Job Search

Camera Operator vs. Cinematographer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Camera operators and cinematographers are both professionals in the film and television industry. They work together to capture images and create videos that tell a story. Though they have similar roles, there are several key differences between these two positions. In this article, we discuss the differences between camera operators and cinematographers, and we provide additional information about careers in the film and television industry.

What is a Camera Operator?

Camera Operators are responsible for setting up and operating the cameras that capture images for movies, television shows, live events and more. They work with the Director of Photography to ensure that the images they capture are in line with the vision for the project. Camera Operators must be able to operate different types of cameras, including digital and film cameras, as well as a variety of specialized camera equipment. They must also have a keen eye for detail and composition to create beautiful and interesting images. Camera Operators typically work in the film and television industry, but they may also work in other fields such as news, sports, live events and more.

What is a Cinematographer?

Cinematographers are responsible for the visual look of a film or other video production. They work with the director to plan and execute the visual style of the project. Cinematographers operate cameras and other technical equipment to capture the images that will be edited into the final production. They also select and set up lighting equipment to create the desired effects. In addition to their technical skills, cinematographers must have an artistic eye for composition and color. They must be able to work well under pressure and adhere to tight deadlines.

Camera Operator vs. Cinematographer

Here are the main differences between a camera operator and a cinematographer.

Job Duties

While both camera operators and cinematographers perform similar tasks, their duties can differ. A camera operator’s primary responsibility is to operate the camera while filming. This may involve setting up shots, adjusting settings and directing actors to help achieve the desired footage. Cinematographers often work behind the scenes to ensure that the overall film looks great. They may collaborate with the director and other crew members to choose locations, set designs and lighting schemes that enhance the shot and make the final product more appealing to viewers.

Another key difference between these two roles is that a camera operator typically works closely with the cast and crew during filming, whereas a cinematographer may work more independently. While filming, the camera operator usually stays on set with the rest of the crew to capture all necessary footage. Conversely, a cinematographer may travel off-set to shoot certain scenes or elements that they can later incorporate into the finished product.

Job Requirements

Camera operators and cinematographers typically need a bachelor’s degree in film or another related field. Some professionals also pursue a master’s degree to gain more knowledge about the technical aspects of filmmaking and advance their career. Many camera operators and cinematographers start their careers as interns or assistants before working their way up to more senior positions.

Work Environment

The work environment for a camera operator and cinematographer can vary depending on the project. For example, if you’re working on a television show or movie, you may spend most of your time in a studio or film set. You may also travel to different locations to capture footage.

A camera operator typically works with a team of people who help them achieve their goals. They often collaborate with directors, producers and other crew members to ensure that they meet all the requirements for each shoot. A camera operator may also work closely with actors to ensure that they get the best shots possible.


Both camera operators and cinematographers need to have an understanding of composition, lighting and camera angles to create visually appealing shots. They also both need to be able to operate a camera and understand the different settings that can affect the quality of a shot.

However, there are some key differences in the skills needed for these two jobs. Camera operators typically need to have strong motor skills to be able to operate a camera smoothly and capture footage without any blurring. Cinematographers often need to be able to use computer-aided design (CAD) software to plan out shots and create storyboards for films or commercials. They may also need to have animation skills to create special effects shots.


The average salary for a camera operator is $51,752 per year, while the average salary for a cinematographer is $64,391 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of work you’re doing, your location and your experience level.


Material Planner vs. Production Planner: What Are the Differences?

Back to Job Search

General Manager vs. Product Manager: What Are the Differences?