but covers a later group, 90s-2000s.

”Film Lighting” (Malkiewicz) was first written in the 90s and revised in the late 2000s, it is half commentary from interviews and half textbook reference information about lighting techniques.

”Man with a Camera” (Almendros) is a great autobiography of an important cinematographer.

”Reflections” (Bergery) covers lighting workshops that cinematographers did in the 90s / early 2000s mostly.

”Film Style & Technology: History & Analysis” (Salt) covers technical and stylistic developments decade by decade up until the 80s. Half the book covers the silent era. Just skip the first chapter where he complains about French film theory.

”Digital Cinematography” (Stump) is a good intro into current technology — a new edition is coming out next year.

Blain Brown’s books are good textbooks on the subject.

There are some “obsolete” textbooks that will give you (now) some historical perspective of what was expected to be learned. I particularly like “Practical Motion Picture Photography” (Campbell) because it incorporates advice from 1960s U.K. cinematographers. “Painting with Light” (Alton) and “The 5 C’s of Cinematography” (Mascelli) are classics but very old-fashioned.

3 months ago

My main textbook in college though were American Cinematographer issues of the 1970s.

Stephanie CA
3 months ago

Thank you, David Mullen. I really appreciate the response as well as the resources you have shared with me and explaining why they would be useful. Most lecturers don't do that so your advice is very valuable.

I like your film 'Jennifer's Body'. It's a favourite movie of mine with Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfield. I will definitely check out these books, thank you so much! I hope you are having a wonderful day and I hope you are in good health.

Stephanie CA
3 months ago

many thanks, Stephanie

The Byre
3 months ago
The Byre 3 months ago

'Lighting for Cinematography' (David Landau) is quite useful.  It features an interview with someone called David Mullen.

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