Educational Resource Books For Cinematography

INCLUDED IN THIS LESSON:  Written description of each book and what you will learn in it

IN THIS LESSON YOU WILL LEARN:  What books do you read to learn about Cinematography, Lighting, Composition, and Filmmaking?  In this Lesson I take you through the ones that were influential in my career and my development as an artist.  This lesson is designed for the Entry Level filmmaker who is looking to dive into the career of Visual Storytelling.

Welcome to a list of my favorite resource books for Cinematography. Here’s some Books I use for Inspiration as part of the Cinematography Prep Kit!

Many people have approached me with questions about books on cinematography that I am inspired by too so here’s a selection to expand your scope and vision. These are a few of my favorites.


Cinematography: Theory & Practice
Cinematography: Theory & Practice

Title: Cinematography Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
Author and Publisher: Blaine Brown, Focal Press 2012

This comprehensive book is geared for those who are interested in practicing cinematography on a professional level. The book covers cinematic technique as well as technical knowledge on exposure, optics, lighting, image control, shooting HD video and more. Loaded with photos and in-depth illustrations. The best choice for an overall education on the art and science of cinematography.

Cinematography: Third Edition
Cinematography: Third Edition

Title: Cinematography: Third Edition
Author and Publisher: Kris Malkiewicz, M. David Mullen, Fireside 2005

This completely revised third edition has more than 200 new illustrations and offers a detailed look at film techniques and technology. Topics include cameras, filters and light, lighting, sound recording, post-production and more. The book moves from practical information to the substance of the cinematographer’s craft.

FilmCraft: Cinematography
FilmCraft: Cinematography

Title: FilmCraft: Cinematography
Author and Publisher: Tim Grierson, Mike Goodridge, Focal Press 2012

The first book in a series on the art of cinematography. It is a collection of discussions with noted professionals in this field. They offer insight from their experiences on film projects with an in-depth look of the use of color, camera movement vs. still placement, and the differences between shooting on film and digital. There are illustrated examples from each DP on the choices they made and why.

Theory of Film
Theory of Film

Title: Theory of Film
Author and Publisher: Siegfried Kracauer, Princeton University Press 1997

Originally published in 1960, Kracauer offers a detailed look at cinema comparing how film is similar to and yet wholly different from other fine arts including photography, theatre, and literature.

Technical Aspects of Cinematography:

Shooting Movies without Shooting Yourself in the Foot
Shooting Movies without Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Title: Shooting Movies Without Shooting Yourself In The Foot: Becoming a Cinematographer
Author and Publisher: Jack Anderson, Focal Press 2012

Written by a cinematographer who shares his experience and knowledge on the techniques and concepts of the trade. Geared toward filmmakers who are working on a budget, the book covers everything from breaking down a script, on set etiquette and the technicalities of lenses, film, lighting and post-production processes. Included are practical exercises, checklists, cheat sheets and a companion website with demos and additional explanations of concepts.

The Filmmaker's Handbook
The Filmmaker’s Handbook

Title: The Filmmaker’s Handbook
Author and Publisher: Plume, revised edition 2007

This updated guide, used by students, teachers and professionals, addresses all aspects of filmmaking. Topics covered are techniques for making narrative, documentary, corporate, experimental and feature films, working with high-definition and standard-definition digital video formats, including DV, HD, and HDV, extensive coverage of video editing with the latest nonlinear editing systems, thorough grounding in lenses, lighting, sound recording, and sound editing and more. A good place to begin for an overall education on shooting digital.

The Five C's of Cinematography
The Five C’s of Cinematography

Title: The Five C’s of Cinematography
Author and Publisher: Joseph Mascelli, Silman-James Press 1998

Another book that supports the mantra of technique over technology. The 5 C’s are camera angles, continuity, cutting, close-ups, and composition. These essential concepts are presented as well as the techniques of motion picture camerawork and the allied areas of filmmaking that they interact with and impact.


Motion Picture and Video Lighting
Motion Picture and Video Lighting

Title: Motion Picture and Video Lighting – Second Edition
Author and Publisher: Blaine Brown, Focal Press 2008

A very comprehensive book covering the history of lighting, fundamentals of lighting, lighting sources, exposure theory, lighting HD video, theory of color, on set operations and much more. Each chapter has many examples and diagrams to further illustrate concepts. This new edition includes a DVD, which goes behind-the-scenes on an actual shoot, providing clips of lighting demonstrations, technical tests, workshops and more.

Reflections: Twenty-One cinematographers at Work
Reflections: Twenty-One cinematographers at Work

Title: Reflections: Twenty-One Cinematographers at Work
Author and Publisher: Benjamin Bergery, ASC Press 2002

Through a variety of discussions, some of the top respected cinematographers examine their profession, analyzing the art form from both their technical and aesthetic perspective. The book covers lighting design, specific shooting setups, lab processing and other aspects of the profession such as their artistic philosophy and their insight on working with directors. Included are lighting diagrams with explanations on why they look good as well as footage examples and what if comparisons. A good book for intermediate and aspiring cinematographers.

Painting with Light
Painting with Light

Title: Painting With Light
Author and Publisher: John Alton, University of California Press; 4th Edition 1995

John Alton was one of the most renowned cinematographers of the postwar American cinema. His book, Painting With Light, was first published in 1949 and is back in print. While some of the technology may be outdated, the technique is not. The book’s primary focus is light itself – using it to express and create. Alton covers a wide spectrum of the history and craft of cinematography. Chapters detail specific lighting techniques such as mystery lighting, special illumination, lighting for ladies and lighting for day and night. The book also includes information on the laboratory process and still photography. The book includes many pictorial examples and diagrams, which explain his principles and insights.

Masters of Light
Masters of Light

Title: Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers
Author and Publisher: Dennis Schaefer, Larry Salvato, University of California Press 1986

This book explores using light to communicate feeling. Through discussions with fifteen accomplished cinematographers, the author provides an intimate look at their approaches to filmmaking, the films on which they have worked, and the techniques they have used to solve specific problems.


The Filmmaker's Eye
The Filmmaker’s Eye

Title: The Filmmaker’s Eye: Learning and Breaking the Rules of Cinematic Composition
Author and Publisher: Gutavo Mercado, Focal Press 2011

With hundreds of full color examples, The Filmmaker’s Eye is designed to combine conceptual and practical instruction on how to become a visual storyteller and how to make choices that support your vision. The basic principles of composing a shot such as aspect ratios, rule of thirds, angles, types of shots and more are covered first. A variety of shots are then deconstructed in the following format: why it works, how it works, technical considerations and when to break the rules.

Master Shots Vol. 2
Master Shots Vol. 2

Title: Master Shots Volume 2: Shooting Great Dialogue Scenes
Author and Publisher: Christopher Kenworthy, Michael Wiese Productions; 2nd edition 2011

From Publisher: Building on the success of the bestselling “Master Shots,” this volume goes much deeper, revealing the great directors’ secrets for making the most of the visual during the usual static dialogue scene. Includes more than 200 diagrams illustrating camera positions.

DSLR Specific:

DSLR Cinema
DSLR Cinema

Title: DSLR Cinema, Second Edition: Crafting the Film Look with Large Sensor Video
Author and Publisher: Kurt Lancaster, Focal Press 2012

One of the first books written about DSLR cameras being used as a cinematography tool. Lancaster uses case studies on specific disciplines featuring work from Shane Hurlbut, ASC and Director, Po Chan, Phillip Bloom, Bernardo Uzeda, Rii Schroer and Jeremy Ian Thomas. The book explores the process of using DSLR to visually tell your story and the technical possibilities, challenges and solutions with this format. There is also a companion website at

From Still to Motion
From Still to Motion

Title: From Still to Motion: A Photographer’s Guide To Creating Video With Your DSLR
Author and Publisher: Justin Ball, Robbie Carmen, Matt Gottshalk, Richard Harrington, New Riders 2010

A guide that takes the reader from planning a shoot to post-production and everything in between. To demonstrate all the concepts in action, a full, real-world example from a music video and artist promo package runs throughout the book. Included is a DVD with six hours of more in-depth learning on each topic. A good book for photographers evolving into moving pictures.

The DSLR Filmmaker's Handbook
The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook

Title: The DSLR Filmmaker’s Handbook: Real-World Production Techniques
Author and Publisher: Barry Andersson, Janie L Geyen

Another good handbook for getting the most out of DSLR shooting. Topics include choosing the camera, lenses and accessories for your shoot, differences in using still lenses vs. cinema lenses, lighting, color and creating a “look,” plus much more.


Color Correction Handbook
Color Correction Handbook

Title: Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques for Video and Cinema
Author and Publisher: Alexis Van Hurkman, Peachpit Press 2011

Although this book is geared to methods for evaluating and correcting an overall image, it also covers how we see color, color temperature, contrast, chroma, dealing with under and overexposure and color correction vs. color grading. The accompanying DVD contains footage, as well as cross-platform exercises and project files for readers to experiment with. It is a very thorough book covering the terminology and concepts of color and image.


Title: R34G38B25
Author and Publisher: Christopher Doyle, Gingko Press 2005

A interesting collection of works and images by cinematographer Christopher Doyle. The book looks at textures, colors and the complicities on the 2002 film Hero, for which he was awarded Best Cinematography by the New York and Chicago Film Critics Circles, the National Society of Film Critics and at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

If It's Purple, Someone's Gonna Die
If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die

Title: If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling
Author and Publisher: Patti Bellantoni, Focal Press 2005

From the publisher: A solid look at color theory in a wide range of movies. This enlightening book guides filmmakers toward making the right color selections for their films and helps movie buffs understand why they feel the way they do while watching movies that incorporate certain colors.

Other titles worth checking out:

A Man with A Camera
A Man with A Camera

Title: A Man With A Camera
Author: Nestor Almendros

Making Pictures
Making Pictures

Title: Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography
Author: Sven Nykvist, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marcello Mastoianni


Title: Storaro: Writing With Light Trilogy, with DVD
Author: Vittorio Storaro

We are directing all comments and questions to our New Forum, please find the related course in the forum’s categories to submit.

Sean Christian 3 days ago

Shane, as always thanks for sharing your brain with others that aspire to achieve success that you have achieved. This is awesome!

Nguyen Quang Duc 26 days ago

I can’t see any content in this chapter, maybe is something wrong.

Freddy Matos 26 days ago

Hola!!! Gracias por todo el conocimiento trasmitido…. Otra cosa en esta lección no logro ver los libros o los enlaces. Saludos

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    24 days ago

      @Freddy Matos Hola Freddy, De nada mi amigo. Tenemos un error con los enlaces y estamos intentando solucionarlo. gracias por su paciencia

Mintesinot 27 days ago

Hey Shane AKA the best Cinematographer! Am from Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. I followed your blogs, vlogs, lecture materials, and your movies. It’s so generous of you sharing all these to your fellow brothers and sisters. I am starting out on cinematography and am more interesting with the way how emotions of a scene can be expressed with a light and you sir are simply the best with it! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    24 days ago

      @Mintesinot HI Mintesinot, AAAHHHHH thank you so much for those wonderful words. Hello from Ethiopia. So glad that you are enjoying our Academy and thank you for your commitment to yourself, to invest in your career. Kudos

Mintesinot 27 days ago

Hey Shane AKA the best Cinematographer!

Khulani 2 days ago

Thanks Uncle Shane …. Much appreciate all the work and effort you do for us

Lewis Roseweir 8 days ago

I don’t know if I’m missing something, but I can’t see any content in this post. I can only see the comments…

alexandrous markowe 21 days ago

it`s been a huge experience to find this material. I do apreceatte the time DoP Hurlbut spend to do that!!.

Luis Maurizzio 1 days ago

Hi Shane, firstly I just wanted to thank you for everything you do to share your knowledge with the rest of the world, I really appreciate that. Regarding this section, I wonder if I’m doing something wrong because I can’t see anything but people’s comments. I’ve tried refreshing the page several times but the only thing I see are the comments and the “share your work” section. Please let me know if there is anything you could do, maybe redirect me to another link with this info or just copy and paste it here if you could. Also I wonder if you could share parts of the script from fathers and daughters with the embedded shot list that Gabrielle gave plus your notes on mood, feel and tone. Just to have a visual example on the script with all of those things, I hope that is possible. Thank you very much, you are a wonderful human!

    • Luis Maurizzio    Today

      @Luis Maurizzio Fixed, sorry for my previous message. I was using Safari on my MacBook Pro, I copied and pasted the link on Chrome and it works fine. Thank you for your time =)

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    Today

      @Luis Maurizzio HI Luis, So sorry for the inconvenience my friend and thank you for your kind words. We have had some issues with this Blog Post. Remember all of these are in the Hurlbut Academy Sampler that is for free in the store. 0 dollars Enjoy and stay safe

Christian Benoit 8 days ago

Wonderful amount of information

Zanin Lindsay 16 days ago

Hey there Shane, aspiring cinematographer from The Bronx and freelance camera assistant. I just want to thank you so much for making these classes available! Aside from my freelance work I have been looking for more ways to improve my craft in cinematography that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere.

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    15 days ago

      @Zanin Lindsay HI Zanin, Not to brag but this is the Epicenter for Cinematography my friend. You have come to the right spot. You are so welcome and stay safe out there in NYC. You are getting hit hard, please shelter in place.

Jianyu Li 18 days ago

Thanks to you Shane, I found my time not difficult at all while self-quarantine.

Pedro Lenehr 19 days ago

Hi Shane, thank you very much for all those book recommendations. I’ll definitely buy some of them to share with my pals. Maybe you can help me with a doubt I have, since I first studied cinematography in Argentina and my teatcher at the time showed me a very complete, direct and technical book of cinematography which looked like something everyone from the industry would have. It had a plain red cover with this very obvious title, something like “Cinematography’s guide book”, and althought it might had 200 or 300 pages it was kind of small. Seemed like something to carry on with. My teatcher might have said that this book can not be bought, but that can be also something my mind invented around this whole obsession. And thank you again, I’m really appreciating the lessons!

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    18 days ago

      @Pedro Lenehr Hi Pedro, so glad to have you from Argentina, I love that country, was there shooting a big commercial campaign in early 2002. Here is your link to that special book. It is the American Cinematographer's Manual:

    • Pedro Lenehr    18 days ago

      @Pedro Lenehr Yes! Finally! Thank you very very much! I'm actually from Brasil, but I've lived in Argentina for a couple of years to study cinema. I do also love that country and I owe so much of my knowledge and experience to them.

Pedro Lenehr 19 days ago

Hi Shane, thank you very much for all those book recommendations. I’ll definitely buy some of them to share with my pals.

Luke Fletcher 22 days ago

Hey Shane, I apologize in advance if I’m missing something, but I can’t figure out how to complete this lesson so that it will allow me to move on to the next.

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    22 days ago

      @Luke Fletcher Hi Luke, once you have completed this you can just move forward in the blog post. So jump out of that lesson and click then next blue buttons below in the blog post

    • Pedro Lenehr    19 days ago

      @Luke Fletcher I'm having the same issue. There's no "complete lesson" button like on the past lessons. I moved forward to the next lesson but the main video of it is not displayed on the page, it is just not there. That also hinds the "complete lesson" on the next lesson.

    • Shane Hurlbut, ASC    18 days ago

      @Luke Fletcher HI Pedro, so sorry you are having issues. I will look into this. We thought we fixed it. HA HAThanks

Andrew Khoo 25 days ago

something to lookout for.

ali ameer 26 days ago


Mohammed Sattar 26 days ago

Great books