A Director of Photography is your organizations parachute and/or translator

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

No one in our military jumps out of plane without a parachute. It is pretty self explanatory as to why you need support or you will crash to the ground.

The parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag. When it comes to jumping out of a plane it is more important that you are alive when you land than how fast it took you to get to the ground.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 450, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Our son Nelson is on the left in this photo. He had just finished his first jump at the Army’s Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia. After they land each soldier is required to repack their parachute.

They will use the same parachute again and again during the school. You see you don’t use the parachute once to help you navigate the jump and then you abandon it later.

Director of Photography is like a parachute to the organization that hires photographers. They are there to help protect the organization and the photographers so that the mission is safely accomplished.

Here Patrick Murphy-Racey talks with Lily Wang the way sometimes a director of photography does with their photographers. Sometimes they coach their photographers about things they need done for the organization.

Another metaphor is to think of the Director of Photography like a translator. They deal with the details to be sure nothing is left out of the translation so that the goal is achieved.

To be a translator you cannot just speak both languages. You have to take tests and prove that you understand the nuances of the languages or you get those translations we call Chinglish.

Cecil B. De Mille wrote:

“The Director of Photography is the custodian of the heart of film making… as the writers are of its soul… his tool is a box with a glass window, lifeless until he breathes into it his creative spirit and injects into its steel veins, the plasma of his imagination… the product of his camera, and therefore of his  magic, means many things to many persons – fulfillment of an ambition… realization of dreams.”

The Director of Photography for a movie has a similar role as a Director of Photography has for still photography projects.

Here are some things that a Director of Photographer should do for your organization:

  • Is in the meetings where projects are created to help determine if photography is a good solution
    • Generates ideas for the organization
    • Helps refine ideas by suggesting different treatments for projects
    • Continues to remind the team to remember visuals in their projects
  • Finds the best photographer for the job
  • Communicates with the photographer all the needs and expectations of the project
  • Negotiates rates based on
    • Difficulty of the job
    • Rights management
    • Scope of the project
  • Insures metadata is embedded properly into all images
    • Proper caption information
    • Keywording
    • Rights are spelled out
    • Model/Property Release
    • Filenaming
  • Works with the photographer to get all model and property releases as needed and that they are also digitally filed with the photos into the image database
James Dockery, works as a lead video editor for ESPN, and is here talking with student about their project during our workshop last year in Romania. Often the director of photography wears this hat where they are helping the photographer flesh out an idea or treatment of the story.
They serve as a sounding board for both the organizations communications staff and the photographers as well.
Maybe from your experience you can add other aspects that I might have left out in the comments section.