How To Become a Camera Operator
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated July 1, 2022 | Published March 22, 2021
Updated July 1, 2022
Published March 22, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Working as a camera operator is a great way to break into the entertainment industry. Operators can work almost anywhere videos are created, which means there can be several opportunities to find work in the field. You might enjoy a career as a camera operator if you're interested in working in entertainment and have experience with camera and video equipment.
In this article, we explore what camera operators do as well as a list of steps that can help you start your career.
What is a camera operator?
A camera operator, historically known as a cameraman, is a photography professional who specializes in recording video images. Camera operators can work in several industries, such as film and television, news broadcasting, sports, music and more. This can give you the opportunity to work on creative projects and offer creative input into different aspects of filming, like camera angles or lighting. Aside from working on film or creative projects, camera operator are needed at almost any event where people intend to record video footage like weddings, graduation ceremonies or public performances.
What does a camera operator do?
A camera operator is mainly responsible for operating camera equipment to record video. This can involve setting up cameras and lighting, using different lenses and angles and planning shots before recording sessions. Camera operators can also help a film team by responding to any challenges that arise with technical equipment or logistics during a shoot. Most operators take instructions from directors, photography directors or floor managers to ensure their work reflects the vision of the creators in charge of each project they work on.
How to become a camera operator
Here's how you can start your career as a camera operator:
1. Earn a degree
Enroll in a bachelor's degree program at an accredited college or university. As a large portion of jobs for camera operators exist in the film and television industries, most aspiring camera operators major in film production or videography to ensure they receive training in the skills and equipment they need for their work in the field. However, you might also choose a related major like photography or video production that can teach many of the same subjects. Having a bachelor's degree can help you start your career by giving you the basic knowledge required to succeed as a cameraman.
2. Complete an internship
Apply to a camera operator internship and gain professional experience. Most operators seek internships with a film or television production company or a news broadcasting network. This allows aspiring camera operator to learn about their job duties from professionals in their industry by observing them during work and assisting with camera and equipment operations. While some colleges offer placement programs that connect students with internships they might be interested in, you can also find internships by conducting research online or reaching out to companies you want to work for.
Completing a camera operator internship can prepare you for work in the field by teaching you about industry protocol and giving you chances to network with other professionals you might want to work with in the future.
3. Apply for jobs as a camera operator
Look for work as a professional camera operator. You might consider applying for jobs at the company where you complete your internship as you likely have a general understanding of their procedures and operations. However, you can also look for jobs as a camera operator with film or television production companies, news broadcasting networks, sports and events companies and more. It can be helpful to determine which industry you want to work in before looking for specific jobs as it might determine where you search for open positions.
Networking can also benefit you during this step as you can reach out to professionals you meet during your education and internship who are familiar with your skills and work ethic. This might increase your chances of being hired, especially if any connections know about job openings with their company or other companies they know.
Work environment for camera operators
Camera operators can work in a number of industries like film, music, news, TV and more. Because of this, their work environment often depends on the company they work for and the industry they operate in. For example, an operator who works in film might work on a film lot or at a studio and typically has to set up and transport their equipment to different shooting locations, as some film projects might shoot video at sites outside of their studio.
A camera operator who works for a news broadcasting network usually spends most of their time in the studio, shooting video from a stationary position. This might differ for operators who work with field reporters, as they may need to use handheld video equipment and be prepared to move around to catch different shots.
FAQs about camera operators
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about being a camera operator:
What skills does a cameraman need?
Camera operators need a variety of skills that involve working with camera equipment to successfully complete their job duties. This includes a working knowledge of cameras and lenses, as well as lighting and sound equipment. Operators also typically need excellent organizational skills, as they often shoot multiple shots in a single day and have to know where to position their cameras for each recording session. A camera operator can also benefit from having effective interpersonal and communication skills that can help them communicate effectively with their employers and other members of the creative teams they work with and take direction from.
How much do cameramen earn?
Indeed lists the national average salary of camera operators as $33,442 per year. However, Indeed also shows higher salaries for operators up to $113,608 per year, depending on the years of experience a camera operator has and the company they work for. Camera operators can also qualify for benefits outside of their salary, such as health insurance, life insurance, 401(k) and employee discounts.
What is the job outlook for cameramen?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of people employed as camera operators for video projects is expected to grow by 18% by 2030. The BLS attributes this growth to an increase in the number of internet platforms, like streaming services, and developments in special effects that require experienced cameramen to produce the desired results.
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