Though a film director may get the name recognition, the director of photography, also known as the cinematographer, is the one who actually creates the look of the film. With deep knowledge of photography, lighting and set design, as well as special effects and editing, the DP is the artist and technician who realizes the director’s vision. According to Simply Hired, the average pay in 2015 was $58,000 nationally, and $67,000 in New York City.
The High End
As with most craftspeople in the film industry, the DP usually works on a freelance basis. If he has a string of successful films and is in demand, not only does his day rate go up, but he also works more often. According to the Hollywood Reporter, an in-demand DP on a high-profile film can command as much as $30,000 per week for a shoot lasting 10 weeks.
A cinematographer just starting out may even work for free on a student project just to make connections and get the experience and portfolio. However, once she joins the International Cinematographers Guild, which is part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union, she has a minimum day and weekly rate, depending on where and what she is shooting. For TV pilots, in 2014, the minimum per day was $770.24, and ranged from $3,430.52 to $3,704.95 per week for those who worked "inside the corridor" in states such as New York, New Jersey and Washington D.C. For films, the minimum was $818.04 per day and $3,499.18 per week for those who worked "inside the corridor.'' A DP on a television talk show earned a minimum of $1,785 per week, or $393 per day.
- Local 600 Amendment Agreement: Studio Rates
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: From Script to screen: Careers in Film Production
- Local 600 Camera Guild: About Us
- Hollywood Reporter: Hollywood Salaries Revealed, From Movie Stars to Agents (and Even Their Assistants)
- Simply Hired: Director of Photography: New York City
- Photo Credit Barguti/iStock/Getty Images
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