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What is it like being a camera operator?

Hello! I am very interested in pursuing a career as a camera operator! I have some experience working with robotic cameras at church as a volunteer, and believe this is something I would enjoy doing as an actual job. What are some things I should know if I want to pursue this industry? film,cameras,television,broadcast

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Leland’s Answer

In the 90s, I briefly worked as a studio camera operator for a local news station. Now those cameras are operated remotely. Looking at job postings on Indeed, you can still find openings for camera operators for news and sports programming. The key is getting hands-on experience with different types of professional equipment either through school or by volunteering. If you have a public access station in your area, check with them to see if there are opportunities to volunteer. That's where I got my hands-on experience with studio cameras.

Note that a videographer is a different type of job working with video cameras. While a studio camera operator typically has a director in their ear telling them what shots to get, a videographer goes out on location and shoots sometimes with or without direction. They are responsible for bringing all the gear they need for the shoot. Stringers are freelance videographers who typically use their own equipment to shoot material which they sell to news outlets. News outlets may hire stringers to shoot specific material at a location when their staff videographers aren't available.

In the movie industry, the person with the camera is typically referred to as a cinematographer or a director of photography (DP for short). They may shoot on film or digitally. Shooting on a film might require an entire team dedicated to lighting. You can get experience working on films either through school or by volunteering. Look to see if there are any media or cinema organizations in your area that match up volunteers for independent projects.

In the meantime, if you have a phone camera, shoot and shoot often. If you aren't able to take classes, check out videos or books to learns some of the basics on composing a shot and lighting.

My final word of advice is to ask to people for help and share your career goals. Someone at the church arranged the setup of the robotic cameras you are using. Ask them about their experience and to see if they have recommendations for breaking into the field.