The low down

A camera operator is the person in charge of the camera on sets, whether it be TV or Film. They work with a variety of cameras including digital, electronic and film cameras to produce a variety of shots and clips. This job requires you to use complex technology as well as your own creative visual abilities in order to create the best type of work you can. A camera operator will most likely work under the director and could be supported by a camera assistant.

Is this role right for me? 

Camera operators are usually up early to set up the camera equipment and stay until the end of filming to put things away, which usually means long shifts. This can be tiring, so people with this job usually need to be mentally prepared. It’s also key to take control and share your ideas when filming. Camera operators will have a good eye and so can tell directors what will and won’t look good.

To do this role you will need

In order to be a camera operator, you need to be able to operate some form of camera and be knowledgeable about filming techniques and camera theory. There are no set qualifications needed to become a camera operator. When employers are looking through applications they will be more interested in your skills and your experience. Many will start off as small jobs, such as runners, within film or TV studios and make contacts in order to work their way up. By making contacts, you will be able to hear about unadvertised jobs within the industry.

As well as this, there are courses which can be done at either college or university in film production or media. There’s also plenty of paid and unpaid work experience out there. This enables you to build up your network and experience. These opportunities could involve working on community film projects or for a camera equipment hire business, for example.

It may be an advantage for you to have your own camera equipment. If you are trying to build up a portfolio, investing in a camera and tripod may largely benefit this, as you will be able to create your own short films and home videos. As well as this, it will allow you to become familiar with a camera and how it works, which is an important skill if you want to operate one as a job.

What does a Camera Operator do?

A Camera operator’s day to day tasks will change depending on what the aim of the day is. Some days may be a long day of filming where as others may be spent cleaning and maintaining the camera equipment. If they are filming, they will start the day off by setting up and assembling equipment. This includes tripods, cables, monitors and headsets. Throughout the shoot, they may be required to input their creative advice in the filming process.

Before a shoot, a camera operator will have to create a plan of action for shooting. This is to capture scenes in as few takes as possible. If there is a problem during a shoot, they will be required to think of the solutions to issues whether that be technical issues, or practical issues such as lighting.

No matter what they are doing, a camera operator must work efficiently and effectively, especially in time-restricting situations, keep up to date with filming trends and technology and be aware of any Health and Safety regulations and requirements to keep themselves and their fellow colleagues safe.

How to get your foot in the door

Experience and contacts are the most important things to have when trying to get a job in the film industry. Even if you have never worked on a film or TV set before, you can show off your skills through home videos and amateur productions. Getting contacts are key as a lot of camera operators and now becoming freelance. The easiest way to do this is to get in touch with professionals and try to get work experience. If you are just starting out, the likelihood of being paid is slim, but the benefit of gaining experience will always outweigh money!