Interview with cinematographer Yuriy Shmakov


Yuriy was Born in Kotlas in the north of Russia. He’s been drawing since childhood. Yuriy started to work in a photo studio and slowly moved into filmmaking and editing. He graduated as an engineer but continue his career as a camera operator on a local TV channel. At the age of 25 he moved to Moscow and at first started to work on a student’s film sets. He’s learned lighting and worked as 1AC and 2AC. He then understood that he wants to shoot his own films and started to work as a cinematographer. Yuriy has never attended a film university everything he’s earned was from a film set, books and lots of practice.


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

During establishing my career as a cinematographer I’ve had a chance of working with different DoPs. I was observing their work and approach on different projects. I’ve learned that all the cinematographers are different and have their own unique skills. But the key skill which each cinematographer should have is to know how to listen and trust director.

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

Mikhail Krichman inspires me. I really like the pace of his camera work, the accuracy of camera movements and composition. His cinematographic solutions are so harmonious that sometimes they seem very simple. And I am also fascinated by the views of nature that he shows in his works.

  • What makes good cinematography?

Justification. Every decision must be justified. Whether it is long one-frame scenes or dynamic editing, light or lack of light – everything should work to reveal the idea and make the viewer more immersed.

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

A good camera must have the necessary features and specifications, and it must also be affordable. Different tasks require a more flexible approach to implementation. Sometimes even one project can be filmed with a camcorder and red. The main thing is to understand which tool will help to preserve the style, minimizing work for post production. Over the course of my work, I fell in love with Alexa Mini, for its color rendering, ease of setup and reliability.

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

I can only guess, since I started working when digital cameras had already firmly entered the world of cinema. I can say for sure that when we switched from miniDV cassettes to digital media on television, it became easier to work, since there was no need to digitize the material and there was no marriage of old cassettes.

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

I’ve started to check how image would look on a phone or even on an average TV after a color grading. Once I was very worried after the release of one of the ads, because the color correction looked different on different devises and masks were noticeable. After this experience, I always check the color correction from all the devices I have at hand. The color may differ, the main thing is that the overall harmony of colors does not break.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

Light. Without light, there would be impenetrable darkness.

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

Personally, I try to get into the project at the earliest stage and accompany it until release. I try to work with people I know, whose look, taste and opinion I trust. They also trust me (I hope :)). We have a common goal and, although we share responsibilities, we try to work together at all stages of production.

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

I can not say for sure. I usually know the production budget, as I need to understand what we can afford. And often, you need to choose what to spend money on. In my opinion, filling the frame is more important than expensive optics.

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

Be less demanding of yourself. Yes, the desire to bring everything to the ideal is necessary, but you should know how to switch and evaluate your work without focusing on minor flaws. Love what you do.