There are 51,900 video and film camera operators in the United States as of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these video operators work as legal videographers and play an important role in the presentation of legal facts and depositions. Videographers are often self-employed and are able to set their own rates and income goals.
Legal videographers use camera and editing equipment to record important events. While other types of videographers often produce video for weddings and celebrations, legal videographers specialize in more serious projects for law firms. Workers in this profession often record legal depositions and produce documentaries to illustrate damages. Legal videographers do not need a college degree, but must be professional and able to follow court guidelines for acceptable video evidence. Many videographers are self-employed and operate their own small production businesses.
Because legal videographers are often self-employed, they typically do not receive a set yearly salary. Instead, workers are paid on a project basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that on average, professional videographers earn approximately $41,670 per year. According to the Seattle Times, legal videographers typically charge between $90 to $125 an hour. Work may not always be consistently available and the income of a videographer may fluctuate from month to month.
The amount of work available to a legal videographer can significantly affect the level of income. The Seattle Times reports that when producing content for major cases, it is not uncommon for legal videographers to work up to 19-hour days at a significant hourly rate. However, cases and clients are not always available. The geographic location can also influence income levels. For instance, the BLS states that in 2010 video camera operators in San Francisco, California earned a median income of $68,080 per year. In the smaller city of Raleigh, North Carolina, video operators earned only $41,890 annually. Typically, larger cities have more law firms and available work compared to smaller cities and towns.
Job opportunities and earnings for video camera operators are expected to increase in the foreseeable future, according to the BLS. Specifically, the Bureau predicts that this profession will expand by 11 percent between 2008 and 2018. An article by the Seattle Times confirms this outlook, and reports that legal videography is expanding. As the number of law firms and lawsuits increases, the opportunities for legal videographers also grow.