Fact Checked

What does a Cameraman do?

Cassie L. Damewood
Cassie L. Damewood

A cameraman operates a variety of cameras to record video film for motion pictures, television shows and commercials. He may also shoot film for sportscasts, ceremonial events or concerts. As part of camera crew, he typically works with a team of directors, technicians, and performers to consult on the technical and creative aspects of the production.

Depending on his expertise and the visual demands of the project at hand, a cameraman may work with traditional film cameras as well as digital and electronic versions. He may use one type of camera for the entire job or use multiple types to accommodate certain settings and create different illusions. He often works closely with the lighting crew to enhance a shot or scene.

A cameraman is a photographer who records video or film.
A cameraman is a photographer who records video or film.

A successful cameraman traditionally has expertise in using different camera features to generate a wide range of images. He may suggest these inventive shots, as can the director and cinematographer. Zoom lenses, filters, and other photographic manipulation features are typically used to increase the intensity or change the mood of a shot or scene. His range of creativity is also boosted by integrating the capabilities of mobile track and crane-mounted cameras with those of stationary ones.

Cameramen film scenes both real and fiction.
Cameramen film scenes both real and fiction.

The three most common environments in which a camera professional works include on location, in a studio or outdoors. These venues are normally dictated by the nature of the film and the vision of the director. All three settings are frequently part of one film project.

If a cameraman works on location, he and the rest of the crew are generally more involved in the creative process than outdoors or in a studio as there are typically more available visual options than normal. Many commercials, music videos, and documentaries are shot on location. Feature films normally shoot at least part of their project on location.

A cameraman is an integral part of the on-set crew.
A cameraman is an integral part of the on-set crew.

A studio camera operator’s focus is generally on following a precise order of shots decided upon by the director and practiced beforehand. In this scenario, he is considerably less involved in the artistic side of his craft. Instead, his ability to work in unison with the director and communicate well is highlighted. Studio shoots are commonly used for television and movie productions.

Occasions like concerts typically requires a cameraman to shoot outdoors.
Occasions like concerts typically requires a cameraman to shoot outdoors.

Outdoor shoots are often considered the most prone to surprises. Besides the unpredictability of weather, other variables like local people and animals often disrupt the filming. Occasions like concerts and sporting events typically require shooting outdoors.

A two-year associate’s degree or a comparable certificate in video production is normally required to be a cameraman. To advance into the field of editing generally requires a bachelor’s degree. Familiarity with a wide range of cameras and video equipment is considered a plus.

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Discussion Comments


@JessicaLynn - That does sound fun, but keep in mind that when you travel like that, you're away from home for long periods of time. I imagine many cameramen have families. So it might be cool to travel, but you're also leaving behind your family and all the other parts of your life!

I guess if you choose a career as a cameraman, you have to decide if you want to do something closer to home, or travel. I imagine there are a lot of factors to take into account when making that decision.

I think shooting on location sounds really fun. Imagine how cool it would be to travel all around the world shooting movies or commercials? And of course a documentary cameraman probably gets to travel a lot too. I've seen many documentaries that are shot at exotic locations, like the jungle or really far away cities I'll probably never get a chance to travel to.
@ceilingcat - I'm a bit surprised by that, to tell you the truth. I always thought you had to have a degree or some kind of formal training to be a professional cameraman. But I guess if enough people who want video are OK hiring a cameraman without a degree, then there's no reason to get a degree.
@StarJo - My boyfriend is in the wedding industry as a DJ but he works closely with other wedding professionals, including the professional cameraman. These days, most people hire someone to take video of their wedding.

However, you would be surprised how many of these wedding professionals don't actually have a degree. My boyfriend has met a bunch of cameramen that got hired as assistants and then learned on the job. And most of the non-degreed cameramen do a really great job!

@Belted – To qualify as a good candidate for most cameraman jobs, you will need a degree. It never hurts to learn all you can about your field, even if you already know a lot.

A degree will put you in the forefront of the pool of candidates. I'm sure work experience is great, but usually, in order to get that, you need a degree to lure employers into hiring you.

The television cameraman who works for the local television studio has it easy during the evening news. All he has to do is set up the equipment and leave it on the tripod, because the newscasters do not move away from their desks the whole time.

However, his job is a bit more challenging when he is told to go shoot the news anchors on location. Then, he has to deal with working in the outdoors and capturing people in the best light possible, as well as at the best angles.

My sister hired a freelance cameraman to record her wedding. He had some examples of his work on his website, and she could see that he was very good at what he did.

Not even the best cameraman can do anything about unexpected scenes, though. My sister's ex-boyfriend showed up at her wedding drunk, and he followed her down the aisle! She didn't want to lose the shot of our dad walking her down the aisle, and the only way to get rid of the ex-boyfriend scene would be to edit that out completely, so she told the cameraman just to keep it.


What is the best way to break into the industry as a cameraman? Do I need to get a degree or is it better to just get a lot of experience and try working as soon as I possibly can?

I have wanted to be a cameraman since abut the time I was 10. I know that sounds like a weird dream, but I think it would be interesting and exciting work and in demand for a long time.

When you start to think about all the things that get filmed from pro sports to day time TV to plays you begin to realize how many camera operators there are in the world.
Just this last weekend I met a guy who works as a cameraman at big outdoor concerts. Sometimes he films them and other times he directs the shots coming from other cameramen.

He said that it was interesting work but harder than you would expect. You have to be out in the elements all the time and you have to deal with some very technical equipment.

But he said he made good money and got to see a lot of great concerts. Sounds like it is worth it to me.

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    • A cameraman is a photographer who records video or film.
      By: Kurhan
      A cameraman is a photographer who records video or film.
    • Cameramen film scenes both real and fiction.
      By: imageegami
      Cameramen film scenes both real and fiction.
    • A cameraman is an integral part of the on-set crew.
      By: Sergey Lavrentev
      A cameraman is an integral part of the on-set crew.
    • Occasions like concerts typically requires a cameraman to shoot outdoors.
      By: wassiliy
      Occasions like concerts typically requires a cameraman to shoot outdoors.