How to Become a Cameraman – 2021 Complete Guide

Before learning how to become a cameraman, you must first determine why you want to become one. Do you want to seek fame by being on film sets and in front of the camera? Or do you simply wish to learn about filmmaking and be behind the scenes where the real magic happens?

If your motivation is fame, then expect it to take time and practice before landing any significant roles. The directors and producers will see right through someone who isn’t serious about their craft if they try getting experience this way (by posing as a working professional). Expect years of work for little pay until you land that big break that lands you in front of the cameras.

On the other hand, if you’re motivated by the art and science of filmmaking, then be prepared for a lot of hard work that takes serious dedication. You’ll start as a production assistant (a PA) and do everything from fetching coffee to setting up equipment and keeping track of wardrobe. As you learn more about filmmaking, you might be able to move up in position until you become an actual cameraman.

What is a cameraman?

sunset cameraman
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A cameraman (also known as a director of photography) is an individual who shoots the footage that makes up a film or video project. In other words, they operate the camera as directed by the director. Cameramen are responsible for both the technical and creative aspects of shooting a scene. They must have great knowledge of their cameras as well as how to work with lighting, lenses, angles, and shadows.

Becoming a cameraman requires much training and practice before you acquire enough experience to become a professional. You can’t just go out one day and call yourself a cameraman because you own fancy camera equipment – you have to have years of hands-on experience. Even then you’re going to need references from other working professionals before you can quit your day job and become self-employed.

What do I need to learn?

While it’s possible to teach yourself how to become a cameraman, it’s much easier to attend a school dedicated to teaching the art of cinematography. There are several film schools in most major cities that offer degrees or diplomas in this specialized craft, but keep in mind they usually require previous experience as a crew member on at least one project. Attending a school is also going to be expensive – prepare for tuition fees and additional expenses for things like books and equipment–and the competition is fierce between aspiring film students.

A degree from a prestigious university will help tremendously when trying to secure employment opportunities after graduating.
While going to school is the most effective way of learning how to become a cameraman, it’s also possible to learn through studying books and watching tutorials on the Internet. However, it’s safer and more reliable to use both methods combined in order to get a comprehensive education about the skills involved with the craft

What does a cameraman do?

Once you become a cameraman, your daily duties will depend on whether you’re working as a freelancer or for a company. Freelancers are hired by different directors and producers to shoot specific scenes which they then edit into their final movie cut. As a freelancer, your main responsibility is to make the director happy with the shots that you deliver – and also remain professional enough not to argue with them during filming if things aren’t going as planned.

Working for a studio provides more job security because they give you an advance payment in addition to royalties from replaying the film. However, you’ll have much less creative input as well as having larger responsibilities such as managing budgets and hiring crew members. In other words, you’re much more likely to become a director one day if you work for a studio rather than freelancing.

What skills do I need?

cameraman holding camera at his shoulder
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As mentioned before, the cinematography is an art as well as a science so the craft requires many different skill sets in order to perform it successfully. Cinematographers are required to have not only technical expertise but also creative vision and business sense – you’ll need all three to be successful. Let’s break down each individual skill so you can understand what you need to learn before becoming a cameraman.

Technical Expertise

If you want to learn how to become a cameraman then you’re going to have to possess the technical expertise for this role. This means knowing your way around a camera as well as having an understanding of lighting and lenses. Whether you choose to attend school or self-teach yourself, you’ll need to be able to operate these two pieces of equipment in order to succeed professionally.

Camera Knowledge

Camera Knowledge
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A cameraman needs great knowledge about his cameras so he can adjust the settings accordingly depending on the shot he wants to achieve.

For example, shallow depth of field is commonly associated with close-ups while long shots are usually filmed with deep focus; if you know how each setting should affect your image, then you’re more likely to deliver what the director wants. Additionally, it’s important that you understand how focal length affects perspective because that will be your bread and butter in many cases.

Conclusion

Now comes the practical stuff: how do you actually become a cameraman? The best way is to gain experience through internships or apprenticeships with professionals (such as beginning your own business).

It is not unusual for companies to offer unpaid internships under certain conditions – such as receiving college credits – so it may be worthwhile to pursue these opportunities if they apply to you.

However, if you can’t get an internship, then the next best option is to simply get a job as a PA and work your way up in position until you have enough experience to become a cameraman.

Don’t expect this to be easy though – most production companies will not take someone with little or no previous experience seriously. On the other hand, do not be discouraged in your quest to become a professional cameraman! When you put your mind to it it’s amazing what you’re capable of achieving!