How to get a job as a camera operator

Working in television is more about who you know rather than what you know. I worked in news as a studio camera operator for almost 5 years and I wouldn't have gotten the job without knowing the right people. Although the combination of the two is your best bet to getting your foot in the door as a camera operator, here are some tips for working in television as a camera operator.

Things You'll Need

  • address book for business acquaintences
  • networking
  • school
  • willingness to work for free or low pay
  • willing to work irregular hours


    • 1

      SCHOOL - Sometimes the best way to build a resume or portfolio, gain skills, and make contacts is to go to school. If you have a vocational technical school or community college near your home, look into taking noncredit or credit classes in camera work, photography, and any other media arts classes available.

    • 2

      ATTEND FILM FESTIVALS - You don't need to attend the Sundance Film Festival to meet other film/television enthusiasts. Even smaller towns usually have film festivals. If you can attend one, do so. Take the time to compliment the film makers on their work. Ask about the message or meaning of the film. And most importantly, get a contact number or email. Some may have business cards. Remember, just because someone appears to not be a pro, doesn't mean they don't know other pro's that you may be able to contact through them. Your first job as a camera operator can be in film or television. The skills are highly transferable between the two.

    • 3

      NETWORKING- If you get business cards, emails, or even flip through the phone book in the television and video production section, make contact with people. Networking opens up your chances of getting work or experience as a camera operator and meeting even more people.

    • 4
      Me and a coworker at the tv station

      SHADOW - When you shadow a camera operator, you are there to learn through observation. You get a taste of what the job is like and can ask questions of a camera operator and other television and video production professionals.

    • 5

      WRITE LETTERS OF INQUIRY - You can contact television and video production companies that you have an interest in doing an internship at or to shadow.

    • 6

      GET TO WORK - Make rounds to industry web sites that advertise jobs and other opportunities for work as a camera operator. Consider doing an internship. An internship gives you real world experience and even more contact with industry professionals. Check out,, and even for opportunities.

    • 7

      GET A SUBSCRIPTION TO INDUSTRY MAGAZINES - Video Maker, Film Maker, and American Cinematographer are industry magazines that keep you updated on technology and other industry trends.

    • 8

      DO IT YOURSELF - Buy a quality video camera, such as a Canon XL, or some other industry appropriate camera and start shooting on your own. You can even create projects to enter into a film festival or build a portfolio.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't quit your day job right away. Making money as a camera operator is hard work and takes time. You frequently have to do freelance work and full time employment with benefits is hard to come by.
  • If you can take other media arts related classes, such as video editing, you can be your own cinematographer and editor.
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