Cinematography vs Videography – A Comparison

At one point or another, every business starts looking to hire a video production company to produce some marketing content. It is important to weigh videographer vs cinematographers.

Knowing the difference between these two kinds of technicians is what makes all the difference in hiring the right technicians and getting a good product.

It directly impacts the brand image that you want to project and the message that you want to convey to your audience in turn being a determinant in the success of your business.

The two kinds of professionals are essentially doing the same thing; filming with a camera. However, the method and the outcome are vastly different among the two.

Let’s dive into more detail about this.


Cinematography vs Videography


What is cinematography?

What comes to your head when you hear the word cinema?

That’s right. Red carpet premieres, galas, film festivals, global releases, the works. That is exactly what defines what sets cinematography apart from other modes of video-making.

The scale, the size of the crew, the production budget and method are all very large in cinematic productions.


As the name suggests, cinematographers are associated with professional-grade cinema filming. Production houses hire them to orchestrate and execute the vision of the writer, translating words on to the big screen.

Think Disney or Paramount Pictures and the people they would hire to film their stuff. It would be much larger, wouldn’t it?

There is another name for cinematographers, director of photography or DP.

They are in charge of multiple things in addition to the camera, such as lights, audio, the composition of the sequences, production angles, mood boards, color themes, frames, and just about everything else too.

Their execution makes all the difference in all what the audience perceives. They have to be careful to stay in the line of the story and to stick to the script while still adding immaculate value to the product.

They are the ones that make everything happen on the set. They are also the ones who have the final say in everything including all technical and artistic decisions.

It is because the directors are in charge of so much related to shooting, you will see them delegating these tasks to other crew members like the cameraman, light assistants, etc.

An example of where you don’t need a cinematographer would be that if you have a decent-sized wedding, you wouldn’t hire a DP.

Intimate events with a not-so-large budget do not demand the extravagance of getting a cinematographer on board.

They have a more hands-off approach when it comes to execution.

A cinematographer may or may not be associated with post-production. It is the director’s prerogative to include them or to not.


What is videography?

What comes to mind when you come across the word video? Maybe a small budget horror film from back in the 70s, your home videos of a toddler you on your dad’s camcorder, or something that you just recorded on your cellphone.

You can deduce from this is that videography is essentially a job of a one-man army, a lone ranger. Even if they have a team, it is a small one, a bare-bones crew.

Think YouTubers and V-loggers like Peter McKinnon and compare it with something larger like Buzzfeed that has a larger crew and assortment of equipment and different styles of recording.

Read More: How to Pick a Video Style for Your Next Project



Unlike cinematographers, the videographers do not work on professional-grade cinema products.

Instead, they are hired to shoot videos of private family events like weddings, birthdays, bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, etc.

They can also shoot corporate videos like interviews, conferences, parties, etc. Nature and wildlife is another popular genre with videographers.

A videographer is also someone you would prefer if you intend to produce marketing content like video montages, tutorials, testimonials, or small-budget commercials.

They operate the recording and lighting equipment, select location, and cover an event from the beginning to the end. They also execute the editing process themselves as well.

Often videographers also dabble into reporting, host private talk-shows, or produce small-budget TV shows as well that get picked up by networks if they are good enough.

More often than not, videographers operate their camera themselves. Not just that, they also set up lights, mix sounds, and also edit to the final product.

They have a purely hands-on approach.

Traditionally, the videographers have a much more constrained budget than the cinematographers.

In addition to that, a videographer has less control over how an event proceeds as they are mostly doing the live, unscripted shooting.

Sometimes, videographers also produce indie films and low-budget feature films as well. However, the term videographer in general exists outside of the film realm.

Read More: Step-by-step Live Action Video Production

Videography vs cinematography – the divide

A videographer lays the groundwork, capturing the images and doing that in an efficient, timely, and man-power consuming manner.

A cinematographer, however, tells a whole story that moves any unrelated audience and instigates strong emotions.

That is the entire job of the cinematographer, to get the viewer to feel what the writer intended for them to feel and to conjure a sensation in them.

It is more about art than it is about laying the foundation of production for a cinematographer.

If a videographer does all of that in their content, then sure, they can go ahead and call themselves a cinematographer. No one would say that a videographer cannot make art.

However, with cinematography, there are many more standards and criteria one needs to fulfill.

While the job of a cinematographer is all about the art and science of filmography, anyone merely recording an event can be called a videographer.

The nature of gigs that an average videographer books, there is less room for visual story-telling and creativity. Most of them are just for documentation and promotional purposes.

Considering the above-mentioned points describing the two different fields of the same profession, it is evident what is the difference between the two.

Here is a more comprehensive description if the divide that sets the two professions apart.

If you are someone who takes great footage of wildlife, you are a videographer. But if you are sending a compelling message through your footage that has room for creativity and storytelling, then you are a cinematographer.


The third kind; DSLR-graphers

One of the things that are confusing cinematography vs videography these days is the nifty little invention of the DSLR camera.

The new sophisticated features of a DSLR allow for a professional-grade production quality much like the one you see in Hollywood movies.

The ease in increasing your capabilities in filmography has made a lot of hobbyists adopt video making as a profession.

When amateur videographers produce content that is just as good as a professional cinematographer’s, there is bound to be some confusion.

People have started preferring the use of DSLR for even videography as well as to give it a scenic movie-like look.

I recently heard of a couple in my acquaintance hiring a DP for their wedding.

Lavish weddings deserve professional grade filming and the couple deserves their story to be told through interviews by friends and relatives, highlights, music, and narration.

This new age of videography that came with the DSLR is bridging the gap that used to exist between cinematographers and videographers.


How to determine if you need a videographer or a cinematographer?

In the new age, everyone is walking around with a satellite and a supercomputer in their pockets. The audiences today are as media savvy as can be.

Their demands from content have been elevated. The excess of content has the creators competing for their attention trying harder and harder to keep them engaged and using all kinds of emotive appeals to retain them.

This is all that is also being employed when someone to trying to sell their brand. So, when you hire a media production professional, you have to be certain exactly which one do you need.

Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself before you outsource a media production professional:

  • How do you want your material covered i.e. documentary style, reporting style, or with special audio and visual effects?
  • What do you want the tone to be i.e. serious and informative or having an emotional appeal?
  • How much do you wish to invest in production value i.e. props, wardrobe, etc. because more often than not you get what you paid for?

Answering these very basic questions can offer some clarity on whether to hire a videographer or a cinematographer.

Can’t someone be both?

You may find yourself asking the same question? Why can’t a videographer call themselves a cinematographer?

The answer is a bit of a cop-out. We can say that it depends on how the videographer produces its content.

Even while operating on a small budget and crew, if a videographer checks one of the boxes of what a cinematographer does, they can call themselves one.

So, the bottom line is that for a videographer, it depends on a project-to-project basis if they can fulfill the roles of a cinematographer.

A higher production budget, more creative liberty, and a larger crew can just as well render them a cinematographer.

So, if you are a videographer that takes on a lot of creative projects or often gets hired by large production companies on projects with large scopes, you can just as well call yourself a cinematographer.

Wear your crown of art with pride.


Posted by Fatima Najeeb

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