Education

Best Cinematography Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top Cinematography programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

Cinematography is the art and science of making motion pictures. Cinematographers work with directors to create the visual style of a film, and to capture the images that will tell the story. Cinematography degree programs can prepare students for a career in filmmaking, and for other careers in the entertainment industry, such as video editing and production.

Cinematography degree programs offer a combination of theoretical and practical training. Students learn about the history of film, the art of cinematography, and the science of filmmaking. They also learn about the different types of cameras and lenses, and the different techniques of lighting and composition.

How to Choose the Right Cinematography Program

When it comes to choosing the right cinematography degree program, there are a few key factors that prospective students need to keep in mind. The first is the cost of the program. Cinematography degree programs can be expensive, so students need to make sure they can afford the tuition and associated costs. The second is the location of the program. Cinematography degree programs are typically located in major cities, so students need to make sure they are comfortable with the cost of living in the city where the program is located. The third is the time to degree. Cinematography degree programs typically take four years to complete, but some programs offer accelerated tracks that allow students to complete their degree in less time. Finally, students need to make sure the program they choose is accredited. Accreditation ensures that the program meets the highest standards and that the degree will be recognized by employers.

Best Bachelor’s in Cinematography Programs

The best programs for Cinematography ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
University of California-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

The Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television from University of California-Los Angeles provides students with a liberal arts education as well as coursework in film and television history, theory, and production. Film and television majors take courses in three distinct areas: cinema and media studies, production, and film and television craft.

Rank 2
Boston University
Boston, MA

The Boston University Bachelor of Science in Film & Television is a comprehensive program that prepares students for a career in the film and television industry. The program offers a broad foundation in motion picture writing, visual literacy and studies, with the majority of courses able to be tailored to fit students’ interests and career goals.

Rank 3
The University of Tampa
Tampa, FL

The University of Tampa’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Media is a professional degree program focused on the hands-on production of documentary, narrative, and experimental films. The curriculum includes a broad array of courses in production and post-production, cinema studies, art history, screenwriting, and more. Students have many opportunities to gain hands-on experience and real-world knowledge of the industry through projects, internships, and coursework. The program also brings in leading industry professionals to give students an insider’s view of the business.

Rank 4
Indiana University-Bloomington
Bloomington, IN

The Bachelor of Arts in Media – Cinema and Media Studies degree from Indiana University-Bloomington is a great choice for students interested in the history and effects of media. The degree takes a broad and inclusive view of the field, addressing noncommercial and commercial media, examining works in and out of the cultural mainstream and studying media across a broad range of national, transnational and global frameworks. Students in the program have the opportunity to learn from instructors who are professionals in film history and film and television production, and to take courses in the study and analysis of film, as well as in film, television and digital production.

Rank 5
Clemson University
Clemson, SC

The Bachelor of Arts in World Cinema from Clemson University is a unique program that focuses on cross-cultural research and international experience. Students in the program take four semesters of a foreign language and have the opportunity to participate in a study-abroad film production segment or a local internship program. The curriculum is designed to teach critical and creative skills, and trains students to comprehend, challenge and participate in the global screen culture through a blend of conceptual and practical courses.

Rank 6
Jacksonville University
Jacksonville, FL

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and the Bachelor of Science in Film from Jacksonville University offer students a comprehensive experience in the creation of independent motion pictures through a rigorous, hands-on production centered curriculum. The JU Film program strives to create storytellers who can connect with their audiences intellectually and emotionally. Utilizing special topics classes in documentary and commercial filmmaking and allowing students to customize their curriculum through independent studies, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film students are able to tailor make their education to reflect their own personal and professional goals.

Rank 7
University of North Georgia
Dahlonega, GA

The University of North Georgia’s Bachelor of Science in Film & Digital Media degree is a hands-on program that provides students with an understanding of motion pictures as a form of expression, experience in all phases of the production process, and awareness of how to succeed in the industry. The program of study requires students to become competent in all aspects of production as well as to develop expertise in a specialization, such as directing, screenwriting, producing, editing, cinematography, audio production, or creating digital effects.

Rank 8
Madonna University
Livonia, MI

The Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast and Cinema Arts degree from Madonna University is a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of the film, television, and digital media industries. The 47 semester hours of coursework provide students with a broad knowledge base, while the electives allow students to tailor their studies to their desired professional field. The capstone project and cooperative education experiences challenge students to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world situations. Approximately 96 percent of graduates are employed in their field within a year of graduation.

Rank 9
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA

The Bachelor of Arts in Cinema from San Francisco State University is a program that is focused on teaching students the critical analysis of films. The program is designed to give students the skills they need to relate cinema to the production, distribution, and exhibition industries, the other arts, and to society. Additionally, students in the program will learn about contemporary technological, artistic, and industrial trends in the cinematic arts. The program culminates in the production of a research paper.

Rank 10
University of Hartford
West Hartford, CT

The Bachelor of Arts in Cinema from University of Hartford provides students with a foundation in film studies and production skills. The program is divided into four groups of courses: Introduction, Grounding, Study in Depth, and Self-Definition. In the Introduction courses, students learn about film as an art form and the basics of the language of cinema. The Grounding courses build upon this knowledge with courses in filmmaking, film history, and film analysis. The Study in Depth courses allow students to focus on specific topics in film, such as directors, national cinemas, genres, or periods. Finally, in the Self-Definition courses, students have the opportunity to choose courses in film studies or production that best fit their interests and goals.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Cinematography Program

Students in a bachelor’s in cinematography program learn how to operate cameras and other filmmaking equipment, as well as how to light and edit film. They also study the art of storytelling and develop their own style of filmmaking.

Most programs require students to complete an internship, which gives them the opportunity to gain real-world experience working on a film set. In addition, many programs require students to complete a thesis project, which involves developing and filming a short film.

Cinematography degrees cater to students with exceptional technical skills using a variety of equipment, such as cameras, microphones, lighting rigs, and editing tools. A bachelor’s in cinematography program develops these essential skills, but students must possess at least some natural ability for creativity, writing, and communication.

Common Cinematography Courses

A degree in cinematography will typically involve a mix of technical and creative coursework. The following are some examples of courses that students might take while working towards a degree in cinematography.

History of Motion Pictures

This course covers the history of motion pictures from the late 19th century to the present. Topics include the development of film technology, the rise of the studio system, the impact of World War II, the emergence of independent cinema, and the globalization of the film industry. Upon completion, students should be able to analyze how motion pictures have reflected and shaped the social, political, and cultural values of various societies.

Screenwriting

This course covers the basics of writing for the screen, including story structure, character development, and dialogue. Students will analyze and discuss examples of successful screenplays, and will write and revise their own original material. Upon completion, students should be able to write a screenplay using proper format and style, develop believable and interesting characters, and tell a story using proper structure.

Cinematography

This course covers the history, aesthetics, and technical aspects of motion picture photography. Topics include the study of light, lenses, film stocks, color, filters, camera movement, special effects, and computer-generated imagery. Emphasis is placed on the development of a personal visual style. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of cinematography to the creation of original visual images.

Post-production Techniques

This course covers the techniques used in post-production to finish a motion picture. Topics include an overview of the post-production process, working with editorial, sound design, music, and visual effects. Students will also learn about the different roles and responsibilities of the post-production team, and the software and hardware used in post-production. Upon completion, students should be able to understand the post-production process, work with editorial to finish a motion picture, and use the software and hardware used in post-production.

Film Criticism

This course covers the history, theory, and practice of film criticism. Students will learn how to analyze and interpret films from a variety of critical perspectives, and will be exposed to a variety of critical approaches to cinema. The course will also cover the development of film criticism as a field of study, and the role of critics in the film industry. Upon completion, students should be able to analyze and interpret films from a variety of critical perspectives, and to write thoughtful and insightful reviews of films.

Career Options for Cinematography Graduates

Graduates of cinematography programs work in a variety of industries, including film, television, and video. They may also work in fields such as advertising, web design, and graphic design.

Cinematographer

Cinematographers are responsible for the visual look of a film or other video production. They work with the director to plan the overall look of the project and then operate the camera and other equipment to capture the images. Cinematographers must have a strong understanding of composition, lighting, and other technical aspects of filmmaking. They also need to be able to work well with a team and take direction from the director.

Director of Photography

Directors of photography (DPs) work on film and television sets and are responsible for the look of the project, from the lighting to the camera angles. They collaborate with the director to achieve the desired visual effect and work with the crew to set up and execute shots. DPs also work with the editor during post-production to ensure the footage meets the director’s vision.

Videographer

Videographers capture moving images on film or digital media. They may work with a team of other videographers and editors, or they may work independently. The job might involve setting up and operating cameras, lighting equipment, and sound recording gear; interviewing subjects; and editing footage. Videographers often specialize in a particular type of video, such as news, sports, or music videos.

Camera Operator

Camera operators work in film, television, and video production to capture images according to the director’s vision. They set up and operate cameras, select and frame shots, and control lighting and other technical aspects of the image. Camera operators work with a variety of cameras, including handheld, tripod-mounted, and robotic cameras, and they must be able to operate them quickly and efficiently while still getting high-quality shots.

Broadcast Engineer

Broadcast engineers are responsible for the technical aspects of a television or radio broadcast. They set up and operate the equipment used to transmit a signal, as well as maintain and troubleshoot that equipment when necessary. Broadcast engineers typically work in studios or control rooms, but they may also travel to remote locations to set up equipment for live broadcasts. In some cases, they may also work on developing new technologies for use in broadcasting.

Insights From a Cinematography Graduate

Alisa Rocha is a Cinematographer at Dreamworks. She has a bachelor’s degree in cinematography from the University of Southern California. Alisa has over 10 years of experience in the film and television industry.

ClimbtheLadder: How did you make the most of your Cinematography degree program so that it prepared you for post-graduation jobs?

Alisa Rocha: I made the most of my Cinematography degree program by taking advantage of the opportunities to intern and work on student films. I also took classes that I was passionate about and tried to get the most out of each class by participating in class and doing the readings. I also did my best to network and meet people in the industry.

ClimbtheLadder: What are the most rewarding aspects of your career? What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Alisa Rocha: The most rewarding aspect of my career is the creative freedom that I have to tell stories through my work. I am constantly challenged to come up with new and innovative ways to capture the human experience on film. The most challenging aspect of my career is the long hours and the physical demands of the job.

ClimbtheLadder: What was the most challenging course you took? What advice would you give to students who are about to start this course?

Alisa Rocha: The most challenging course I took was called “Cinematography for Television and Film.” The course was really challenging because it was so hands-on. We had to shoot a lot of scenes and do a lot of editing. The advice I would give to students who are about to start this course is to be prepared to work hard. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

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