A camera operator records the visual images that make up movies, television shows, news broadcasts, music videos and televised news and sporting events. If you were to visit the set of a movie or television show, you would see the "cameraman" filming the action. He or she may also film live events like concerts and sports. When a news reporter broadcasts from a remote location or from a television studio, the camera operator records it for the audience at home to watch either live or at some later time.
There were about 21,400 camera operators employed in 2012. Most camera operators work full-time, but those who film motion pictures may have periods of unemployment between projects. There may also be times when overtime work is required to meet deadlines. Some camera operators work on a freelance basis. Jobs of this nature may require that one has his or her own equipment.
Many employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a bachelor's degree in film or broadcasting, or in a related discipline. This formal training, however, is not enough. One needs to learn what actually goes on during film production. In order to do that, an aspiring camera operator begins his or her career as a production assistant in the camera department. After time spent doing simple tasks, which often includes running errands, he or she may become a camera assistant, before eventually becoming a camera operator.
Will you make a good camera operator? The answer to this question relies on your soft skills or personal qualities. If you are creative, have good visual skills, eye-hand coordination and can pay attention to detail, you have a better chance of succeeding in this occupation than someone who does not have these qualities. You must also have good communication skills, including the ability to understand what others are telling you and the ability to convey instructions. You will have to receive and understand instructions from directors and producers as well as give instructions to your assistants.
If you are thinking of entering this field, expect some heavy competition for jobs. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment growth that is slower than the average for all occupations through 2022. They attribute this to television stations using automatic camera systems, reducing their need for cameramen.
Camera operators earned a median annual salary of $40,300 and median hourly wages of $19.38 in 2012.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Camera Operator currently earns in your city.
A Day in a Camera Operator's Life:
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for camera operator positions found on Indeed.com:
- Frame camera shots for live studio or field productions as directed.
- Utilize equipment and technology to enhance ENG production.
- Follow shoot schedules and call sheets.
- Take initiative and modify procedures and processes as needed to ensure project completion.
- Operate graphics machines during newscasts, as needed.
- Climb 50 foot towers multiple times during a shift.
- Help with studio production setup and set preparation.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-camera-operators.htm (visited January 24, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Camera Operators, Video, Television, and Motion Pictures, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/27-4031.00 (visited January 24, 2014).