To Cinema, With Love | Spotlight

Episode 2: Japinder Singh, Cinematographer


Japinder Singh is a stellar photographer and cinematographer, who has been making several short films and music videos since more than 20 years. Here, in conversation with Siddhant Chandak, he talks about the art of cinematography.

Who is the cinematographer?

The main role of the cinematographer is to take care of all things visual. He/She works very closely with the director, to set the background, location, lighting and so on. If suppose a director wants to take a closeup, then the it’s the cinematographer’s job to see what is in the frame, what isn’t, whether the backgrounds are blurred or not and basically everything that conveys the emotion of the scene while making it look beautiful .

A close up shot from Die Hard
Cinematographer: Jan de Bont

If the cinematographer isn’t good, then the success of the film is a question mark, because there won’t be any visual impact.

So can we say that a cinematographer makes the shots beautiful?

Yes, but that’s just a component of his job; all the lighting, the framing (background of the shot), and lensing are tools that the cinematographer uses to contribute to the visual and emotional impact of the film. The cinematic experience you have is all because of the cinematographer.

Are there any particular films that you like from a cinematography point of view?

If we talk about Indian films, the films of Sanjay Leela Bhansali have amazing cinematography. Think about Saawariya, or particularly the bridge shot:

Cinematographer : Ravi K. Chandran


Where should the light fall on the bridge, where it shouldn’t, how much light should the lamps on the street throw, where the actors should be positioned, what the reflection in the water should look like– everything is a decision that the cinematographer makes. And it is the sum of these decisions that elevate your experience. Any of your favourite films take a look at the kind of impact the lighting, framing, and lot more have on you.

Lighting is a huge component then?

Absolutely, the kind of lighting a scene has changes the scene completely.

How do cinematographers make a decision regarding lighting?

It usually happens after a location is decided. Some of the top cinematographers are always on the lookout for places to shoot, to visualise about it. The kind of lighting depends on the kind of shot. A dramatic shot would have a definitely have a different lighting, than say, a comedic shot. Say you have a similar kind of shot in a sci-fi film and a drama series. It is the cinematographer who will make a decision regarding the lighting, which would further influence the emotional impact it will have.

Best cinematography at filmfare this year was for Golmaal Again, your thoughts?

(Laughs) Can’t say anything about the Indian Award Shows.

What role do cinematographers play in CGI heavy films?

In CGI heavy films, they are not there during the actual making process, but before and after the compilation with the technicians, the cinematographers do take important decisions regarding the lighting, framing etc.

Blade Runner 2049
Cinematographer: Roger Deakins (Who won an oscar for this)

Do you think that the relationship between the director and cinematographer should be good?

Not just good, it needs to be spectacular. They completely need to be in sync at all time and understand each other. This is why the directors and cinematographers who work together often continue to do so.

I have some shots here that I found (TBH I didn’t find them I just googled Best Cinematography shots), and I would love to get your thoughts on them:

Reservoir Dogs
Cinematographer : Andrzej Sekuła


I’ll ask you something, you see the shadows of the pipes in the background? What do you think is the purpose of it? Why does the light of the lamp hanging in the background not fall downwards? It’s not by chance or mistake. It is only because of these, that this shot has an impact on you.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Cinematographer : Tak Fujimoto

In this shot, why is that man looking at the paintings even there?! In this case, particularly, he is there to simply balance out this shot. If you remove him the shot looks imbalanced (he actually showed me how it would look without the guy in the background, it did look weird, very weird).

2001 A Space Odyssey
Cinematographer : Geoffrey Unsworth & John Alcott

The light panels in the background are placed in a certain way that makes the shot look like it is going into something. Secondly, the costume of the astronaut also provides a great contrast.

What are the basic components that the cinematographer looks out for?

Lighting, the kind of lens used, what is in the background are the main components, but various cinematographers have different styles which require them to use incorporate different components. For example, Roger Deakins actually works very closely with the art department and himself picks out the kind of lamps used in shots.

Roger Deakins

Lastly, how does one become a cinematographer?

Pick up your camera and record!


About, To Cinema With Love:

Films may not just be art, and they’re not simply entertainment either. What they are, for sure, is an experience.

When you want to watch a film, you make a plan with your friends or family or sometimes with just yourself. You buy the tickets, get some popcorn, get in the seat and enjoy the show–even if you merely open up your laptop and watch the film, it still is an experience for you, whether good or bad.

That experience can make you laugh, cry or maybe even think. This series is a homage to that very experience.

This is a homage to cinema.



Do you have a passion for cinematography? Did you like this interview or learn something which fascinated you? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment down below, pressing the like, and sharing!

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  1. You’re kidding right? There is no eloquent writing, it gets boring by the line and ghanta enlightening. I hope they cancel the series. Useless and pointless series and writer.

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