A while back I started a book recommendation series where I’d recommend what I thought were the best books in each area of filmmaking. Today we’re continuing with cinematography books. Unlike the first category of screenwriting, I’ve read a lot of cinematography books so I feel more confident in which ones are good and useful, and which ones suck.

All of these are in the good category, and they’re listed in order of usefulness.

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Cinematography

If you only read one book, read this one. Cinematography covers all the basics in an easy to understand yet thorough way. You’ve got shot design, lighting, color temperature, film stock and everything else that falls into the science and art of cinematography. This was the book that finally made everything click for me.

The Five C's of Cinematography

The Five C’s of Cinematography

This is another must-read classic. Five C’s focuses on how to tell a story through Camera Angles, Continuity, Cutting, Close-Ups, and Composition (more like Four C’s and an A). It has hundreds of pictures (from the classic 50s) to get all the points across.

The Camera Assistant's Manual

The Camera Assistant’s Manual

If you want to have anything to do with the camera team then this is a must read. Directors and Producers should read this too just to understand everything that goes into the proper running and maintenance of an efficient camera and the accompanying team. It covers everything from checking gates to changing film to tips on how to always be alert to actors, directors, cinematographers and always on top of your game.

Set Lighting Technician's Handbook

Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook

This is one of those books where half of it is very useful chapters on lighting and color temperature and cine-stuff, and the other half is a reference for just about any light or light shaping device ever created. It’s a must have for planning how to light a set and a great reference book to have around.

Film Directing Shot by Shot

Film Directing Shot by Shot

This is a great workshop type book that walks you through how you would cover a scene with different shots and all the tools available to a director (and cinematographer) to use the camera as a story telling tool. There’s also a follow up book, Film Directing: Cinematic Motion, that has fewer examples but goes much more in-depth.

Reflections

Reflections

Each chapter is by a different, famous cinematographer who walks you through the lighting of a scene, with an emphasis on a different cinematographic technique in each scene. It’s a great read that focuses on real-world applications of all this lighting theory.

Image Control

This covers just about every filter available with color photos of its affects.

ASC Manual

The ASC Manual always sounded really cool and a must have book, but I’ve never found it to have anything that you couldn’t just look up online and print with a little forethought. It’s got tons of charts and reference diagrams, but for the price it never attracted me, especially since it has ads in it as well. I felt obligated to list it, but for me it falls in the borderline sucky category.

Just about all the links take you to the book’s Amazon listing, but check out the ASC site for some bundled deals.

All of these books and more can be found in the Coffee and Celluloid Amazon Store

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