Camera Operator: Salary, Requirements and Opportunities
Written by: Hilbert College • Dec 1, 2023
Camera Operator: Salary, Requirements and Opportunities ¶
Cameras are vital for capturing the crucial moments in popular films, breaking news reports and influential commercials. To ensure each shot meets the director’s vision, filmmaking teams rely on camera operators who can handle the technical and creative aspects of maneuvering and using the camera.
Becoming a professional camera operator requires an intimate knowledge of the specific device being used, as well as collaborative soft skills and hands-on experience. To gain foundational knowledge of media and filmmaking that can be used in various industries, it can be beneficial for aspiring camera operators to pursue a bachelor’s degree in film production or digital media to develop the skills they’ll need to succeed.
What Does a Camera Operator Do? ¶
A camera operator records with and maneuvers video cameras for the production of films, television programs and other forms of video content. Camera operators work with a team of filmmakers, such as grips and gaffers, to position and move cameras during filming. They take direction from the project’s director and, often, the director of photography to make sure the shots meet their vision. They can also work with video editors to ensure the footage is ideal for post-production editing.
Camera Operator Key Responsibilities ¶
The primary responsibility of camera operators is to maneuver the camera as needed during filming. They must be able to adapt to the particular needs of each project. For example, one shot may use a stationary camera that barely moves, while others may use a dynamic handheld camera that must be maneuvered effectively to capture an action scene. Camera operators are responsible for maintaining their equipment and setting up devices for filming before each shoot.
Camera operators need technical knowledge and a thorough understanding of how their equipment, such as cameras and camera lenses, interacts with the filmmaking process, lighting and set design. Sharing their input with colleagues is key to capturing the right shots.
Depending on the project, some level of creative autonomy may be required from camera operators. In most productions, they will need to respond to the instructions of project superiors, such as the director. Being able to communicate well with these leaders by effectively listening and responding when prompted is a vital part of this profession.
Where Do Camera Operators Work? ¶
Camera operators work creating video for films, television programs, news broadcasts, and video content for the web. While some video is shot exclusively on a set or in a studio, camera operators may also be required to travel to indoor or outdoor locations of all kinds. Each environment requires camera operators to use different skills and equipment, and they need to be prepared.
Camera Operator Requirements ¶
Becoming a camera operator necessitates building foundational knowledge of the filmmaking process as well as hands-on experience. Camera operators often earn a degree in film or photography, but a degree in a similar field, such as digital media and communication, can provide a holistic education that focuses on both the technical aspects of filmmaking and how it’s used to shape society and inform people.
Seeking out an internship to gain hands-on experience is crucial, as camera operators will need to know how to handle and use their equipment. Internships in an industry such as film or news broadcasting can also provide aspiring camera operators with networking or mentorship opportunities while they build an understanding of the industry in a professional setting.
Camera Operator Salary and Job Outlook ¶
Camera operators had a median annual salary of $58,230 as of May 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Individual camera operator salaries vary based on the person’s experience and industry, with some professionals earning higher salaries on more complex or expensive projects.
The BLS projects that jobs for camera operators will grow by 3% between 2022 and 2032, which is equal to the average growth projected for all U.S. professions. The BLS bases this projection on increased content being created for web and digital platforms, driving up the need for camera operators.
Roll Camera on Your Career Journey ¶
Building a foundation in filmmaking, including both technical skills in managing equipment and an understanding of filmmaking principles, can help you begin your journey to becoming a camera operator. Consider enrolling in Hilbert College Global’s online Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media and Communication program to gain the skills and opportunities you need to build your future career.
This online program offers you the flexibility to learn at your own pace, with multiple asynchronous start dates throughout the year for eight-week-long courses. With a curriculum covering subjects like media analysis, multimedia production and digital filmmaking, the program uses a holistic approach to help prepare you to work in the field. Additionally, this program offers internship opportunities, which can give you hands-on experience with the equipment used in an industry setting.
Begin the next stage of your filmmaking journey with Hilbert College Global.