The 7 Steps To Becoming A Professional Cameraman

Visual media is an integral part of today's electronic world. It would not be wrong to say that despite the Internet boom, the television has continued to hold it's ground and in fact collaborated with the World Wide Web in order to take a huge leap into the virtual world too.

Indeed this has opened up even more doors for cameramen who wish to enter into the broadcast television industry.

While the job is not exactly rocket science, it is by no means child's play either. Below is a list of steps on how to become a professional cameraman.

Ellen Kugelberg filming for the movie Arne Dahl

Ellen Kugelberg filming for the movie Arne Dahl (Image Copyright Joost de Meij)

Step 1 - Know your equipment

It would not be wrong to say that the first step to becoming a professional cameraman is to shoot a video. You must know your video camera and understand the process of shooting. Take a video of whatever you can and whenever you can.

Over and above the very basic focusing learn other things such as shutter speed, angles and lighting. Go through the manual of the camera and try and customise your camera in all ways possible. The more time you spend with your equipment, the better the results are going to be and at the end of the day, it is only the results that matter.

Step 2 - Know your jargon

It is important to know the various words related to the camera and the shooting process. So while on one hand you must know what each and every part of your camera is called, on the other, you must also know what is meant by wide angle, close up, establishing shot, foreground, and background. The official words as well as the slangs must be on your finger tips.

Step 3 - Watch works of professional cameramen

Try and see as much videos and movies as you can. Look at them from a cameraman's perspective. Understanding how a particular shot was taken, where the camera would have been placed or even what lenses were being used will help to better your expertise levels.

Step 4 - Take a course

While about a decade ago most cameramen had to rely on self study only, today there are many courses that are available for those looking to make a career in this field. Most of them last about a year and help gain better expertise in the area.

Keep in mind that while a lot of the established cameramen of today did not undertake a formal study in the art, the present times are different and the competition is also fiercer, so it is best to be armed with a degree of sorts.

Step 5 - Pick your field

A cameraman for a wildlife shoot needs to have completely different passions and expertise levels as opposed to a cameraman who shoots live breaking news. The patience level in the former is extremely important, while the latter needs to be pushy.

Picking your area of interest is very important when looking to becoming a professional camera man. Jeff Goodman, the award winning who excels in wildlife and underwater shoots has over 30 years of experience under his belt. He is known for the many courses he runs for aspiring cameramen.

Jeff tries to inspire his students into loving wildlife as much as they love the camera. He believes that the field you pick has to interest you as much as you love for filming. His own love for wildlife has what has gotten him several cameraman awards such as the 'Wildscreen panda best revelation film', 'Wildscreen panda animal behavior' and many more. The man has also had the opportunity to work with industry giants such as BBC, Discovery USA, YTV, etc. Indeed picking the right field is very crucial to a successful career as a cameraman.

Step 6 - The apprentice learns the best

Learning about the various theoretical aspects of the shooting is important, but the real knowledge is to be had on the field. Shooting for a wedding and shooting under pressure for a live broadcast is not the same thing.

It is a fact that most experienced and well paid cameramen of today have worked hectic hours and busy schedules for pittance, just to gain the experience on the field. The idea is to know the icons of your segment and try and secure an apprentice job with them.

Step 7 - Build a resume

Looking to climb the ladder? Make sure you build your resume from day one. Any course, any training and any work done in the field must be recorded and listed in the resume. Pick your best work and produce it and put it up on the net for others to see. Remember, we are dealing with the visual media here and advertising counts greatly.

So, best of luck, pull your camera out and roll !!

About the author
Joseph de Meij

I am Joseph de Meij, 25 years old and I am a freelance cameraman who loves to travel. I'm currently trying to find different ways to overcome my toxic career syndrome and find out what my goals are in life.

This article was first published at

Your Comments

one year ago
where could you study to become a camera operator?
Brian Dzyak
one year ago
A fantastic and suscinct article! I would only emphasize the importance of understanding the industry as a whole and how the arena you wish to work in works. For instance, a Cameraman who shoots feature length films has a much different working protocal and career path (getting there and staying there) than, say, a Cameraman who shoots news or industrials or other entertainment programming.

As someone who stumbled my way through it (like nearly everyone else who is working today), I decided to provide a guide for people who are just like me so that they wouldn't have to figure it out on their own too. I encourage aspiring Cameramen (and anyone else who wishes for a viable career in the entertainment industry) to take a look at and my book (info at the site).

And good luck!

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