Broadly defined, cinematography is the art of making movies. In learning to learn about cinematography, I’ve often seen it defined as “the stuff a director of photography has to know.” What’s a director of photography? In a larger production, it’s the DP’s job to make the director’s vision real by weilding both their technical and creative expertise. This includes lens/camera choices, lighting techniques, camera movement, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
One of the Things I love to do is learn how professionals at the top of their game do something, and to scale that down to my own workflows where it makes sense.
There is no substitute for doing the thing.
My advice based on what I know so far: spend a little time learning the basics, some of the rules and conventions, and then get out there and make some pictures. Grab a phone if that’s all you have. Use the best camera that you have (it doesn’t need to be 4k). Shoot some footage, learn how to edit it together. Start with what you have, whether that’s Microsoft Video Editor, iMovie, or the free version of DaVinci Resolve. When your gear or software starts limiting your creative ability: upgrade. This helps avoid Gear Acquisition Syndrome.
I’ve been reading cinematography: theory and practice which seems like a great introduction so far. It can get in to the weeds technically. It’s okay to skip over a section and come back later. If you’re looking more for basic conventions (shot types, movement, etc) and inspiration, The FIlmmaker’s Eye is another great starting point.
I also really enjoy Studio Binder’s blog and YouTube videos. You can learn a lot of basics very quickly from what they’ve posted. This shot guide links to a more detailed shot size post and both have great videos attached too.
Another great resource on cinematography and filmmaking in general is Woflcrow, who posts online content and videos to YouTube.
There’s also Cinematographers on Cinematography which posts longer form video content that’s mostly interviews and roundtables with names you’ve probably heard of. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s some of the best deep interviews with some of the biggest names out there.