Do’s & Don’ts of Cinematography


I am close to finishing taking notes on The Five C’s of Cinematography – a highly illuminating piece of text that any aspiring filmmaker absolutely must read – and I’m going to share those notes when I’m finished transcribing them to a word file. For now, here are the 7 Do’s and Don’ts as outlined in the book in the chapter of Composition.

DO’s & DON’Ts

  • Do combine long horizontal lines, static or slow panning camera, soft lighting, slow moving or static players, lengthy scenes, to inspire a quiet, peaceful, restful mood. Don’t destroy the effect by tilting the camera upward, or by allowing fast player movement, or by editing with short, choppy scenes.
  • Do compose a series of tall vertical columns fronting a courthouse in a dignified manner with a symmetrical, static composition. Don’t destroy the effect by panning horizontally across the vertical columns.
  • Do increase the action effect of mountain climbers, racing cars, marching soldiers, by staging their movement so that the viewer’s eye must travel in a diagonal pattern.
  • Do record the graceful effect of a skier twisting and turning downhill by following with a curving camera movement.
  • Do employ slanted Dutch camera angles, dynamic compositions, dramatic lighting, and rhythmic editing to create an unbalanced, tilted, unstable effect on anything weird or violent.
  • Don’t employ unusual camera angles, distracting background movement or off-beat lighting on a simple scene with important dialogue, which requires greater audio than visual attention.
  • Do strive always to preserve unity of style throughout a sequence.


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