Close this search box.

What is Principal Photography? An Explanation of the Process and Significance

If you’re into the visual arts, you’ve likely heard the term ‘principal photography’ and wondered what it actually meant. Counter to the name, it actually refers to cinematography, not photography! 

What is Principal Photography? 

Principal Photography refers to the second phase of filming a movie, television show, or other video endeavor. The first phase is pre-production, second phase is Principal Photography, and the third phase is post production. 

Principal Photography is when the production is actively being filmed. All of the actors are on set and the cameras are rolling! This is the most expensive part of filming as well as it takes the most time and assets. If you’ve ever seen rolling cameras and sets on sidewalks in cities, you likely witnessed principal photography taking place. 

Why Is It Called Principal Photography? 

The term Principal Photography refers to the fact that this is the part of the process where filming or photography is of the most importance. It’s the “principal” part. All that is shot here makes up the movie, television show, or video. 


There are many jobs to be had during principal photography- from being an actor, to a sound engineer, a gaffer (a person who lights a set), all the way to being an actual videographer who films! Now this bizarre phrase has been uncovered for you. 

Scroll to Top