Hiring a Director of Photography (DP) is a big decision for any video production. The DP is responsible for the visual design of your production and can make or break the final product. It’s their responsibility to see the project through the lens of the camera and translate your vision into reality. There are a lot of talented individuals out there, but there are also a lot of people who claim to be DP’s but aren’t cut out for the job.
Unfortunately, not all DPs are created equal. There are some red flags that you should be aware of before hiring someone for the job. Red flags are behaviors meant to warn you when there could be problems for you in the future.
Of course, red flags should be taken with some caution. Trust your gut. If you find someone to work with that has only one or two of the following red flags, they could still be a great worker for you. It all depends upon what you need from them and how you work together as a team.
We’ve previously written about what makes a great Director of Photography, but let’s take a look at a few things that could mean you’re about to hire a not-so-great director of photography.
Here are 10 red flags that you’re not hiring the right Director of Photography for your production:
They’re not passionate about their work
A good DP is passionate about their work and takes pride in their craft. They should be excited to talk about their work and eager to show you what they can do. If they’re not, it’s a red flag. Passion for their craft means that they’re going to make sure that the project is not only a great reflection upon you but a great reflection on themselves and their work ethic. A good DP should be interested in and passionate about your project and what you’re trying to achieve. If they’re not, it’s a red flag.
They’re not responsive
A good DP will be responsive to your questions and concerns. They should return your calls and emails in a timely manner and be available when you need them. If they’re not, it’s a red flag. Being able to reach the person you hired to oversee your project’s visual look is important.
Be careful not to mistake healthy boundaries for lack of response. There is a huge difference between not returning calls or e-mails at all and not answering calls after working hours. Just because you’ve hired someone does not mean that they are at your mercy 100% of the time. You also don’t want to be hounding them constantly, you don’t want to distract them from their task. Distractions can end up costing you time and money.
Before you hire a director of photography, it would be a great idea for both parties involved to hash out what you expect of them and what they expect of you. If they bring it up on their own, that’s a green flag!
They’re not organized
A good DP is organized and efficient. They should have a plan for each shoot and know exactly what they need to do to get the results you’re looking for. If they’re not, it’s a red flag.
Of course, project organization looks different to different people. Some people are visual people and prefer detailed storyboards while others are more auditory and prefer a shot list. If you’re unsure of what kind of Director of Photography you need, ask around.
Take this time to discuss any and all expectations you have, as well as what their expectations are before signing any contracts with them. If you are a visual person but your DP is auditory, there might be some clashing when you ask for an update on the project. It’s best to be on the same page before the project begins!
They’re not professional
A good DP is professional in their dealings with you and your production. They should be punctual, respectful, and easy to work with. Professionalism includes maintaining a positive attitude, even when things are tough. If they’re not, it’s a red flag.
It can be difficult to work long hours on set or in post-production. Things will go wrong and people will get tired and cranky. A good Director of Photography understands this and doesn’t let it show in their work or attitudes.
They’re not experienced
A good DP has a lot of experience in the industry. They should be able to show you a portfolio of their work and tell you about the various productions they’ve worked on. If they can’t, it’s a red flag.
However, work experience can be hard to come by when no one is willing to take a chance on someone who is just starting out. In this case, look for a Director of Photography who has been involved in student films or lower-budget productions. These productions will give them the experience they need to be great at their job without the pressure of working on a high-budget film.
They’re not creative
A good DP is creative and has an eye for detail. They should be able to willingly offer suggestions on how to improve your production. If they’re not, it’s a red flag. Creativity is such an important aspect of being a director of photography, as well as a huge aspect of content creation overall.
A Director of Photography should be able to see the bigger picture and understand how their work will fit into it. Creativity can also mean being able to think on their feet and problem solve. Thinking outside the box is a key characteristic of a Director of Photography that should not be overlooked.
They’re not technical
A good DP is technical and knows how to use their equipment. They should be able to set up and operate their cameras, lights, and other gear without difficulty. If they don’t, it’s a red flag.
Knowing how to work the gear, how the equipment can be used to achieve certain looks, and even being able to troubleshoot when something goes wrong are all important aspects of being a director of photography. If a Director of Photography does not have a firm grasp on the technical side of things, it will show in their work.
They’re not collaborative
A good DP is collaborative and willing to work with you to get the best results. They should be open to your suggestions and feedback. Then know how to make the changes as needed. If they don’t, it’s a red flag. Collaboration is essential for any project. Being able to listen to others’ opinions and expertise is essential in any industry, not just film production.
It doesn’t matter that they’re in charge of the production if they’re not willing to work with you to get the best results. Collaboration is proven to make every project a better outcome.
They’re not flexible
A good DP is flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances. They should be able to think on their feet and come up with solutions when things go wrong. If they can’t, it’s a red flag.
Flexibility when it comes to film production is key. There are so many moving parts to a production, and things will inevitably go wrong. If a Director of Photography is not flexible, it will be difficult to get the project done.
They’re not affordable
A good DP is affordable and within your budget. They should be able to work with you to find a rate that is fair and reasonable in comparison to others in the industry. If they can’t do this, it’s a red flag.
Fair and reasonable pricing does not mean that you should be hiring the cheapest DP out there. Extremely cheap DP’s will not have the same experience, education, organization skills, or the flexibility you’ll find that someone with competitive pricing will have. Nor should you be lowballing anyone. They’re trying to make a living too, and fair prices should be a livable wage. Underpaying your workers is not only disrespectful to the person you’re paying, but to the rest of your business and makes your brand’s reputation look cheap, uncaring, and just all-around unsavory.
Where can I find an affordable DP?
C&I Studios employs well-rounded and eager Directors of Photography for many different projects! We employ DP’s who:
- Are creative and have a good eye
- Technical and know their gear
- Collaborative and willing to work with you
- Flexible and able to adapt
- Affordable for your budget
Check out our website and contact us to get started on finding the right Director of Photography for your next project!
If you see any of these red flags, it’s important to consider them when making the decision to hire a Director of Photography. Working with the wrong DP can be a costly mistake that can jeopardize the entire project. Make sure you do your research and take the time to find the right DP for your needs. It will make all the difference in the final product.