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TV or film camera operator

Camera operators record images for film, television, commercials and online.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements. Employers are usually more interested in skills and experience than qualifications.

You could start out as a ‘runner’ and work your way up by making contacts and getting to hear about unadvertised jobs. 

You could take a media production or technology college or university course, or get paid or unpaid experience and build up your contacts by working:

  • on community film projects
  • for a camera equipment hire company
  • as a runner or camera assistant with a production company

You could apply for the Guild of British Camera Technicians' (GBCT) trainee scheme.

You could get into this job through an advanced apprenticeship.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to carry out instructions quickly and accurately
  • calmness under pressure
  • patience and concentration
  • good levels of stamina and physical fitness

3. What you'll do

You'll record moving images for film, television or online use. You could work on feature films, news programmes, commercials, music videos or corporate productions, usually under instruction from the director or director of photography.

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • setting up camera equipment
  • choosing the most suitable lenses and camera angles
  • planning and rehearsing shots
  • following a camera script
  • working closely with other technical departments

You might be the only camera operator, or part of a  team.

You'll usually specialise in either film or television work as the equipment and techniques can be different. However, with changes in technology it’s becoming easier to work across all formats.

4. Salary

You're usually paid a fee for each contract.

Rates can vary widely.

Contact the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) for current pay guidelines.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Hours can be long and irregular, and may include shift work and nights.

You may also have to work at short notice.

You’ll work in studios or outside locations in all weather conditions.

You could work anywhere in the UK or overseas, sometimes in difficult or dangerous conditions.

You may have to work at height.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a camera supervisor, cinematographer or director of photography.

You could specialise in a particular field, like underwater filming, aerial photography or wildlife work.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017