What is a camera operator?

You might be wondering what is a camera operator? Well, a camera operator is the person who films the action! Whether that be on a documentary, on a news show or on a major blockbuster movie. Essentially, they are experts of camera equipment and know exactly what to do and how to set it up, in order to capture a director’s vision. 

They could be working by themselves in all sorts of locations, or as part of a team on a studio shoot. A camera operator will know which cameras to use in which conditions and consider the composition, framing and movement of a shot. 

Experienced camera operators will have their own creative vision and might work closely with the producer or director to suggest shots and ideas. They may also have high skills in lighting and on single-camera shoots might have sole responsibility for lighting. 

What skills are need to be a camera operator?

You need to have high concentration levels; shoots are often over long hours, and you will need to remain focussed and calm throughout.

You will need to be able to communicate effectively with a range of people and you’ll need to be able to take direction from the producer and director to determine the overall look of the production.

You will need to be able to multi-task and problem solve under pressure…time is money on set!

You should have an interest in and a knowledge of cameras and the latest filming equipment, lenses, monitors and lights.

How can I become a camera operator?

This is a senior role and most people will have started as a camera trainee. We recommend you put together a demo reel or portfolio to showcase your work and it will be great to look back on as your career progresses!

Here are some of the ways you can get the experience needed to be a camera operator;

  • Apply for runner roles so that you can get experience of the industry and how everything works on set…you might even discover another role that you love!
  • Work for an equipment rental company to learn more about the kit and build contacts in the industry
  • Write to production companies and try to get work experience – the BBCITVChannel 4 and SKY have opportunities published online
  • Network online – iampro often have directors, producers etc do workshops and Q&A’s, come and make connections that can help you get a break 
  • Write to production companies and check their websites for opportunities. You can send a short CV and send some of your portfolio or demo reel. 
  • Start as a camera trainee and learn while you are on set from a camera operator 
  • You could choose to study a film course or degree to learn the theory and practical elements of the role
  • Complete an apprenticeship to learn some of the skills and knowledge needed on the job. You could do a photographic assistant or a camera prep technician advanced apprenticeship. You can search for available apprenticeships here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship