TV or film camera operator

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Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would use film or digital video cameras to shoot films, TV shows, adverts and music videos. You would follow instructions from a director or director of photography.

You would:

  • Set up camera equipment
  • Plan and rehearse shots
  • Follow a camera script and take cues from the director or floor manager
  • Choose lenses and camera angles
  • Solve technical problems such as lighting
  • Work with other technical departments such as lighting and sound

You may be the only camera operator. You would then use a portable single camera.

You could also be part of a TV studio camera team. On feature films and TV drama productions you may be part of a very large crew. You would then have a specific role, such as:

  • Second assistant camera (clapper loader) – load and unload film, count the takes and help the camera crew
  • First assistant camera (focus puller) – judge and adjust the focus on each shot
  • Grip – build and use any cranes and pulleys needed to move a camera during shooting

You would usually specialise in either film or television work. However, thanks to digital cameras and HD technology, camera professionals are finding it easier to work across different areas.

Working conditions

Hours

Your hours could often be long and irregular, and may include shift work and nights depending on the production. You may also need to be flexible and work at short notice, particularly for news programmes.

Environment

You could work anywhere from studios to outside locations in all weather conditions. You may have to work at heights on cranes or scaffolding.

Travel

Location work could be anywhere in the UK or overseas. News camera jobs may involve working under difficult or dangerous conditions such as riots or war zones.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Working as part of a team
  • Following instructions
  • Accuracy
  • Working with your hands
  • Coping with pressure
  • Being creative
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

Although there are no set qualifications required to enter this role, many camera operators take a college or university course to develop their camera skills before looking for work.

Qualifications in areas like photography, lighting, media production and broadcasting such as Higher National Diploma in Television Production (SCFQ level 8) or degree in photography (SCQF level 9/10) may be of value. 

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

Training is usually on the job.

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Photography
  • Art and design
  • Media
  • Drama
  • Engineering science
  • Physics

You will also need

A portfolio and showreel of your work to send to employers.

Helpful to have

Once in work you can gain further qualifications such as a Professional Development Award (PDA) in Outside Broadcasting in a Multi Camera Production (SCQF level 9).

There are also a number of industry bodies that can offer relevant training and qualifications such as the Guild of British Camera Technicians (GBCT).