If you’re shooting a film on a shoestring budget, you may not be able to afford a Director of Photography (DP) who knows what he/she is doing, but if you can afford it – do it! Your DP is basically your number 1 creative partner on set. At times, he/she might be your only friend, and their advice and support throughout the process are critical. Especially when you feel like you’re uncertain about a decision, or if you have visual ideas that you’d like to explore further but lack the technical know-how. A good DP will understand and share your vision. He/she will be invested in your film, and it’s extremely important that they are on your side. A bad relationship with your DP can mean the end of your picture, and so a shared degree of respect for one another is consequential, to say the least. I can honestly say that my first feature film, Pickings, wouldn’t and couldn't have been made the way that it was if it weren’t for my cinematographer, Louis Obioha. I relied heavily on his experience and expertise throughout the shoot, and his know-how not only made the movie look gorgeous(which it does) but it gave me the education I needed to finally go off on my own and DP my next project.
I can't say enough good things about Louis!
If you don’t have the budget to hire a cinematographer, you should take the time needed to learn anything and everything you can about cinematography before finding yourself on set with your cast and crew (who are going to be looking at you for answers). You don’t want to run the risk of appearing as if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is the main reason why DP’ing your own short films is such a valuable asset. It gives you the tools you need to run the set as a director/DP when the time comes to shoot your feature.
Louis, far left, was someone who made my life much easier and many times was a close advisor during Pickings filming.