What's the difference between a "Director of Photography", a "Cinematographer" and a Videographer?

June 28, 2024 at 12:00 AM
by Black Box Productions

In this blog post, I'll break down the difference between a cinematographer, a videographer, and a director of photography. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some important differences in the implications of these roles.

Director of Photography

A Director of Photography (aka DOP or DP) is someone who oversees all aspects of lighting and camera work during filming. Typically, a DP manages a larger crew, including a Gaffer, Key Grip, and First Assistant Camera (1st AC). The DP is the head of the department and works with their team to support the director's vision.

The team can range from 4 to 40 people, depending on the scope of production. On these large shoots, a director of photography might never touch a camera or light, as they are overseeing a team of specialized technicians who operate the equipment.

Other specialized tools like a gimbal, Steadicam, dolly, crane, drone, or car-mount might be used to allow for dynamic camera movements. The DP would lead the team but not necessarily operate the equipment.


A cinematographer is similarly responsible for filming scenes based on the director's vision. This role involves the composition of an image, the lighting of the scene, the choice of cameras, lenses, and filters, the camera angle and movement, and the integration of any special effects.

While the title of director of photography implies working on a large set with a substantial team, a cinematographer might be found on a large set or working with a smaller crew. In documentary filmmaking, for example, the cinematographer might be alone in their department or working with a small team of 3 or 4.

A cinematographer can also be a camera operator and have a more hands-on approach with the equipment. Directors of Photography and cinematographers may capture images with ultra-high-definition digital video or traditional analog film.


Finally, a Videographer is responsible for capturing smaller-scale video productions and live events. Often, they work alone or in small teams. Sometimes a videographer will be responsible for all elements of production, including operating the camera, recording audio, lighting, and even editing. These projects often involve working directly with individuals or small businesses to create video content for websites and social media or to capture an event.

To further complicate things, in the UK, they refer to a Lighting Cameraman, which is somewhere in the middle of all these roles. They're able to operate the camera and light the scene with a small team. They work in a professional capacity for broadcast television and filmmaking. And they probably also like tea.

It's important to understand these differences so that when hiring a professional image maker, you pick the right person for the job. Personally, I relate most closely to the term cinematographer. It implies a focus on the art and technology of the craft while maintaining the versatility to work in different settings and with various-sized teams.

  1. Monday
  2. Tuesday
  3. Wednesday
  4. Thursday
  5. Friday
Hi, let's talk

There was an error submitting the form. Try fixing the error or submitting again.