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Camera Operators

Camera Operators


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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
  • Cinematography
  • Videography
  • Film and digital camera operation
  • Set lighting


Video Overview

An introduction into what camera and video operators do. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.


A Day in the Life

In the movie industry you'll spend a lot of time figuring out the best angles and the types of cameras to use.

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.

You'll be collaborating with the cinematographer and the director.

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.

In the studio you have to be very attentive to cues from the director and the action 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.


Job Flexibility

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.


Recommended Websites


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.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
ALBirmingham - Hoover$23,890$18K - $60KN/AN/A
ALMontgomery$21,360$16K - $83K300.02%
ARLittle Rock - North Little Rock - Conway$53,580$17K - $69KN/AN/A
AZPhoenix - Mesa - Glendale$38,470$31K - $66K2100.01%
CAFresno$37,460$32K - $69KN/AN/A
CALos Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)$52,100$27K - $156K1,7000.04%
CAModesto$29,260$26K - $35KN/AN/A
CAOakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)N/AN/A - N/A500.01%
CASacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville$49,520$33K - $114K400.01%
CASan Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos$49,540$24K - $73K1000.01%
CASan Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)$56,520$34K - $88K900.01%
CASan Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa ClaraN/AN/A - N/A600.01%
CASanta Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)$52,860$26K - $88K700.01%
CASanta Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta$61,660$29K - $110K300.02%
CODenver - Aurora - Broomfield$53,490$36K - $71K2100.02%
CTHartford - West Hartford - East Hartford$25,020$18K - $44K2800.05%
DCWashington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)$68,070$27K - $102K3000.01%
FLCape Coral - Fort Myers$29,330$21K - $69K600.03%
FLFort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach - Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$50,430$33K - $69K1300.02%
FLJacksonville$30,350$24K - $47K800.01%
FLMiami - Miami Beach - Kendall (Metro Area)$31,520$22K - $54K3200.03%
FLOrlando - Kissimmee - Sanford$37,320$23K - $56K2100.02%
FLTallahassee$22,390$20K - $24K700.04%
FLTampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater$32,300$22K - $49K1100.01%
FLWest Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$29,940$21K - $44K800.02%
GAAtlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta$66,180$39K - $91K1900.01%
HIHonolulu$38,160$26K - $63K1200.03%
IDIdaho Falls$18,550$16K - $24K700.15%
ILChicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)$77,160$30K - $95K6300.02%
ILLake County - Kenosha County (Metro Area)$28,500$26K - $37KN/AN/A
INEvansvilleN/AN/A - N/A400.02%
INIndianapolis - Carmel$29,730$18K - $51K800.01%
KSWichita$29,610$21K - $38K300.01%
LABaton Rouge$38,320$17K - $66K1100.03%
LANew Orleans - Metairie - Kenner$51,480$34K - $69K1800.04%
LAShreveport - Bossier City$29,540$17K - $55K600.04%
MABoston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)$38,100$32K - $72K2900.02%
MASpringfield$62,810$28K - $77K500.02%
MDBethesda - Rockville - Frederick (Metro Area)$60,470$26K - $119K1000.02%
MEPortland - South Portland - Biddeford$28,940$22K - $58K1200.06%
MIWarren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$37,040$31K - $65K1000.01%
MNMinneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington$44,710$27K - $68K1100.01%
MOKansas City$29,340$18K - $55K900.01%
MOSpringfield$18,820$16K - $32K800.04%
MOSt. Louis$39,460$17K - $73K800.01%
NCCharlotte - Gastonia - Rock Hill$36,330$22K - $56K900.01%
NCGreensboro - High Point$24,850$19K - $58K500.01%
NCRaleigh - CaryN/AN/A - N/A1100.02%
NCWinston - Salem$19,210$16K - $48K500.02%
NEOmaha - Council Bluffs$39,320$25K - $87K300.01%
NJCamden (Metro Area)$58,110$32K - $115K500.01%
NJEdison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)$36,570$31K - $67K700.01%
NMAlbuquerque$33,090$20K - $74K700.02%
NVLas Vegas - Paradise$56,810$18K - N/A1000.01%
NYAlbany - Schenectady - Troy$20,790$16K - $40K800.02%
NYBuffalo - Niagara Falls$36,230$23K - $78K300.01%
NYNassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)$49,660$32K - $61KN/AN/A
NYNew York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)$45,930$22K - $93K1,6800.03%
OHCincinnati - Middletown$47,610$38K - $75KN/AN/A
OHCleveland - Elyria - Mentor$44,010$36K - $71K600.01%
OHColumbus$36,930$31K - $62K500.01%
OHDayton$61,570$34K - $79KN/AN/A
OHToledo$33,430$18K - $78K300.01%
OKOklahoma City$37,710$26K - $62K1300.02%
OKTulsa$25,660$20K - $36K800.02%
OREugene - Springfield$47,470$25K - $73KN/AN/A
ORPortland - Vancouver - Hillsboro$46,620$19K - $93K1000.01%
PAAllentown - Bethlehem - Easton$29,710$25K - $48K300.01%
PAHarrisburg - Carlisle$32,140$25K - $67K600.02%
PAPhiladelphia (Metro Area)$39,780$25K - $108K2300.01%
PAPittsburgh$36,360$29K - $47K1500.01%
PAScranton - Wilkes - Barre$30,400$21K - $44K500.02%
PRSan Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo$29,100$17K - $44K1600.02%
RIProvidence - Fall River - Warwick$48,990$27K - $74K500.01%
SDSioux Falls$27,830$18K - $39K400.03%
TNMemphis$47,100$19K - $66K1000.02%
TNNashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin$46,360$35K - $65K2300.03%
TXAustin - Round Rock - San Marcos$31,580$17K - $56K1000.01%
TXDallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)$21,860$16K - $63K2500.01%
TXFort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)$47,260$20K - $90K1000.01%
TXHouston - Sugar Land - Baytown$20,080$16K - $62K3300.01%
TXSan Antonio - New Braunfels$49,680$26K - $60K1000.01%
TXTyler$21,890$16K - $62KN/AN/A
UTSalt Lake City$55,340$33K - $73K1700.03%
VARichmondN/AN/A - N/A1000.02%
VAVirginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News$51,640$19K - $75K500.01%
WASeattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)$45,130$32K - $76K4100.03%
WASpokaneN/AN/A - N/A700.04%
WIGreen Bay$32,380$17K - $48K400.03%
WIMadison$30,960$18K - $54K1000.03%
WIMilwaukee - Waukesha - West Allis$34,390$17K - $73KN/AN/A