Photography vs Cinematography

person holding canon dslr camera close up photo

Cinematography and photography are two of the most popular visual arts, but what is the difference between them? The answer to that question is not as clear-cut as you may think. In photography, light enters a lens and exposes a chemical film or digital sensor which creates an image. Cinematographers use lighting to create moods in their movies. Lighting can set the time of day (morning, midday etc.), show whether it is raining outside or provide a sense of atmosphere for scenes in horror movies.

1. What is Cinematography

2. How does it differ from Photography

3. The difference between equipment

4. Examples of cinematographers and photographers

What is Cinematography?

Cinematography is the art and science of making movies. The person who does this job, called a cinematographer, has to make all the lighting decisions in photography that go into creating the mood for scenes in horror movies or setting time-of-day for daytime exterior shots. Cinematographers handle what appears on screen and a lot off screen.

Cinematography differs from photography because cinematographers use lighting to create moods in their movies. Lighting can set time-of-day (morning, midday etc.), show whether it is raining outside or provide atmosphere for scenes in horror movies. Cinematographer’s job often includes making decisions about camera placement and movement, however they also have many other responsibilities such as being a director of photography on a project, supervising technical crew members such light meter operators and gaffers who assist with setup and operation of lighting equipment.

How does it differ from Photography?

The difference between photography and cinematography comes down to what each discipline captures: photography images are usually still images that capture people, places and things in photography. Cinematography is the art of making movies by capturing moving images on video or film stock. This means cinematographers use lighting to create moods in their movies, while photography doesn’t need to do this because it captures still images instead of movements.

The difference between equipment

Cinematographers use a variety of cameras for shooting films including digital motion picture camera systems like Aaton LTR-16S Advanced Digital Cinema Camera System with Stationary Lens Mount Kit (SLK) FotoKem 35mm Film Scanner Package – FS3500G/F400G set up for Arri Alexa ARRI ALEXA SXT Cameras. The type of camera used depends on the size of budget, and each cinematographer has their own preferences.

Photographers have to know how photography works because they need to capture still images with a film camera or DSLR photography system like a Canon EOS Rebel T100 or Sony Alpha A1. For photography, lighting may be necessary but it’s not an essential component for photography (although amateur photographers can get away without good lighting). Photographers rely more heavily on composition when shooting photos, as well as focal length and shutter speed while setting up shots. For this reason photography requires less equipment than cinematography does – most professional photographers use one lens in contrast to cinematographers who often work with multiple lenses depending upon what moods they are trying to create.

Examples of cinematographers and photographers

Cinematographers and photographers go hand-in-hand, but they focus on different areas. For instance, cinematographer Alfred Hitchcock is known for his intense use of lighting to create suspenseful moods in films like Psycho (1960) while photographer Ansel Adams would be recognized for using light as a way to capture the beauty of nature in photographs he took at Yosemite National Park or redwood trees near San Francisco. Both artists are famous for what they do with photography and cinematography, respectively.


Photography and cinematography are very similar, however, cinematographers definitely have their work cut out for them and often need teams to get the job done.

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