What’s it like working as a cameraman? Well you need a lot of talents but maybe not the ones that come to your mind first. You need patience, problem solving abilities and people skills not to mention powers of negotiation and navigation, then you need a good eye too. A phrase you hear about video work that is very true is “Hurry and and wait”. This is the first rule of almost every shoot because we are always rushing to get somewhere and set up, then end up twiddling our thumbs for waiting for other departments to do their thing (Hair and Makeup is normally an offender) or you need to wait for any number of things. As part of a crew you become an expert in the art of hanging around.
Mastery of cameras and lenses on the list too of the required skills of a TV cameraman. A good cameraman needs to possess an artistic eye as well as a good understanding of the technology. It’s also essential to enjoy being with people. A cameraman normally has to work as part of a team and you may be shooting with 20 people in a small location so it’s vital to be able to get on with them all.
Anyone who wants to become a cameraman must possess the tenacity to work 24 hour days and the stamina to think and shoot in any condition or time of day or night. All my friends think filming is fun and glamorous, but it’s very rarely either. If you want to follow a career shooting you have to be very sure you want to do it because it involves years of long hours, challenging conditions and can be low pay too until you become established. You will need a creative mind as well as technical knowledge. You will be more highly regarded if you have a balance of both of these skills.
Being a freelancer is a juggling act. Bookings come in and you have to treat them all as “pencil bookings” or unconfirmed jobs. Shoot dates and times will overlap, some shoots will be better than others and all your clients will want you for the same day. The hard part is managing all of this. You need to form relationships with clients so you know if their shoots are likely to actually happen or be rescheduled. You need to manage your bookings without messing up and without offending clients or Producers. I have a personal rule that when I commit to a shoot for a client, I will not pull out to do another shoot even if I think it will be better, this way all the Producers and clients I work with know I am 100% reliable and that goes a long way in making a great working relationship.
Experience and knowledge can’t always be looked up on the internet. It is the first hand experience on set that is vital. So if you are new in the industry or thinking about a career change you have to love what you’re doing to make it. I have been in the industry for a couple of decades and I would not dream of doing anything else. Being a cameraman is an amazing job and I feel extremely privileged to be able to do it.