What's Needed: Most camera operator jobs require a bachelor's degree in a field related to broadcasting or film and on-the-job-training. Numerous schools provide training in camera operation. Many camera operators graduate from a film school.
Camera operators need to learn about digital cameras and computer technology because they're continually used on film sets. Camera operators also need to have knowledge about the production process.
What you study:
- Frame composition
- Production concepts
- Camera shooting techniques
- Film and digital camera operation
- Set lighting
An introduction into what camera and video operators do. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
A director is the painter of a movie or a television show, however the camera operator wields the paint brush. It's a rewarding job on a daily basis for people who are artistic, detailed-oriented and have good communication skills.
Your area of specialization as a camera operator determines the course of the day. If you work as a camera operator in the exciting movie industry you'll spend a lot of time figuring out the best angles and the types of cameras to use to capture a shot. You'll use your personal style and technical skills to get the desired footage.
During part of the day you may use stationary cameras but you may also operate a camera mounted on a track so you can move around while filming the action. You may also spend time during the day sitting above the ground on a crane filming the action. As a camera operator in the movie industry you'll continually be taking orders from and collaborating with the cinematographer and the director.
Not all camera operators in the film industry work on expensive movie productions, you may work on educational, small-budget industrial or documentary films. If you work on small productions you might be in charge of all shooting and lighting.
Studio camera operators work in broadcast studios using their skills to record an array of studio broadcasts including situation comedies, talk shows, news broadcasts, sports television and game shows. Behind the scenes as a studio cameras operator you'll operate a camera mounted on a pedestal for a huge part of your work day.
At the beginning of every work day, before filming the broadcast, you'll have to make sure the equipment is properly working, however You don't have to fix equipment, a technician will take care of equipment problems for you.
During the pre-show rehearsal, which happens every day, you'll get instructions from a studio director and assistant director about the shots and angles they want you to capture. During rehearsals you'll get blocking notes which help you anticipate people moving on the set.
Throughout the day you'll receive auditory cues from the director through a radio headset. As a studio camera operator you have to be very attentive to cues from the director and also the action on the set.
Electronic news gathering operators work on location with reporters to produce an array of newscasts for television. As an electronic news gathering operator you'll often travel to places with interesting developing stories. At times, you may have to move quickly on location in order to capture the action for the viewers at home.
Certifications and Licensing
Camera operators are not required to have certification or a license.
Full-time versus part-time: Depending on the specialty, some camera operators work full-time and some work part-time. The work hours vary considerably by the speciality.
Work location: Camera operators work for television stations, cable and television networks, the movie industry and independent production companies.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Handbook provides an overview of the various roles camera operators play. The BLS also provides salary data, educational requirements as well as an employment growth forecast.
- The International Cinematographers Guild website includes a list of training and events. The International Cinematographers Guild covers industry and labor news and provides numerous links to relevant websites.
- The American Society of Cinematographers provides information about industry news and events. Clicking on the American Cinematographer button takes you to an array of articles related to the industry. Those who pay a subscription fee learn how some of the world's best cinematographers create their images.
- The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada is the largest union representing workers in the entertainment industry. Members receive benefits, discounts and savings. The website also provides industry news.
- The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians provides a training schedule for union-sponsored training. The association also includes job listings and job resources for members.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column -- for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AL||Birmingham - Hoover||$23,890||N/A||N/A|
|AR||Little Rock - North Little Rock - Conway||$53,580||N/A||N/A|
|AZ||Phoenix - Mesa - Glendale||$38,470||210||0.01%|
|CA||Los Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)||$52,100||1,700||0.04%|
|CA||Oakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)||N/A||50||0.01%|
|CA||Sacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville||$49,520||40||0.01%|
|CA||San Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos||$49,540||100||0.01%|
|CA||San Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)||$56,520||90||0.01%|
|CA||San Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara||N/A||60||0.01%|
|CA||Santa Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)||$52,860||70||0.01%|
|CA||Santa Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta||$61,660||30||0.02%|
|CO||Denver - Aurora - Broomfield||$53,490||210||0.02%|
|CT||Hartford - West Hartford - East Hartford||$25,020||280||0.05%|
|DC||Washington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)||$68,070||300||0.01%|
|FL||Cape Coral - Fort Myers||$29,330||60||0.03%|
|FL||Fort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach - Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)||$50,430||130||0.02%|
|FL||Miami - Miami Beach - Kendall (Metro Area)||$31,520||320||0.03%|
|FL||Orlando - Kissimmee - Sanford||$37,320||210||0.02%|
|FL||Tampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater||$32,300||110||0.01%|
|FL||West Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)||$29,940||80||0.02%|
|GA||Atlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta||$66,180||190||0.01%|
|IL||Chicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)||$77,160||630||0.02%|
|IL||Lake County - Kenosha County (Metro Area)||$28,500||N/A||N/A|
|IN||Indianapolis - Carmel||$29,730||80||0.01%|
|LA||New Orleans - Metairie - Kenner||$51,480||180||0.04%|
|LA||Shreveport - Bossier City||$29,540||60||0.04%|
|MA||Boston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)||$38,100||290||0.02%|
|MD||Bethesda - Rockville - Frederick (Metro Area)||$60,470||100||0.02%|
|ME||Portland - South Portland - Biddeford||$28,940||120||0.06%|
|MI||Warren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)||$37,040||100||0.01%|
|MN||Minneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington||$44,710||110||0.01%|
|NC||Charlotte - Gastonia - Rock Hill||$36,330||90||0.01%|
|NC||Greensboro - High Point||$24,850||50||0.01%|
|NC||Raleigh - Cary||N/A||110||0.02%|
|NC||Winston - Salem||$19,210||50||0.02%|
|NE||Omaha - Council Bluffs||$39,320||30||0.01%|
|NJ||Camden (Metro Area)||$58,110||50||0.01%|
|NJ||Edison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)||$36,570||70||0.01%|
|NV||Las Vegas - Paradise||$56,810||100||0.01%|
|NY||Albany - Schenectady - Troy||$20,790||80||0.02%|
|NY||Buffalo - Niagara Falls||$36,230||30||0.01%|
|NY||Nassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)||$49,660||N/A||N/A|
|NY||New York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)||$45,930||1,680||0.03%|
|OH||Cincinnati - Middletown||$47,610||N/A||N/A|
|OH||Cleveland - Elyria - Mentor||$44,010||60||0.01%|
|OR||Eugene - Springfield||$47,470||N/A||N/A|
|OR||Portland - Vancouver - Hillsboro||$46,620||100||0.01%|
|PA||Allentown - Bethlehem - Easton||$29,710||30||0.01%|
|PA||Harrisburg - Carlisle||$32,140||60||0.02%|
|PA||Philadelphia (Metro Area)||$39,780||230||0.01%|
|PA||Scranton - Wilkes - Barre||$30,400||50||0.02%|
|PR||San Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo||$29,100||160||0.02%|
|RI||Providence - Fall River - Warwick||$48,990||50||0.01%|
|TN||Nashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin||$46,360||230||0.03%|
|TX||Austin - Round Rock - San Marcos||$31,580||100||0.01%|
|TX||Dallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)||$21,860||250||0.01%|
|TX||Fort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)||$47,260||100||0.01%|
|TX||Houston - Sugar Land - Baytown||$20,080||330||0.01%|
|TX||San Antonio - New Braunfels||$49,680||100||0.01%|
|UT||Salt Lake City||$55,340||170||0.03%|
|VA||Virginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News||$51,640||50||0.01%|
|WA||Seattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)||$45,130||410||0.03%|
|WI||Milwaukee - Waukesha - West Allis||$34,390||N/A||N/A|