Cinematography is “The art of photography and camerawork in film-making”

The suffix –graphia comes from ancient Greek and stands for “description of,” from graphein “write, express by written characters”

In this sense, we can consider cinematography to be the description of how photography and film-making should be “written” to be effectively communicative to the audience.

Although technology in the field of photography and film-making has evolved, our human eyes are still the most powerful asset currently existing. In fact, because of the curved shape of the back of our eyes, when we observe an object in space we naturally perceive it with its three dimensions: height, width and depth. On the other hand camera lenses are flat, which makes the biggest struggle as a film-maker or photographer to achieve the illusion of the dimension the camera cannot perceive: depth.

An excellent result of giving the three dimension feel to an image can be admired in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill vol.I, in the scene where O’Ren and Beatrix are fighting in the middle of the Japanese garden in the snow


The focus is on the two characters, but the angles formed by the walls surrounding the garden and the blurred object in the foreground make us feel like we are drowned into the scene itself.

Although every film-maker has very different styles, there are some rules which generally apply to any good film or photograph.

Rule of thirds

So if we imagine to split the frame into three sections, vertically and horizontally, we will get a grid formed by nine rectangles.
The rule of thirds simply states that placing points of interest of the photo on the intersections of those lines makes the photo itself more attractive and inter
This rule applies portrait photography as well as landscape. Above we can see that the eyes and lips of the model sit on two of the horizontal lines, and her nose is on a vertical line.


Leading lines


In this scene from the Matrix we can admire how the technique of the leading lines has been employed: our eyes are naturally drawn to the middle of the frame by the rows of agents’ Smith standing on the side, but also by the perspective lines on the buildings.

Images which use leading lines are generally really strong, and if at the end of a leading line there is the placement of an object/subject which is sitting on a third line, the effect is a very strong focal point on the subject and consequently a very strong image.

Fibonacci spiral

The Fibonacci spiral is a recurrent shape in nature, from the infinitely big galaxies to the infinitely small of insects and flowers. Also in photography and filmmaking this recurrent shape is used to convey a sense of order and gives the audience a feeling of order and is in general aesthetically beautiful.


Color and Lighting

Other factors to consider in order to achieve the perfect shot come from the understanding of light and colours.

There are different types of lights, from the natural light coming from the sun, to artificial lights. Light is measured by its temperature, which goes from warm, such as indoors lights, of a warm yellow/orange colour, to cold, like the sun, very bright and almost white/blue.

Understanding the lighting is very important because according to the lighting of a shot/photography, the audience is brought to have different emotions.

Scenes with warm lights, like sunset scenes or scenes shot by a fireplace are normally associated with romance, family and a feeling of comfort. On the other hand colder lights are often associated with sickness (hospitals), sci-fi movies and fear.

(The two examples below are from the movies Prometheus and Titanic)


So composition clearly has a paramount importance in the good outcome of any cinematographic work, whether it is a movie or a photography.

As an exercise, I was given a word and had 5 minutes to take a photography which was related to the word in some way. The main goal was to try to apply the composition rules in order to make the shots interesting and appealing. The exercise was repeated for nine words.

The 5-minute exercise was an activity I really enjoyed because it pushed me to try and see elements which would make my photographs look good although the subjects were very simple and in an environment which I see on a daily basis. It made me realize how, when looking with attention, beautiful shots can be found even in the smallest things or most underestimated corners of your university campus

The given words were: line, shape, value, colour, texture, mass/volume, space, time, motion.

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