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In film and television productions, music videos, and other live action pieces, a cinematographer or director of photography (abbreviated DP or DOP) is the person in charge of shooting or recording the action on set. As the leader of the camera and lighting teams working on such projects, the cinematographer is often in charge of making creative and technical choices about the picture, as well as choosing the camera, film stock, lenses and filters, among other aspects of the project's visual aesthetics. Cinematography is the term used to describe the study and practise of this subject.

The cinematographer is a subordinate of the director, whose responsibility it is to capture a scene in line with the filmmaker's vision. The relationship between the cameraman and the director may be complicated. Depending on the situation, the director may provide full freedom to the cinematographer, while in other cases, the filmmaker may grant little to none, even going so far as to dictate precise camera location and lens choices. When the director and cinematographer have gotten acquainted with one another, this degree of participation becomes less frequent. Typically, the director will communicate to the cinematographer what he or she hopes to achieve aesthetically in a scene and will give the cinematographer some leeway in accomplishing that goal.

For editing, the pictures captured by the cinematographer are sent to the film editor for consideration.