Fundamentals of Cinematography
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Fundamentals of Cinematography

Pro cinematographer Dave Miller teaches you everything you need to know to work as a cinematographer on all cameras.
3.3 (32 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
159 students enrolled
Last updated 9/2016
Current price: $10 Original price: $35 Discount: 71% off
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  • 1.5 hours on-demand video
  • 3 Articles
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • An understanding of the fundamentals of cinematography.
  • An understanding of cameras, from an iPhone to an Arri, from a DSLR to a Red.
  • The ability to convert script to screen.
  • Knowledge of what different lenses do and which to choose for that shot.
  • A working knowledge of shot choices and composition.
View Curriculum
  • Ideally, you’ll have a camera to practice with – Most phones these days have a camera!
  • No prior knowledge of cinematography is required.

Cinematography is at the center of any film production and to ensure you have the required knowledge to become a cinematographer, we’ve created this course. You will learn the fundamentals of cinematography so you can start your career and get filming. This video course taught by the highly experienced cinematographer, Dave Miller. The course will get you prepared with the knowledge you need to choose the right camera settings, different camera shots, equipment choices and more.

If you’re just stepping into the world of film or you’d like to improve your existing knowledge of cinematography, then we’re sure you’ll learn a lot whilst enjoying this course.

  • What is cinematography?
  • Introduction to the course with Dave Miller
  • Cameras, which to use and when
  • Lenses, which to use and when
  • Sensor size & Crop Factor
  • Recording Formats
  • Resolution Overview
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO / Gain
  • An Overview of Depth of Field
  • Blocking a Basic Scene
  • Reveal Shot
  • Tracking Shot
  • Feet Shot
  • POV Shot
  • Walking Shot
  • Peep Shot
  • Voyeuristic Shot
  • Sit Down Shot
  • Full shot
  • Medium Full shot
  • Cowboy Shot
  • Medium Shot
  • Head and Shoulders
  • Close up head and shoulders
  • Choker
  • Extreme Close Up
  • How do I become a cinematographer?

Dave Miller has a huge wealth of real industry experience. He has worked as a Director of Photography and Head of Lighting on everything from X-Factor and Loose Women to Scrapheap Challenge, Macbeth and even The Wicker Man (starring none other than everyone’s hero, Nicolas Cage).

If you want to start your career in lighting or be a better DoP, then Dave is your man!

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is intended for anyone interested in learning about cinematography and the filmmaking process.
  • Anyone wanting to learn about camera operation, lenses and shot choices.
  • Newbies or the seasoned pro wanting to learn from someone with vast film and TV experience.
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Curriculum For This Course
37 Lectures
1 Lecture 01:40

You can’t learn the fundamentals of cinematography without an introduction to the basics of cameras section of the course.

A Canon 5D mark III is mainly used in this course due to it’s popularity but the principles covered can be used for any DSLR, standard video camera or more expensive cameras.

Preview 01:40
The Basics of Cameras
5 Lectures 09:48

This lesson talks about sensor size & crop factor on cameras and the effect the two can have when using different lenses.

Sensor Size & Crop Factor

Sensor Size Comparison Chart

Dave gives you a rundown of all the recording formats you will ever need to know about, which is pretty handy at this stage in the course!

Recording Formats

We visually examine shutter speed and show the effect changing the shutter speed has on the light taken in by the camera. It is advised to keep your shutter speed at double the frame rate that you’re filming at. So for example, if you’re filming at 24fps use a 1/50th of a second shutter speed. This gives the characteristics of traditional movie cameras which we’re so used to seeing. Deviating from this shutter speed rule can give a different feel to your film so it’s worth experimenting a little so you can visually see the effects this has.

Shutter Speed

Next up in our fundamentals of cinematography course, we examine the ISO on our Canon 5D mark III and show a visual demonstration of what using different ISO settings looks like.

The Basics of Lenses
2 Lectures 07:54

Dave explains the basic types of lenses available and some of the technical differences between your available options.

Types of Lenses

We look at a wide selection of lenses to show the effect they have on your shot. Remember to switch your camera off when changing a lens as this helps to avoid the attraction of dust to your sensor.

Visual Examples are given for the following prime lenses:

  • Fish Eye lens
  • 16mm lens
  • 20mm lens
  • 35mm lens
  • 50mm lens
  • 80mm lens
  • 120mm lens
  • 180mm lens
  • 35mm lens – Macro Mode
  • 100mm lens – Macro
  • Fish Eye lens – Macro Mode
  • Flare lens
Preview 05:03
Basic Camera Operation
6 Lectures 11:40

Getting the right exposure for your footage is an essential part of this fundamentals of cinematography course. It will make all the difference to the end result and of course, it will mean less time trying to match footage up during the editing stage. Dave shows an example of how different ISO settings affect your final image in conjunction with adjusting the shutter speed and aperture (f).

Balancing Act Between Shutter, ISO and Aperture

Relying on the cameras automatic function for exposure seems like the easy option right? We explain and visually show exactly why you should be using manual exposure settings on your camera to ensure your footage is usable and as intended.

Why Manual Exposure Rather than Automatic?

Now we’ve decided to use manual exposure (for reasons shown visually in the previous lesson) the use of Histograms on your camera is very useful to ensure your exposure is perfect. Zebras on the camera display will show up and serve as a warning if the camera is overexposed. The Zebras shown on the display won’t be visible on your film they just act as a visual warning.

Zebras and Histograms

Depth of field is the distance from the nearest point considered in focus to the furthest point considered in focus of a subject. We visually demonstrate the effects of changing the aperture and length of lens to increase and decrease the depth of field.

Preview 02:00

Focal Length Diagrams

What kind of course on the fundamentals of cinematography if we didn;t talk about white balance? Correctly white balancing your camera is important to get the true colours of the shot you’re filming. We take a look at white balance on our camera and demonstrate the different preset options that should be good enough to get your white balance accurate, depending on the lighting conditions. On most cameras, if you prefer to, you can manually specify a colour temperature. Or in some cases you can take a manual white balance reading, by using a piece of white paper in the light conditions you are filming in.

White Balance: Automatic vs Manual
Building Blocks of a Scene
10 Lectures 27:20

We’re now going to set up a small filming scenario and use some of the principles we’ve learned so far. To start with the scene is blocked through – this is the process of thinking about the actions that will take place and the types of shots that we will produce. Start positions for the actors are also marked out so that future takes of the scene can start at the same location.

We will move on to the filming stage in the following lessons (6.1) which have been divided into short clips for easy reference of the different shot styles.

The Building Blocks of a Scene

We look at the use of an establishing wide shot in a studio environment. Next up, Dave will run through a few takes with subtle changes on each to address the actors movements.

Wide Shot - Establishing Shot

As we’re in a studio with a balcony we can demonstrate an above shot of the scene.

Above Shot

We start this clean single shot off by using a technique called matching shots. This uses the same lens which we match to the shots by using a tape measure from our subjects eye to the camera sensor position (which is usually marked on the camera with a line / circle). This measurement is then done again with our other subject for when we run the scene through again. The result is two clean single shots that can be edited between without them looking out of place.

Clean Single Shots

The dirty single shot is demonstrated in this lesson, this shot features one subject in focus where the other subject is in the same shot but out of focus. This is a great shot for an interview or sit down situation when filming.

Dirty Single Shot

We provide ourselves with plenty of editing options by opting for a tight two shot of the actors sitting down.

Tight Two Shot

Here with film a medium shot of our two actors meeting up and walking out of shot.

Medium Shot

We’ve created a basic edit of the previous camera shots to give you an example of how these kind of shots can fit together in the editing stage.

Full Scene

Next up in our fundamentals of cinematography course, we move on to shooting the same scene, or at least a very similar one. We do this by using some more advanced shots and different lighting techniques. The result is a very different film noir style, which just shows how much you can change the feel of a film by choosing different lighting or camera angles.

The camera shots demonstrated in this lesson are:

  • Reveal Shot
  • Tracking Shot
  • Feet Shot
  • Voyeuristic Shot
  • POV Shot
  • Walking Shot
  • Peep Shot
  • Sit Down Shot

The lesson concludes with a basic edited scene using the shots we created.

Shooting the Scene with Advanced Shots

Learn how to frame your shots with this visual example of different popular shots, the shots covered in this lesson are :

  • Full shot
  • Medium Full shot
  • Cowboy Shot
  • Medium Shot
  • Head and Shoulders
  • Close up head and shoulders
  • Choke
  • Extreme Close Up
Basic Shot Composition
3 Lectures 08:39

There are quite a few methods for holding a handheld camera and producing good stable footage. This is something you need to practice to improve on as people tend to have their own preferred way to hold the camera in a comfortable, yet stable position.


If you want an even more stable handheld shot then you can opt to purchase (or hire) a shoulder mount or steady cam rig, we explore three options in this lesson and show the results from each.

Shoulder Mounts and Steady Cams

There are tons of options available where tripods are concerned, so how do you know which is the right one to buy? We go through three main types of tripod from a basic still photography tripod to a high end film tripod and cover the main uses of each.

Preview 05:03
Equipment for Elaborate Shots
3 Lectures 04:44

Moving onto more elaborate shots, we start by looking at the slider and the type of footage you can produce using this. Weight restrictions of the camera and leveling the slider are limitations of these low budget tools. However, the footage produced in conjunction with these can be really effective.


Designed to create smooth camera movements, the dolly is a really useful tool with more versatility than the slider (shown later) but does require a flat floor to be setup correctly.


A much larger piece of a equipment that unlocks a huge amount of different shots, is the jib. The jib arm is a counter weighted arm which allows fluid camera motion in all directions. The jib does require quite a bit of setting up and might need a few pairs of hands to do, also be careful when using a jib as it can be quite dangerous if it swings out quickly.

It’s not something you’re going to easily get hold of, especially when you’re just starting out. If you can get hold of a jib though, it will be perfect for practicing the fundamentals of cinematography.

5 Lectures 08:03

Dave simply explains the rule of thirds and how to frame your shots effectively depending on the scenario. We also look at getting things correctly in focus by using the magnifier tool and live view on your DSLR camera.

The Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds Diagram

Storyboards will really help the planning and execution of any film project, the storyboard will help with location and time planning as explained in this lesson. There are many apps available for tablet computers which may assist with this process, or you could stick to good old pen and paper.

The Importance of Storyboards

The role of a reccy is hugely important for any larger film project, Dave talks about how you’d go about performing this role, what to take with you and the benefits it can have on a production.


Creating a style is something that will separate your film making from the thousands of shorts and features produced each year. Style makes your film memorable and enhances your theme. Everything you achieve in your film will look effortless with a consistent style.

Creating a Style
Final Thoughts
2 Lectures 03:10

Dave sums up what the role of the Director of Photography actually is. It's different on every set, depending on many factors like budget constraints, crew experience and more. The important point here is that you know what you are there to do and that you do it very well.

The Role of the Director of Photography

Let's wrap it up! Phew! That was a lot of learning. Well done! Now get out there and start creating some amazing work.

About the Instructor
GetFilming Film School
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An Online Film School and Community

GetFilming is an online film school and community, we bring together the very best experts currently working in the film, TV and online video industries with our community of aspiring filmmakers. 

We work with professionals such as Adrian Mead, Rob Bessette, Evan Abrams and Dave Miller. Our tutors have worked with everyone from Sky, BBC, HBO, AMC, ITV to clients ranging from Subway and Adidas to Gibson and everything in between.