Camera operators record moving images for films, TV productions, commercials, videos and other specialist areas including interactive media.
Camera operators set up and position camera equipment, taking the best shots possible after studying the script, rehearsing shots and angles and overcoming any technical problems such as lighting. They work closely with the director, the other members of the camera team, and other technical departments such as lighting and sound. Experienced camera operators may supervise the camera team and have some creative responsibility for interpreting the director's intentions.
The film and television sectors use different skills, techniques and equipment, and camera operators will usually specialise in one or the other. Job roles and titles often vary according to the sector and production environment. Roles mainly found in film include:
The Skillset website has more detailed information about specific roles in camera work – see Further Information.
Hours can be unpredictable and often include shifts, weekends, evenings or nights, depending on the needs of the production. There may also be the need to work long hours at short notice, particularly for news programmes.
The environment could vary from warm, enclosed studios to extreme conditions on location. Location work can include assignments overseas, which may involve working under difficult or dangerous conditions such as riots or war zones.
A driving licence is useful together with a full and valid passport. Camera operators are often expected to provide their own kit, particularly in video.
As a camera operator, you should have:
In film, a camera assistant can progress to clapper loader, then focus puller, camera operator, and after as much as 20 years' experience, to director of photography/cinematographer. Those working in TV might start as a camera assistant, and move on to becoming a camera operator and then camera supervisor/senior cameraperson.
Competition for jobs is intense. Although some larger TV broadcasters employ permanent staff, most camera operators are freelance, finding employment on specific fixed-term or short contracts.
Digital technology has brought some changes to traditional job roles, for instance smaller video cameras leading to a reduction in television camera assistants. Multiskilling is also becoming more important in the industry, for instance on newsgathering where operators might combine camera and sound skills.
About 85% of film and TV production is based in London or the south of England. There are also opportunities with regional TV. Camera operators with language skills may be able to find work overseas.
If you would like to know anything about Camera Operator that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
80-110 New Oxford Street
Film and Television Freelance Training (FT2)
249 West George Street
Tel: 0141 302 1700
Tel: 01286 671000
BKSTS (The British Kinematograph Sound and Television Society)
Moving Image Society
Guild of Television Cameramen
Guild of British Camera Technicians
c/o Panavision UK
Tel: 020 8813 1999
Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
373-377 Clapham Road