Camera Operators

Cameraman Zooms in on Interviewee

Camera operators use motion picture cameras and equipment to photograph subjects or material for movies, television programs, or commercials. They may use 35-millimeter or 16-millimeter cameras or camcorders and a variety of films, lenses, tripods, and filters in their work. Many camera operators today use digital cameras, which provide the operator with a greater range of camera angles. Camera operators' instructions often come from cinematographers or directors of photography. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of May 2015, approximately 20,060 camera operators worked in the United States.

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Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) First Assistant Camera Operators, Second Assistant Camera Operators, Special Effects Camera Operators
Duties Maintaining and operating camera equipment; selecting the proper camera for each job; shooting scenes based on a director's instructions; editing footage in the field; capturing live-action events
Salary Range Below $25,000 to $100,000+
Work Environment Indoors/Outdoors
Best Geographical Location(s) New York and California; urban, suburban, and rural locations large enough to have at least one television station
Minimum Education Level
  • Some Postsecondary Training
  • Apprenticeship
  • Bachelor's Degree
School Subjects
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Technical/Shop
Experience On-the-job training; two to three years' experience as a production assistant or camera assistant
Personality Traits
  • Conventional
  • Hands On
  • Technical
  • Computer
  • Digital Media
  • Mechanical/Manual Dexterity
Certification or Licensing None
Special Requirements None
Employment Prospects Fair
Advancement Prospects Fair
Outlook Little Change or More Slowly than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Camera Operator
  • Camera Assistant
  • Production Assistant