There are three essential differences between an Orange County videographer and a cinematographer—the scope of their work, their crew, and their finished product or outcome. Although both are well-known for covering and documenting events, they are not actually interchangeable. Even the dictionary definition for both careers states the basic dissimilarities between the two.
Unfortunately, there are still people out there hiring videographers and calling them cinematographers. Likewise, people hire cinematographers under the impression that they also offer videography services. Some people do, but just as many don’t. Knowing the specific focus of each career can help you determine which one you actually want to hire.
Delving into the definition first, Merriam-Webster defines videography as “the practice or art of recording images with a video camera” and cinematography as “the art or science of motion-picture photography.” Furthermore, a cinematographer is evidently one who “oversees or directs photography and camerawork,” whereas a videographer is, quite succinctly, a “person who makes video films.”
When you hire an Orange County videographer to cover your wedding, you can expect a small crew—or even a solo act—that will cover the whole production process. Vanilla Video summarizes it quite nicely; videographers oversee a project from start to finish. Think of them as a one-man production stand.
Cinematographers, on the other hand, rarely handle the camera. They instead direct others on the best way to capture the scene, taking into account lighting, angles, landscape, and other elements.
The physical difference between the two would be crew size. As mentioned earlier, videographers are usually one-man acts. According to Techopedia, videography is small-scale video production carried out by “a team of a few individuals” or, more commonly, just the one, and they “do everything from shooting the video to setting and editing.” If you see only one or two people holding camera equipment at an event, calling them videographers would be a pretty safe bet.
Cinematographers, on the other hand, usually come part and parcel with a huge crew. They’re also referred to as the Director of Photography, according to Elements of Cinema, and are, in fact, in charge of directing the camera and lighting crews. Their job is to find the best possible way to frame a scene or event in order for it to match the overall creative vision for the project as closely as possible.
Ergo, they have to bear in mind angles, ambience, visual noise, landscaping, and a lot of other factors. Unlike a videographer, a cinematographer does not physically handle the equipment—just the people holding the equipment.
As far as outcome is concerned, both aim to produce high-quality footage depicting whatever event they were tasked to cover. The biggest difference in their outcomes is where in the production process they would consider their job “done.”
A cinematographer’s job ends once all the footage has been shot and the raws collected. Once there’s no longer something left to film, a cinematographer can leave everything to the editing team for trimming, splicing, color balance, text, filters, and other edits.
Meanwhile, videographers can’t consider their work done until the final, full-length video has been produced. In other words, once they’re done capturing all the pertinent parts of the event, they then have to move on to footage selection, editing, rendering, and finally media compilation and transfer. Until then, they can’t even consider their work complete.
This is why a Los Angeles videographer is best suited for covering events that require immediate, visible results. The nature of their work requires they work fast. Cinematographers, on the other hand, are better suited for large-scale events and theatrical film productions.