Interview with cinematographer Jonathan Lee Steiner

  • What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in being a cinematographer/DP?

Patience, respect for others opinions, the ability to see beauty in the ugly.

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

Emmanuel Lubezki, Robert Richardson, Roger Deakins, Chung-hoon Chung, Scott Cunningham.

  • What makes good cinematography?

Lighting, using the right lens, finding the interesting angle and maybe most importantly the feeling you get. Ideally, every shot should hold it’s weight as a stills photograph.

  • What makes a good camera? And what has been your favorite camera to use?

I love my old cheap Nikon D5100, now I love my Fujifilm XT3. Both are very ergonomic and intuitive. Of course I would love to shoot on film one day and use some “Big Boy” cameras and lenses.

  • Do you think that cinematographer’s work has changed when movies went from film to digital?

Of course. But it’s such a general question, the good guys are good and will stay good, it’s just a lot more crap being made now.

  • Now that people watch films on TV, computers and even their phones, do you think about that end experience when you are shooting?

Yes, especially when shooting something you know most people will be watching on their phone.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

For me they are inseparable. Quality of light is very important, and I love natural light.

  • What is the cinematographer’s involvement in pre-production, production and post-production?

At this point in my career I’m very involved in all aspects of the projects I work on, a lot of times doing pre and post as well as directing.

  • What involvement in the production budget does the cinematographer/DP have?


  • What is your most valuable advice for being a Cinematographer/DP?

Think of every frame as a stills photograph, if you’re starting out just try filming beautiful shots with what you have – whatever camera you have, whatever light is available, experiment and enjoy.