5 bad habits that cinematographers need to avoid at all costs
Like a comedian who sees the humor in every scenario, a cinematographer’s eye catches the beauty and essence of every instance.
Being a cinematographer is tough. But what profession isn’t?
It is an art form that you will need to master through continuous application and improve by the day. Especially when it comes to becoming a professional, a successful cinematographer is not just an individual who has mastered the right cinematic angles but does it right in every aspect.
More often, most cinematographers unknowingly tread on paths that push their progress back significantly. Reaching a point in the career where you feel, no matter how hard you train, you are not progressing in your career than what you expected can be a bad feeling.
But in most cases, the root cause of this problem lies in the habits that most videographers have picked up that are pushing them back.
If you are new to filmmaking, get ready for a beautiful journey ahead. The journey is going to be exciting, entertaining, and filled with thrills. But also be prepared for a whole heap of mistakes and a lot of learning.
There is no professional filmmaker who hasn’t made any mistakes. And in this guide, I want to bring 5 habits cinematographers need to relieve themselves of if they intend to be better at what they do.
The list is compiled using behavior patterns observed in the industry for over a decade, and these 5 mistakes halted the progress of many exceptional professionals.
1 – Thinking you are the best in the business
There is always someone better than you, and nobody is perfect
If you choose to be a videographer as a professional, it is agreed that you have some creative eye to see things differently than anyone else. Else you wouldn’t have chosen this in the first place.
Cinematographers are different than the common species. They see things differently, look into details that most people might miss, and that’s what makes them unique.
With the demand for video content rising, there is an increased demand for filmmaking than ever before. More people are on the internet demanding video content, and this trend is set to continue growing.
However, at the same time, there are more struggling filmmakers than ever before.
The reason – because every filmmaker thinks they are the best.
Being overconfident of your work and believing that everything you do is perfect and don’t need any advice is the starting point of failure.
This smug behavior makes individuals not pay attention to any feedback nor take any steps to do better. While you feel you’ve got the best equipment and done everything right, there’s always space for improvement in some form because “there are no perfect forms of content.”
There is nothing wrong with being proud of your work, but not addressing your flaws will not help you. Everyone has their plusses and the negatives. Every project you undertake should be a learning curve for you to be better at what you do.
And understanding that you can do better is an excellent way to be ahead of the problem. Yes, you might be producing video content better than anyone in the area or region, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t benchmark it to other large-scale productions.
Benchmark your work with some films that Hollywood makes if the ones made in your locality aren’t good enough. See what they are doing differently and see how you can implement them in the next shoot.
This effort will only push you in the right direction and ensure that you have that mentality of continuously thriving to be the best version.
2 Giving Excuses – the pitfall of many….
No matter what you do, there will always be budgets and be asked to cut corners
“I can make this look any better because of the gear I have….”
“The other video looked good because they had a bigger budget….”
“We couldn’t get the best shot because the weather wasn’t good.”
These are common excuses heard in a production room, over and over. Filmmakers use these excuses to evade the more critical questions at hand that they are afraid to face.
Budgets and equipment play a significant role in the quality of the video, but that isn’t something that you use as a defense mechanism.
As a filmmaker, you are not just an individual who’s looking at angles and scenes, but you also contribute to problem-solving.
No matter what you create, there are always budget cuts and streamlining of costs. You will need to take it as a challenge to improvise and bring out the best.
Is no fancy lighting equipment available? Use natural lighting then and get the best shot possible.
The success of any videographer is judged not only by the work you deliver but the way you do it. Videographers are individuals who don’t ask ‘why’ but reply ‘why not!”.
So the next time a project comes to you, and you are expected to cut corners, try to find innovative ways to fulfill your desired expectations. This initiative you take is not only going to be giving you a sense of fulfillment but can also help build better relationships with the producers and the rest of the crew.
They are going to be forever grateful to you.
3 Becoming Lazy is a RED ALERT!
Giving your 100% when it comes ot filming is mandatory
If you need to train yourself as a videographer, you need to be prepared to get your hands dirty and be on your feet because it is a tiring job.
Let’s say you made it to noon, and there’s still a bunch of shots remaining before you can close shop. You are tired, and you decide to take the backseat and shoot the rest seated.
That sounds like an okay idea, but it isn’t.
If you are the filmmaker, you need to be on top of your game at all times. You get a limited period to shoot the scenes you require, and if you can’t deliver during that time, you haven’t succeeded.
The consequences of this result in shots that aren’t perfect and improper, and you will have to face the troubles at the edit in sorting it out and getting them in place.
Yes, running straight on your feet for 12 straight hours can be difficult, but that’s what’s needed to get those perfect angles and shots that you crave.
Getting your hands dirty and spending long hours is what you signed up for when you made the call to take on this profession. Don’t drift away from the objective and keep the focus in place.
Remember, there are so many people counting on you.
4 – Not Shooting Enough
“Nothing will ever be enough.”
A huge mistake that new entrants commit is not shooting enough material. Often more videographers become picky in choosing what to record, relying on the hours they are paid.
This attitude can end up halting a career even before it gets started. While accepting that getting paid for your efforts is correct in all senses, you need to make a great first impression when you are starting.
Shooting more will eventually help you create better content
Shooting more content than necessary is always a preferred option because it brings a whole lot of benefits. First, by capturing more, you have the opportunity to try to experiment with your work and try out new things in the extra space.
The time most videographers get with professional-grade equipment is limited, and by shooting extra, you have a little time to spend some me-time with the equipment and running sets.
Second, the excess content you shoot can be beneficial in more instances than you think it will. Sometimes, extra shots can come in handy in filling gaps in the overall product, and everyone will thank you for shooting the excess.
5 – No willingness to learn and adapt
From the earliest of times, cinematography has been an art form that is continuously evolving. There is a clear difference in the approach, and the technology used a decade ago and now.
That’s why cinematographers will need to be on a continuous learning spree to be the best at what they do. Technology changes every day, new cameras are introduced yearly, and the landscape is constantly changing – it will forever be this way.
Cinematographers, experienced and new, will need to continuously be on top of their game and not halt their learning spree, to be fresh and relevant in the modern world of film.
You can even be the most experienced professional, but you will be left behind if you refuse to learn and adapt. Today, avenues for learning vast.
Earlier, it was only film school, but now there are many avenues open for anyone to level up in their skills.
There are plenty of online courses and classes sourced by equipment professionals, allowing anyone to learn at their will.
Also, new entrants to the field are more often insecure about learning from other people.
This mindset needs change – with the right mentors, any newcomer can gain more than they learn themselves.
Plus, it is okay not to get it right n the first attempt. No award-winning cinematographer got an award for their first-ever direction. They learned, got better, and they became good at it.
New entrants need to understand that learning from someone does not diminish your capabilities or put you down – it preps you to be better.
Success as a cinematographer can be a daunting task but is certainly doable if you have the right mindset.
Sometimes, it is not entirely about getting the right angles and capturing the correct scenes; many other factors contribute to success.
The attitudes you have, the relationships you build, and your personality also plays a vital role in carving the exceptional cinematographer. These 5 habits are everyday habits that cinematographers need to evade or let go of if they plan to be memorable.