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Production Designer Vs. Director of Photography

Production designers and directors of photography both work to make films, but their salaries, job outlooks, and daily responsibilities can be very different.

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Comparing Production Designers to Directors of Photography

These artists look at sets, costuming, and even lighting to make a movie director's vision a reality. Compare the purpose for each professional in looking at these elements.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Production Designers Bachelor's Degree $89,820 (Art Directors) 7% (Art Directors)
Directors of Photography Bachelor's Degree $59,040 (Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators) 12% (Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Cinematography and Film Production
  • Film and Cinema Studies
  • Photography

Responsibilities of Production Designers vs. Directors of Photography

Production designers and directors of photography work together, as well as with movie directors, to bring a movie to life. The former looks at all the visual aspects of the production to ensure things are coherent. The latter is responsible for the lighting and camera work on a film. Importantly, both aim to evoke emotions and convey themes based on their creative directions.

Production Designers

Production designers are interested in the sets, lighting, makeup, and other visual elements of a film. Their goal is to ensure the setting and physical portrayals of characters fit the tone of the movie, as well as the time-period of the story. They also consider the script when choosing colors and themes to make these elements fit the plot and character development. Overseeing all art departments, including early conceptual design and wardrobe, production designers consider the costs of materials and allocate part of the budget to each department.

Job responsibilities of a production designer include:

  • Scouting possible shooting locations that fit the vision and setting of the film
  • Researching historical and foreign settings to make sure sets and props are appropriate
  • Working around script changes and shooting delays to ensure the visual elements are still in place
  • Supervising the build of sets and props

Directors of Photography

Directors of photography are also called cinematographers, and they work to capture footage for movies and television. Along with the director and producer, these artists decide the atmosphere of the film. The plot and themes constructed by the camerawork come from the script, which is typically read by the director of photography. By composing a shot and placing the lights in a particular place, they tell the audience who and what to focus on. They also help edit the raw footage to further capture the mood of the film, as well as their creative vision.

Job responsibilities of a director of photography include:

  • Determining the placement of cameras for the whole film, including those that capture the point of view of the main character
  • Creating a list of necessary shots for each part of the script
  • Deciding on a list of supplies, including film, tripods, drones, lenses, and filters
  • Developing and processing any film that may have been used

Related Careers

You may be researching a career as a production designer, and a job as a graphic designer could also appeal to you, since both deal with visual arts aimed at a particular audience. Similarly, you could be looking into a career as a director of photography, so a position as a movie director may be for you, especially because both create films.

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