Understanding the Different Types of Camera Operator Jobs

tv camera operator jobs

Let’s be honest, I just thought this picture was funny

Television is a visual medium created by many, but we so often give the majority of credit to the people on the screen, namely the reporters, on-air talent and analysts, without truly appreciating the storytellers holding the camera.

There is great variance between the roles and responsibilities of camera operator jobs, it’s rarely as simple as point and shoot.

To really understand what it takes to become a top notch camera operator we’re going to break down the various roles to give you a leg up.

Let’s get the lingo straight first

No one in the industry calls anyone a camera operator. It’s too long and by nature television people talk fast and react even faster.

If you find yourself in a TV newsroom, use the word Shooter or Photog and you’ll fit in much better.

How to use Shooter in a sentence:

Reporter: “I’m headed to Town Hall and I need a shooter in the van with me in 5 minutes!”

Screaming for a Shooter does not mean they want someone to pack heat for the drive; that would be bad. Nope, their request is for a camera operator to get their gear ready and get in the van.

(I really hate using the phrase camera operator, stop making me do it)

How to use Photog in a sentence:

Assignment desk editor trying to organize the stories for the day: “I’ve only got two photogs on today and I have three major stories happening at the same time!” (Yes, this sort of panic is also common, whenever you have two photogs three stories break in different parts of town.)

And Now…The Actual Roles

camera operator jobs studio

A studio camera operator in action – doesn’t she look happy?

You may think that all camera operator are created the same but that is not the case. There are different specialties. Let’s start with the most entry level of positions that hold or operate a TV camera: studio camera operator.

Studio camera operator jobs are pretty straight-forward, consisting of pointing at your assigned anchor, focusing and listening to your Director for changes. This is a great introductory job for people interested in a career in camera work or any of the operations type roles in television. It’s a proving ground role, do this well and other opportunities will come about.

Now, here’s the insider tip to get ahead as a studio camera operator: make use of your time.

Your role is only active when the studio is fired up and creating TV, so that means you will have downtime. Use that downtime to talk to the technical director about learning the switcher, the audio operator, the playback operator – the more you can learn and show enthusiasm  for the entire operation, the faster your career will grow.

The downside: Many larger operations have robo-cams in studio that are controlled by one operator in the control room so this lessens some of the opportunities. Never fear, smaller stations still have studio personnel operating the cameras.

ENG Camera Operator Jobs

eng camera operator jobs

ENG camera operator in Mongolia…and yet, he looks happy too

ENG stands for Electronic News Gathering, but this is the terminology of textbooks, it’s never used in an actual TV environment. (See above and appear cool by saying Shooter or Photog)

Think of ENG camera operators as a mobile cameraman, most often seen with a camera on their shoulder out in the field alongside reporters shooting “News of the Day” events, feature stories, interviews, press conferences – you name it.

Sometimes they’ll be on tripods, shooting reporter stand ups, but most of the time they’ll be out in the field, on the move, with a camera on their shoulder.

The benefit: Every day is very different. As an ENG camera operator, one day you’ll be at a car wreck, the next you’ll be covering a weather story and the day after that a movie premiere. You just never know.

And the third style is…

The third style of camera operator is involved in live sports. In live sports production you’ll have a specific chore or responsibility for the event based on your position on the field of play and the director vision.

sports camera operator jobs

On the ice for a hockey game, now this guy looks really happy

Let’s say you’re working a baseball game and you are operating the camera on the low 3rd base side, you’re going to know prior to the game what the director and producer expect of you.

If it’s a right handed pitcher you may be responsible for their wind- up and delivery, if runners are on base you may be following the lead runner, or you may have a good angle for celebrations in the dugout.

You have to be very attentive during a live sports event, listening to what the Director wants you to adjust to, or new ideas that the Producer might want to throw your way, but most of the time you’ll have a pretty specific role and will know what is expected of you.

Positions change from live sports event to live sports event, for example you might be low under the hoop for basketball, or high mid court, or in Football you could be in the endzone, or up in the stands around the 35 yard line.

That’s part of what makes that camera operator job exciting, the varying sports and the way they are covered.

So if you want to work as a news photographer, shooter, photog, ENG, studio op or sports camera op, now you know the roles and the lingo…and here’s where you can find the jobs.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

Comments

  1. Kairon Arnold says:

    Nice write up concerning “cam ops”. I’ve worked as a video editor/copy writer/photog for a tv newsroom, I’ve made magic happen with my Go Pro camera & PC edit program…check out my work @ YouTube/kaironarnold
    peace & shooters unite.

  2. Dear Sir,

    Please consider my curriculum vitae in application for suitable position in your prestigious establishment .I am confident that I would be able to meet your expectations because I am willing to learn and try other fields which I believe would enhance my career.

    I have 12 years experience in the field of audio. My experience varies from indoor to outdoor stages using digital, analog mixers and cameras.

    Thank you for considering my application . I am looking forward to meeting you at your convenience.

    Sincerely,

    Hatem hassan

    • Hatem – We aren’t hiring right now but you are in the right place, check our job board for over 3,000 jobs in TV, Radio, Film and Music – I know you’ll find what you are looking for! – Brian

  3. “No one in the industry calls anyone a camera operator.”

    That’s utterly false.

    • The point was camera operator is a very formal term, and more often than not industry folks use other faster jargon or slang such as shooter, photog or op to describe a person operating a camera. Not utterly false. Maybe your experience is different than mine, but it surely isn’t false. – Brian

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