TV or film camera operator

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Salary range: Variable

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How to become a TV or film camera operator

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards the role
  • volunteering
  • industry training
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University

You can take a university course to develop your camera skills before looking for work. Relevant courses include degrees in media production, media technology or photography.

It may give you an advantage if you can find a course that offers practical experience and possibly a work placement.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

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College

You can take a college course like:

  • Level 2 Diploma In Creative Media Production & Technology
  • Level 3 Certificate in Media Techniques
  • Level 3 Diploma in Photography

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course

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Apprenticeship

You may be able to get into this career through an advanced apprenticeship in creative and digital media.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

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Work

You could start out as a camera assistant and learn while you work from an experienced camera operator.

Volunteering and experience

You can get practical experience and build up your contacts through:

  • community film projects
  • working for a camera equipment hire company
  • finding work experience as a runner or camera assistant with a production company

Other routes

You may be able to apply for the Guild of British Camera Technicians’ Trainee Scheme which offers training and mentoring by experienced people working in the industry. The application process is very competitive.

You can also do short courses through the National Film and Television School.

More information

Further information

You can get more advice about how to become a camera operator from ScreenSkills.

You can find out more about creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

You could work at a TV studio, at a film studio or on a film set.

Your working environment may be at height, outdoors in all weathers and you may spend nights away from home.

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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.