11 Most Influential Cinematographers of All Time

by Peter D. Marshall

by Tina Sans.

Acting is easy to appreciate in movies because the performers are right there in front of you. The same goes for special effects, sound, set design: all the stuff that’s easy to see and hear and instantly understand. But cinematography is trickier. The way a movie is filmed has everything to do with its tone and purpose, but that tone is communicated subconsciously to the viewer through clever uses of lighting, focus, framing, and a dozen other things that go into making up just one frame of thouands.

Cinematography is vital to how a film will feel, but it’s also practically invisible. The best cinematographers have been able to compose images that work on viewers emotionally without calling overt attention to themselves, which makes their films feel like real experiences and not dry technical experiments.

These cinematographers have earned their influential reputation not for the number of movies they’ve made but for the way they’ve made them, impacting everything from how we make genre films (sci-fi, gangster stories, whatever) to what we think movies should look like.

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