Tanner Shinnick // Director & Director of Photography

the blog

4 Helpful Tips for New or Aspiring Freelance Cinematographers

When I first decided to become an Atlanta Based Freelance Director of Photography and cinematographer, I had to leave behind a lot of securities and safety nets that I had in place for years. Going out on your own always proposes some sort of risk. However, you have to be willing to make those risks in order to obtain the career goals you have established for yourself. Let’s take a look at some tips to help with your jump into the freelance film world.




Just Jump In

Atlanta Director of Photography

It was August 2016 and I decided to leave my cush agency job and salary to take a risk and start my dream in Atlanta as a freelance Director of Photography and Cinematographer. It was a gigantic risk. I had spent the last 5 years as an in-house cinematographer and had a wife, a 6 month old daughter, and only a 6 month safety net of committed projects. It was new and unfamiliar terrain.

However, the best thing I could’ve ever done was make that leap. As odd as it may sound, when the time is right for you to make that risk, the universe will tell you. For me, I knew once I had a decent amount of freelance projects committed that I could survive doing this for at least 6 months. I just had to jump in.






Network Network Network

Networking is different now. Don’t network with the sole intent of immediately booking work. Network in order to establish connections. Networking, in general, is a very very soft sell. Stop treating as a means for a hard sell. Far too often I find that content creators look at networking as a immediate means to gain immediate work. Although that can ring true, networking should be considered more of a long game than a short game. Networking is best utilized as a means to create and become part of a filmmaking community. The work will come but being part of a strong and vibrant community will last far longer than just one job.

Find your people within your realm of production. Talk shop. Talk gear.

I’m going to say something controversial here that a lot of people may not agree with; don’t bother with meetup groups. Find working professionals in your area whose work you admire, then reach out to those people and ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee. You’ll find that these 1-on-1 meetings are far more personal and productive than being part of a large meetup group where 90% of the people there are looking for a way to immediately book their next gig.


Curate Your Online Presence

People will find you online and they’ll judge your work. The way people can find you online is constantly evolving. I’ve been hired through Instagram, Vimeo, my website, Staffmeup and various other means. All your work should reflect the same uniform image across all platforms. In short, hide all of those questionable projects from 7 years ago hidden in the depths of your Vimeo channel that you don’t think anyone will ever find. They will find it and you’ll always be judged by the worst piece in your portfolio. Put only your best work online. Make everything else private.

Be Cool to Work With

This seems simple, but I think all too often many people forget about this. I’m a strong believer in the fact that it will always be easier to maintain current clients than to find new ones. Once you book that new client, ensure that they have a great experience working with you. Don’t be a diva. Don’t be a jerk. Things like that won’t get you hired again. What will get you hired again is working hard, doing a damn good job and overall just nice to be around.



Overall, jumping into the freelance world as a cinematographer can be challenging. However, if adequately prepared, you can make this new journey a successful one that will last you an entire career.