Reel Opportunities

Camera Operator

Also known as: Cameraperson, Studio Camera Operator, Steadicam Operator, Cameraman

What does a Camera Operator do?

Camera Operators are responsible for capturing the action on a film or television production. They play an integral role in the film and television production process, working closely with the Director of Photography, ensuring that the shots produced are in line with the visual style and tone of the project. They know how to choose which cameras to use in certain conditions and consider the composition, framing, and movement of a shot. They can also shoot what’s happening live, whether that’s on location for a news programme, documentary, or a large multi-camera studio show.

On larger productions there may be more than one Camera Operator, known as Camera A and Camera B. This allows for simultaneous coverage of a scene from various shots and set-ups. Each Camera Operator would have several Assistant Camera and Grips working as part of a cohort or mini-team in order to achieve each shot. On smaller productions, one Camera Operator would be responsible to cover all shots, and scenes may be played out several times in order to get a variety of angles and framing choices.

When shooting on location, such as on documentaries, they might be the only Camera Operator working in all kinds of conditions — underwater, in a snowstorm, or in a desert. They often operate a variety of different cameras, including handheld cameras mounted on a body frame (Steadicam) or a drone. They are responsible for taking care of the kit wherever they are shooting, and on smaller productions often own their equipment. They are also skilled at lighting composition.

What's a Camera Operator good at?
  • Photography

    Have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, focus, and framing. You may specialise in certain genres, but you must also be able to adapt to different shooting styles

  • Technical knowledge of cameras

    Have an in-depth understanding of the latest motion picture equipment, cameras, lens, monitors, and lights

  • Communication

    Listen, do what’s asked by the producer, director and work as a team with other crew and production staff

  • Multi-task

    Watch, listen, think quickly, and problem solve on the go, all whilst carrying out complex technical tasks, adapt to requirements of different shoots

  • Concentration

    Be patient, maintain focus over long programme shoots, stay calm under pressure

Who does a Camera Operator work with?

Camera Operators report directly to the Director of Photography and the 1st AD. Sometimes they may even take direction directly from the Director. Camera Operators work with the Grips to move and set up camera equipment and talk to the Gaffers about lighting too. They often have a Camera Assistant or two working with them. Lastly, they work directly with the Digital Imaging Technician on preserving data from memory cards.

How do I become a Camera Operator?

Camera Operator is a senior and experienced position. Most work their way up into this role from a position like Camera Assistant.

Here are some more tips:

Educational requirements: You may find courses in a combination of subjects that include art, art and design, graphic communication or photography, along with maths and physics.

Get an internship: Internships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. If you can’t get an internship with a broadcaster, it might be worth trying to find one outside the TV industry, where you can develop your skills and your craft. You can then move into TV at a later point. Before taking any internship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want.

Work for an equipment company: Contact an equipment rental company. Ask if you can become a kit room assistant for them. That way you will get to learn more about the kit and build up contacts.

Get a degree: It’s not essential to have a degree in order to become a Camera Operator. There are, however, degree courses that specialize in television production and photography that you might consider.

Get work experience: Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Professional Organizations Associated With This Role

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.