Job descriptions and industry overviews

Camera operator: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:56

Camera operators control camera equipment both in studios and on location for film, television and internet broadcasts.

A camera operator crew working with a large camera.

Camera operator : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Camera operators use a variety of technical equipment, including single and multiple portable cameras, remote-control and electronic cameras, cranes and mobile mountings, to capture live action for TV, film, commercials and other visual broadcasts.

Typical duties include:

  • choosing, assembling and setting up equipment.
  • liaising with creative staff and production colleagues to agree on how scenes should be shot.
  • planning, preparing and rehearsing scenes.
  • following camera scripts.
  • creatively framing and capturing action.
  • responding quickly to directions.
  • liaising with lighting and technical staff.
  • working with other camera operators and assistants.

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

Graduate salaries

Many camera operators are self-employed and are paid per day rather than via an annual salary. The trade union for camera operators, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematography and Theatre Union (Bectu), recommends that camera operators should be paid between around £400 and £600 a day, depending on the type of production being filmed.

Typical employers of camera operators

  • Television and cable companies.
  • Video production houses.
  • Film studios.
  • Sports organisations such as football clubs.
  • Online broadcasters.

The nature of film work means that it’s common for camera operators to work on a freelance or contract basis. TV is more likely to offer longer-term work, but this is often also on fixed-term contracts rather than permanent work. Some camera operators work via agencies that help them find suitable jobs.

Jobs are advertised on specialist jobs boards. However, many vacancies are not advertised formally and are filled by word of mouth, so you’ll need to be prepared to network and make speculative applications .

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 may be helpful.<.p>

It’s more important to be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in the work, backed up with evidence – via a show reel – of your theoretical competency and practical technical abilities. You can build experience by producing your own online content as well as job shadowing, self-employment and voluntary work for student organisations and charities.

Key skills for camera operators

  • Stamina and physical fitness, including good eyesight and hearing.
  • Excellent observation skills.
  • The ability to concentrate for long periods.
  • Good communication skills , including listening skills.
  • Business skills if self-employed.
  • The ability to network.
  • Teamworking.
  • Willingness to take direction.
  • Patience and resilience.

Be sure to visit the creative arts, media and design section of targetjobs for more careers advice for these industries.

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