New York Film Academy
New York Film Academy Cinematography
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Cinematography School at the New York Film Academy

Filmmaking graduate Manuel Billeter is director of photography on OISTNB NYFA guest speaker Academy Award-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister NYFA guest speaker award-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro

Overview of our Cinematography School

Cinematographers, or Directors of Photography, occupy a central role in providing a film or TV show with a unique tone and visual context while capturing unique shots that stay in the minds of viewers for years. As the legendary filmmaker Nicolas Roeg once said, “You make the movie through the cinematography – it sounds like quite a simple idea, but it was a huge revelation to me.”

So what exactly does a cinematographer do? Cinematography is the art and craft of translating a story into images. To perform such a task, the cinematographer is required to master several different practices: materializing images with cameras, lenses, and lights; understanding both story as a concept and “the story” of the particular project as expressed by the director; and understanding how filmed images work together to deliver a story in ways that a novel, spoken word, or live performance cannot.

Of course, there is no shortage of cameras that a cinematographer might choose to use, and to that extent, students in the School of Cinematography get hands-on experience with a variety of formats and cameras, including Hi-Def, 16mm film, 35mm film, the Red Epic digital video camera, and HDSLR’s. Students enrolling in our Cinematography School not only get hands-on experience with a vast array of cameras, they also learn how cameras work and what each camera can achieve.

Central to becoming a successful, in-demand cinematographer is the development of one’s own unique voice and style behind the camera. While a cinematographer often develops a singular aesthetic that makes his or her work immediately recognizable, one must also focus on meeting the technical and creative demands of the director. A cinematographer is at once responsible for maintaining the technical aspects of shots, while simultaneously working to deliver images that fulfill the director’s aesthetic and creative vision. The cinematographer serves as the director’s main visual collaborator and as a result oversees every shot of a production. Furthermore, our Cinematography School aims to shape aspiring cinematographers into well-rounded Directors of Photography who are able to both film the scenes as the director envisions while also being able to inject their own style and ingenuity.

One cinematography challenge is to get the desired shot in the best and most effective way possible. As such, our School of Cinematography focuses on immersing students in the many nuances involved in setting up a shot, operating a camera, and effectively working with a film crew. One of the primary aspects that sets the Academy’s Cinematography School apart is our philosophy of learning by doing. Students can expect to shoot at least eight projects, while also serving on the crew of dozens of other productions as camera assistants, focus pullers, gaffers, and key grips, providing them with copious on-set experience that will translate to a successful professional career.

Students should expect to supplement their on-set education with extensive in-class instruction to familiarize them with the lexicon of cinematography, in addition to learning to work with a wide breadth of film stock, lenses, filters, depth of field, aspect ratio and framing, lighting, and camera movement. In short, our School of Cinematography provides the best real world education to help train a new generation of successful cinematographers.


At the heart of our Cinematography School is our world class faculty. Comprised of working professionals, each faculty member brings a unique background and specialty to their respective program, allowing students to get the most well-rounded cinematography education possible. From understanding the finer points of lighting to working on a soundstage to receiving hands-on camera education and becoming well-versed in color theory, our faculty makes it a priority to ensure Cinematography School students fully understand the expansive field of cinematography and its many technical and aesthetic demands.

Cinematography School Programs

Students interested in enrolling in the School of Cinematography at the New York Film Academy can choose between our One-Year Conservatory Program, offered in New York City and Los Angeles, and our MFA* degree program, offered in Los Angeles. In addition, students in the one-year program interested in furthering their education and receiving a degree can request that their course work be accepted for advanced standing and start in the second year of the MFA* program in Los Angeles. More information about each program is listed below.

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Cinematography*: A two-year graduate program offered at our Los Angeles campus, the Cinematography School’s MFA* program is focused on furthering the education of Directors of Photography through an intensive, hands-on environment. Students receive extensive on-set experience while filming on numerous classic locations on the Universal Studios backlot. Students will learn how to operate and understand the nuances of the major camera systems, including 16mm, 35mm, Hi-Def, and RED while also being able to oversee and deploy sophisticated lighting schemes. In addition to in-class lectures, supervised workshops, and completing original film projects, students will also receive an in-depth introduction to the cinematography canon, analyzing masterworks to further their own understanding of the format. Furthermore, students receive in-depth instruction in the technical, aesthetic, and storytelling demands of DP-ing a movie, in addition to learning set craft, technique, collaboration, and crew management.
  • One-Year Conservatory Cinematography Program: A concentrated, intensive introduction to the craft of cinematography, students spend two semesters in either New York City or Los Angeles receiving hands-on education with a variety of different cameras. During the first semester, students explore the aesthetics of cinematography by shooting black and white film on 16mm Arriflex S, color film stock on the Arriflex SR, and digital video on SLR cameras. By the second semester, students make the transition to shooting with 35mm film along with filming digitally, working with the Red Epic camera. In addition, they attend intensive cinema lighting workshops. Through continued hands-on instruction from our distinguished faculty, the One-Year Cinematography Program offers top-notch education for aspiring Directors of Photography and places them on the professional path to success.

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* All MFA, BFA, BA, MA, and AFA degree programs are offered only at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus.