As we here at Jax Videography would like to share a common question we often get from prospective clients considering our expert video services:
“What’s the difference between a videographer and a cinematographer?”
Distinguishing between these two has had many people without the benefit of experience confused and frustrated, and rightfully so. Compounding matters even further is the fact that there’s a discrepancy between the literal definitions of these terms and how they’re actually being applied in the marketing of video companies and freelancers. We’ve been around video for our entire careers, so we understand that the unfortunate truth for consumers is that, depending on how a video agency or freelancer uses the terms, there may or may not be a difference.
That’s why we’re here to outline exactly what defines a cinematographer and a videographer, and what it should mean to you as you shop for videography service providers…even clarifying the differences between them as it relates to choosing video professionals for a big event.
A Cinematographer is a Member of a Large Crew
Also known as a director of photography (or “DP”), a cinematographer is the head honcho in command of the camera and lighting teams on the set of a motion picture or other production. This individual’s responsibility begins by realizing the director’s vision, implementing technical and artistic decisions with regard to choice of lens, exposure, lighting, composition, filters, movement of camera, color-grading and more. Put succinctly, the cinematographer is the person that’s held accountable for the “art and science of motion picture photography.” To that end, every decision the cinematographer makes must also service the director and his or her story.
When it comes to large-scale productions, it’s unlikely that the cinematographer will be seen behind the camera, operating it; that’s usually the job of the camera operator, who actually works for and under the cinematographer.
Videography: When Cinema Meant “Film” and Video Meant “Video”
The term “videographer” came into its own as common vernacular as a way to define an individual working in videography or video production, as opposed to film production – hence the eventual distinction between a CINEMAtographer, who works with film stock, and a VIDEOgrapher, who works with video. Still, that fine line gets somewhat blurry when talking about videography and cinematography in relation to the advent of digital cinema; the big scenario at play here is that just because many – if not most – major motion picture cinematographers have switched over to the utilization of digital cameras, it doesn’t make them videographers…
Have we lost you yet?
Okay…let’s reel this in a little and take a closer look at what exactly videographers do.
Defining Videographer: A Camera Operator in a Small Crew…or Independent Solo Worker
As much as it may seem so, drawing a proverbial line between video production and film production isn’t the most efficient way to distinguish between the roles of cinematographers and videographers. The basic distinguishing element here is that videographers tend to operate with much smaller crew teams, and often work on their own (solo); and, unlike a cinematographer, a videographer does actually operate a camera.
This is precisely why traditionally, the term videographer has been associated with “cameraman” or “camera operator,” often connecting these individuals with event videography, live TV, small commercials, corporate videos and weddings. And, because videographers often work by themselves, they have been known to commonly handle other elements of a production including lighting, audio, editing and more.
Now, as we mentioned above, a cinematographer works alongside a fairly large crew and is responsible for technical and artistic decisions with regard to the photography of a motion picture (in accordance with the director’s vision). By contrast, a videographer works within a much smaller scale of production and can also act as camera operator and/or solo contractor, overseeing a project from start to finish.
Debunking the Myth When it’s Time to Choose a Video Approach: A Cinematographer Isn’t “Better” Than a Videographer
We can tell you with sincere honesty that there are a plethora of professionals out there attempting to differentiate themselves by use of the term cinematographer. As we covered above, when a video professional defines him or herself as a “cinematographer” or their work as “cinematography,” you should be wary and do some research. Here are some of the things we’ve heard from folks claiming to be “cinematographers” in the world of video service providers:
• “A cinematographer creates art, while a videographer simply records an event!”
• “A cinematographer captures a FEELING, not just a moment!”
• “Videography isn’t creative and doesn’t involve any kind of story-telling!”
In the immortal words of old-school hip hop super-group Public Enemy: “Don’t Believe the Hype.”
If you are planning a huge event such as a wedding, you can rest assured knowing the professional videographers – such as the ones we employ here at Jax Video – are just as focused on all the elements that comprise compelling, engaging video. What are we saying here? You can totally rely on a videographer where the needs of your cherished wedding plans are concerned, and while sure, certain kinds of video equipment and technological advancements have yielded more dramatic cinema-like imagery, it’s really the experience and qualities that make a great videographer.
When shopping for professional video services for your next big event, don’t get hung up on the concept of “videographer vs cinematographer” when making your decision. More than anything, the idea of a cinematographer is closer related to marketing than capturing those high-heeled stilettos stomping on the dance floor at your lavish party.