Movie and TV Camera Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts

Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Motion Picture Career Video

Insider Info

dotA picture is worth a thousand words -- and moving pictures can tell the whole story! In television and movies, the person taking the pictures is called a camera operator.

dotCamera operators rely on many of the same skills as traditional photographers. Composing a picture includes choosing a subject and selecting equipment to accomplish the desired goal.

For example, camera operators may enhance the subject's appearance with lighting. Or they may draw attention to a particular visual aspect by blurring the background.

By creatively using lighting, lenses, film, filters and camera settings, camera operators produce pictures that capture a mood or tell a story.

dotThose involved with film and video use their skills to record news and live events, and film videos and television broadcasts. Many camera operators are employed by independent television stations, local affiliates or networks. They often cover news events as part of a reporting team.

Other camera operators are employed in the entertainment field. They use motion picture cameras to film movies, television programs, commercials, cartoons or other special effects. A few become teachers and provide instruction in their own area of expertise. Some are self-employed.

dotCamera operators may start out as camera assistants, floor directors or lighting technicians, and work their way up to director of photography. Freelance operator Naomi Wise says she started as a trainee on a feature film, loading film magazines.

Operator Lance Carlson says it may take several years to advance from a camera assistant to a camera operator or a photographic director in movie, television and commercial productions.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Capture the scene on film

  • You'll work with lighting, lenses, film, filters and camera settings
  • Camera operators need good eyesight, artistic ability and manual dexterity
  • Courses in cinematography are good