Director of Photography Qualities

The best photographers tell a story through images.
i David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Politicians may expound upon it, but it’s photographers who really need “that vision thing.” Whether they work in a print medium or for an online venture, photographers must see people, places and things in ways that transcend the untrained eye. Directors of photography must possess this skill and more, as they usually have supervisory duties and may oversee a staff. If you’re debating whether you have what it takes to be a director of photography, see if your personality and professional work styles match up, using your own “vision thing.”

Blend Professional Prowess with Personality

    Step 1

    Possess a college degree and professional background in photography, film, media studies or another liberal arts discipline. Many roads can lead to a director of photography position, but there are no shortcuts to gaining credibility through experience.

    Step 2

    Present a portfolio of work that will silence even the harshest critics. Directors of photography may have widely varying styles, but the experts know a keen eye when they see proof of it.

    Step 3

    Demonstrate technical excellence in all matters related to photography, including cameras, film, lenses and filters. Advances in technology also demand that directors of photography possess computer-editing skills and perhaps even computer-animation abilities.

    Step 4

    Display an artistic vision or an ability to conceptualize ideas that others often don’t see. Essentially, photographers are storytellers whose images can make indelible impressions. These images can sometimes be more powerful than the words they are designed to accentuate – hence the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Without creativity, even someone with the sharpest technical skills will flounder.

    Step 5

    Exude a cooperative, friendly attitude when dealing with clients or customers and when working with or supervising other photographers. An easy-going, go-with-the-flow nature is often considered an asset for directors of photography, enabling them to work peacefully and productively with those who may not share their “vision thing.”


    • To gather valuable insights into the day-to-day work life of a director of photographer, kindly inquire to “shadow” one during a workday. You will learn specific details about the role that you could not possibly gather in any other way.


    • Jobs for photographers are expected to increase by 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Along with part- and full-time photographers, freelance photographers also have made the field more competitive.

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