Camera operator: job description

Camera operator: job description

Camera operators physically control camera equipment both in studio and on location for film, television and video broadcasts and recordings.
Most camera operators enter the profession as trainees, assistant camera operators or 'runners'.

What does a camera operator do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Camera operators are employed by television and cable companies, within the film industry and by video production houses. They are responsible for operating a variety of technical equipment including single and multiple portable, remote-control and electronic cameras, cranes and mobile mountings. Other responsibilities include:

  • assembling and setting up equipment 
  • planning, preparing and rehearsing scenes
  • following camera scripts
  • creatively framing and capturing action
  • responding quickly to directions
  • liaising with lighting and technical staff.

The job can be physically tiring and demanding, often requiring travel between locations and long and irregular working hours.

Most vacancies are available in major cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London. Opportunities are advertised via the internet, in newspapers, and specialist publications such as Audio Visual and Broadcastmagazine. Networking, job shadowing and speculative applications are advisable.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into camera operating for both university graduates and school leavers.

Practical skills, enthusiasm and relevant experience are usually more highly valued than academic qualifications, although a television, film, photography, media studies or performing arts degree will be helpful. It is important to be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in the work, backed up with evidence of theoretical competency and good technical abilities. Experience can be gained via hobby interests and/or amateur photography, film or video work.

To find out how to get into a career in this area via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for camera operators

Potential employees need plenty of stamina, should be physically fit, observant, capable of concentrating for long periods of time, and must have excellent hand-eye co-ordination, hearing and colour vision.

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