Lights, Camera, Action! Your Career as a Camera Operator

Do you like the bright lights? Are you constantly considering shot framing and background? You could have a great job as a camera operator!

camera operator job

Both technical and artistic skills are ideal for a career as a camera operator

Job Overview

Using digital technology, camera operators collect a large variety of video media to be used to convey a story, event or setting. They work with directors to determine filming techniques, shoot scenes and convey the director’s artistic vision in  the production. Digital filming technology provides a larger range of possibilities. Camera operators have some assistants responsible for setting up, storing and caring for cameras, selecting software to use, downloading images and keeping the camera in focus.

Requirements and Qualifications

Camera operators work in a variety of situations, including extreme weather, on-location filming that keeps you away from home for long periods of time, limited-access locations that require hauling heavy equipment or dangerous situations such as military conflicts. Among important qualities to develop as a camera operator are creativity, hand-eye coordination and technical and visual skills. If you are interested in becoming a freelance camera operator, as 34% of the industry is employed, you will also need business management and marketing skills to keep work flowing.

Typical Education

Most positions for a camera operator require a bachelor’s degree in film or broadcasting technologies. These programs include understanding digital cameras and computer software, camera operation, shot composition and the like.

Steps to Becoming a Camera Operator

After finishing your degree program, you will find the most opportunities to gain necessary experience by becoming a production assistant in a camera department, running errands and performing simple tasks. You will eventually become well trained enough to become a camera assistant and eventually, a camera operator. You may start on small productions and move up to larger productions as you build experience and expertise in the area. With additional experience, some camera operators are able to advance to director or producer roles.

Similar Jobs

Is camera operating not the job for you? Don’t worry, there are a number of similar careers in this path, including:

  • By using their body language, movement and expression, actors convey stories or characters’ personalities.
  • Often acting as disc jockeys or master of ceremonies, announcers also provide information and interview guests for public consumption.
  • If you’re a technology person, broadcast and sound engineering technicians provide operation and maintenance of electronic equipment that records sound and broadcasts data.
  • When a publication needs planning or documents revising, it’s an editor’s job to get it done.
  • Multimedia animators and artists provide a wide range of special effects, models and animation for film, television and video games.
  • With a good eye towards composition, photographers record still images of events and tell stories using technical expertise and creativity.
  • If you’ve got great managerial skills, you may feel at home as a producer or director, controlling artistic and technical/financial aspects of production.
  • Reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts bring news into our homes and offices on a daily basis.


The average annual pay for camera operators as of May 2010 was $40,390, with the amount of work varying by type. As with other motion picture career paths, camera operators in this area experience long hours and few days off during production with periods of unemployment between films. Broadcast camera operators may have a more normal schedule but may still need to put in additional hours when a deadline is approaching.

Job Outlook

Between 2010 and 2020, there is little change expected in job outlook for camera operators with an estimated

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