careers camera operator

Camera Operator Jobs

Camera operator jobs… did you know?

Lights, camera, action! Camera operators help to create unforgettable TV and film moments, from swooping eye-in-the-sky panning shots for high speed chases to close-ups of an actor’s face in a dramatic scene.

If you have an artistic eye for detail and can get to grips with gadgets and tech, you could enjoy a career as a camera operator. With TV and film being big business – and many more shows being made beyond just terrestrial TV – your prospects could be out of this world.

Some of the projects you could work on include:

  • Film shorts and feature films
  • TV shows, either one-offs or as a series
  • Music videos
  • TV ads
  • Documentaries

Industry: Creative and Design

Camera operator job trends

How much money can you make as a camera operator?

Salary/payment varies

Because many camera operators are freelance or work on fixed projects, their rates of pay can vary. So if you’re working on a TV drama or documentary, you might make £300 per 10-hour day, making you around £1,500 a week.

Before you get too excited, you should know that you’ll have to pay some of that as tax – and you are unlikely to be employed on rates like these all the time.

What entry qualifications and training do you need for this job?

School, college and training

You don’t need any formal qualifications to become a camera operator, but qualifications can help you build your technical skills and experience.

Camera operators might have a diploma or certificate from one of the following courses:

  • Diploma in media techniques or Certificate for audiovisual industries induction (City & Guilds)
  • BTEC in media production or moving image
  • HND/HNC in film and TV production

Foundation degrees and degrees are also available in photography, and film and TV production, as well as postgraduate qualifications

Example entry requirements for camera operator courses:

  • BTEC national diploma or certificate – GCSEs or the equivalent with a typical passing grade of 9-4/A*-C
  • HNC/HND – one A-level or the equivalent as well as three GCSEs or the equivalent
  • Degree – five GCSEs or the equivalent along with two A-levels or the equivalent.

Training schemes

Here are some example training schemes to help you build skills, work experience and a showreel:

FT2

Film and Television Training offer a technical training scheme with the opportunity to train as a camera assistant.

Skillset

Lasting between three months and a year and a half, you can do training combined with industry placements. You’ll receive an allowance and work and earn your way to a vocational qualification.

Guild of British Camera Technicians

The GBCT offers a trainee scheme for camera technicians.

Career progression

With time and experience you could become a camera supervisor, cinematographer or director of photography. You could also specialise in areas of filming like underwater filming, working with wildlife or aerial photography.

What experience do you need for camera operator jobs?

Work experience

Work experience is very useful for this role, because it helps you build up a portfolio of work. Camera operators looking for work are generally expected to have a showreel showing what they can do.

Some ways to build work experience as a camera operator:

  • Get a work placement. Big companies like the BBC offer these, but competition is fierce. Work placements like these are unpaid and can last from a few days up to a month.
  • Get work experience or paid work at a camera equipment hire company.
  • Assist on student films or short indie films.
  • Join filmmaking communities like the Shooting People – The Independent Filmmakers Network to see who’s making indie films and may need help with crew or camera operation.

What skills do you need for camera operator jobs?

Useful skills to highlight to your employer when applying for jobs like this one include:

  • Carrying out instructions quickly and accurately
  • Staying calm under pressure (you might have deadlines to meet, or long filming days)
  • Patience and concentration
  • Teamworking skills (you might have to work with a tense director or tired actors)
  • Good levels of stamina (camera equipment can be heavy, and you may be on your feet for ten-hour working days)
  • Technical skills

Building your skills as a camera operator outside work or education:

  • Remember that professional TV shows and films need professional equipment, but if you have a mobile phone you can still use it to practice shots and angles. You can also download video post-production and editing software, potentially for free or as a free trial.
  • Studying photography as a hobby can really help you build up a feel for how to compose shots to tell a story.
  • Follow camera operators and directors on social media. They are very clued up on the latest technology and often share interesting tips or insights.
  • Keep an eye on competitions for short indie films. If you have worked on a project, see if it can be entered into the competition. You never know, you might win!

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

What does a camera operator do?

Your job as a camera operator is to shoot film for TV, online or films. You’ll usually work under instruction from the director of photography or the overall director. You might be one of a team of camera operators, or you might be the only camera operator on the project.

Some day-to-day job responsibilities include:

  • Setting up camera equipment
  • Choosing which lenses to use
  • Choosing the best camera angles
  • Planning and rehearsing shots
  • Working to a camera script
  • Keeping up with technological trends in the world of filmmaking

Your first steps into camera operator jobs

Camera operator jobs are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job:

  • Trainee camera operator
  • Camera trainee
  • Camera technician
  • TV runner (this is a TV and film assistant and a good way to break into the industry)

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