This is aimed at those who are starting to produce their first films, but may be worthwhile for newer shooters too. I have had DP reels of my own for 20 years, and viewed those of others for longer. Having discussed this with agents, producers and other DPs at length, here are some thoughts about narrative reels; commercial reels and music video reels will be quite different. When seeking a DP and looking at reels : 1) Turn the sound off. Really. You are hiring a DP, and the music people use to sexy -up their reels or evoke emotion detract at best, and at worst, enhance. Great for a movie- not for screening DPs. 2) Watch for coverage. Many reels have a montage of beautiful shots, but virtually none from the same scene. You will want to see complete scenes and how they are covered and cut. Yes, some of this can be the editor's hand, but someone shot it first. 5 minutes of pretty but disjoint shots tells you little about the DP's ability to deliver footage that works in toto. 3) Watch for style. A big mistake people make when hiring DPs ( not just indies- it happens at all levels) is to look for the exact scenes in your head to appear on a reel. That won't happen. What may serve you better is if the lighting and camera styles favored in the reel are remotely similar in sensibility to something you like, then further discuss your ideas with that DP and see if they can come up with some ideas in support of your vision. Whatever movie you make, you will build it together anyway. You cannot order cinematography off a menu. That said, there are people who do a couple looks well, and they don't deviate. So you need to know if there is flexibility outside the reel. 4) Ask about impressive scenes. Were they shot for the reel specifically ? From a movie? Did the DP also direct ? How long did it take ? We live in age when people can make all kinds of great imagery with lots of resources of time money and manpower, and also with very little. It's hard to tell how people got the results they got. You want to get an idea that the work that so impresses you comes from a person and a process that fits what you are doing, with the resources you have. 5) Ask to see the whole movie, if you like the reel scenes. But don't judge the cinematography by the acting or the score.. good or bad. Excuses or about how it's not available may or may not mean something worth investigating further. ( I had a filmmaker ask about a horrible movie I shot that wasn't on my reel; he found it at WalMart in the $5 bin. He was ready to hire me but his wife insisted they find a random film of mine and watch it. Without leading, he asked me about it. I said " My kid needed to eat". He laughed, and said if I had defended it or squirmed, he would not have hired me. But I digress... 6) Be clear on what the DP actually did in the reel. This used to be a given, but times are muddied a bit. If you seek a DP who operates all their own footage, be sure that ghostly handheld was them and not their operator. If you want someone who follows your Director, make sure the DP has worked as a DP- there are many DP/ Director/Editor types who do nice work on their own but may or may not fit taking the lead of another. And since camera operation is only a part of the job, who lit the scenes ? Was the DP a hands-on gaffer too, does he lean on his gaffer, can he light at all ? These are questions generated by some reels; the answers are important but may be hard to get and have to be asked tactfully or round-about. 7) A reel seldom tells you who to hire. It usually tells you who NOT to hire, right away. When you start at 100 and come back to 3 or 4, then you have to sit down and figure out if you can go to war with one of those DPs joined at your hip.