Have you ever wondered how movies are made? Do you find yourself wondering how your favorite film scenes are shot? If so, pursuing a career in movie production is something you may be interested in. If you want to know how to become a camera operator, you’re on the right page.
Before you know how to become a camera operator, you first have to know what the job entails. This professional is responsible for shooting moving images for movies, TV broadcasts, and any type of media, including commercials and tutorials. A camera can also record witness interviews for news programs.
What Does a Camera Operator Do?
In a TV studio or outdoor setting, a camera operator needs to ensure that the subject is kept steady in the frame and that the viewers will receive a focused and high-quality image. A camera operator is also responsible for the composition and framing of the shots. This professional also chooses the lenses for the shoot. For example, the lens for a landscape shot needs to be different from the lens of a close-up shot. In short, camera operators have an integral role in every type of visual media you can imagine.
Camera operators always need to follow the footage as dictated by producers, the director, and the cinematographer or the director of photography.
Rate of Camera Operators
The average pay for camera operators ranges from $26,560 to $110,790. The pay depends on factors such as level of experience, geographic location, training and education acquired, and the specific industry you are part of. For example, camera operators for movies have a higher pay compared to news camera operators because they must be away for weeks or months at a time until the shooting has finished. The employment opportunities of camera operators, together with video editors, are expected to increase 18 percent between 2019 to 2029.
Tips to Become a Camera Operator
Now that you know what a camera operator is, you are ready to learn tips on how to become a camera operator. Following these tips will enable you to get your foot in the door.
Know how to use cameras
You can’t possibly be a camera operator if you do not know the ins and outs of your camera. Learning the basics of your camera’s system, including its gears, lenses, and shooting modes, is something you should do. You are also expected to study other films and become familiar with various camera positioning, movements, and angles.
Attend university or a program
Whether you plan on attending community college or film school, most film departments will give you access to different types of equipment. Meaning, you can familiarize yourself with the technical process and skills a camera operator needs to master. Although most camera operator positions may need formal education like a bachelor’s degree in film production or an associate’s degree in video production, working knowledge on using cameras is enough to open opportunities for entry-level work.
Write an awesome resume
A resume is needed even when you’re fresh out of university. This is what you will show your potential employees even when you’re only applying for internships. Keep your resume short since your potential employers may only skim it. Make sure people understand what’s in it in just one glance.
Whatever format you follow, start with a summary that covers your values and skills. You must also highlight your previous experience, your ambitions for the future, as well as your current accomplishments. The goal should be to make a strong first impression.
Aside from your resume, you must also write a cover letter to use when you apply for positions, especially those that are similar in nature. Limit your cover letter to only one page, so readers have a higher chance of reading it in full. Address the cover letter to the person who is hiring, then state the specific job opening you are applying to as the lead of the letter. This will ensure the cover letter won’t seem vague.
Become an assistant
It is possible to learn the tricks and trade of the camera operator position fast if you get trained by experienced professionals. This is why it is important for newbies to apply as a camera assistant. Having a job opportunity like this will allow you to learn the ins and outs of the film industry, as well as help you get started on moving up in the production studio ladder to advance your career.
After you attend school, it is important to apply for a camera operator internship. This will provide you with much-needed exposure. Aside from that, it will give you more networking opportunities in the industry, which can be very challenging to come by, especially if you are a newbie. Although finding an internship is your responsibility, there are schools that can give you the assistance that may come through the help of career development advisors, campus job boards, and many more.
You can apply for studio jobs where you will shoot in a controlled environment with a set of lighting determined by the director. You can also apply for live coverage internships where you will be tasked to take videos of sports, speeches, concerts, and other events with a press release writer. For this, you need to respond to quick directions.
There are also opportunities for movies and commercials where you will need to practice how to do artistic angles that look good on the screen. But for the most part, you will be taking instructions from a director of photography. You may be able to step in and do a mediocre job at other things but shooting with a thousand-dollar camera and lens will take skills that are learned through years of experience and practice.
Organize your portfolio
Having a portfolio or demo reel will help you showcase your talent and abilities as a camera operator. Your first few job experiences may be unpaid or low-budget, but these will enable you to have hands-on experience while you need to build a demo reel that will impress potential employers.
Practice your skills
Camera operators must always have impeccable hand-eye coordination. Not only that, they must have solid attention to detail, as well as communication skills. Do not forget that camera operation is not a one-man job. It is a collaborative process that needs a team player to execute work properly. As much as you can, work on many projects so you can hone your talent and skills.
Top Qualities of a Camera Operator
Being a competent camera operator goes beyond using the best camera gear and mastering it. It is also about practicing the craft on a daily basis and having certain qualities that will allow you to see the beauty in normal places and capture such beauty on the shoot.
Here are some of the qualities you need to develop if you want to learn how to become a camera operator.
Camera work is an art form in itself. Hence, having good imagination and creativity is crucial. As a camera operator, you must be able to interpret ordinary scenes in a wide variety of ways and convey it as a meaningful and beautiful video clip.
Flexible and easy to work with
Finding someone who is easy to work with is a blessing, and this is especially true for production houses hiring a camera operator. Producers are looking for someone who can put people being filmed at ease. They need someone who can remain patient when dealing with delays, as well as be understanding when there is a need to reshoot something.
Strength and stamina
It is important for camera operators to hone their technical skills through journals, forums, and other resources. But more than that, they must also have strength. Although shooting is fun, it is a very demanding job that requires long hours of carrying heavy equipment.
Technical skills are something that you can learn, but natural creativity isn’t. This is one of the most important qualities of a camera operator. A great operator will be able to spot a great angle because they have an artistic eye when framing shots. They must have the talent to see something unique when they look through a lens. Also, you need to foresee how elements will come together. So perspective, movement, lighting, and composition are all crucial.
Attention to detail
Producing professional videos is a collaborative event that needs all people to work together to make an amazing output. A great camera crew needs to follow instructions with precision. There needs to be a level of coordination between the director, camera operator, audio post-production professionals, editors, and lighting specialists.
As a camera operator, it is vital to know that things will not always happen the way you expect them to. It doesn’t matter how great you are at controlling your camera. There will be a day when your client, the weather, or the camera itself will be hard to deal with. You need to take a lot of videos of the same scene to get the perfect shots. As a result, you need the patience to deal with mistakes.
This is the most important quality that can make a camera operator stand out. Just like other careers, passion is what makes a camera operator. This quality will enable you to love your job and strive to do the best work possible.
Now You Know How to Become a Camera Operator
A camera operator does more than stand silently behind the camera and record scenes or interviews. Camera operators give expert knowledge and expertise that enable talented writers, great designers, and skilled editors to present their stories visually. Now that you know how to become a camera operator, you can finally pursue your passion.