So You Want to Become a Videographer? Here’s How!

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Becoming a videographer might be the dream of many film lovers and camera junkies, but the path towards becoming one isn’t all that simple. In fact, there probably isn’t one clear path towards becoming a great videographer either.

Sure, you may have come across several series from videographers about how they achieve their current success. However, take a closer look; you’ll notice that they’ll all be following somewhat similar steps in a different manner before they finally got that big break.

A videographer needs to study the history of filmmaking, learn from others, build up a network of contacts, and polish their own skills before they get anywhere in their chosen careers. If you have a passion for becoming a videographer, that’s certainly going to help you along the way.

Without further ado, let’s now delve into what exactly a videographer is and what you can do to become one as soon as possible!

With the advancements in technology changing up the video industry and enhancing its growth, there’s a lot of potential for videographers out there.

What is a videographer, what do they do?

You may want to be a videographer, but that doesn’t mean that you know exactly what a videographer does.

Strictly speaking, a videographer records videos that are needed for television, films, or the internet in general.

Typical work scenarios are small-scale productions such as wedding videos, commercials, corporate promotions, infomercials, and documentaries.

This might sound similar to what a cinematographer does, but there are important differences. We’ll discuss that difference in detail later.

A videographer is often responsible for camera operation along with several other aspects of shooting. For instance, you’ll also be overlooking the editing, sound, lighting, equipment repair, and maintenance as a videographer.

Sometimes though, a videographer works alongside small teams that also include light and sound technicians.

A videographer is very much the need of the hour when it comes to smaller venues. Here, most people don’t want the hassle of a film crew, let along the humongous cost. Many people want a video of their wedding, but they’re certainly not going to hire a Hollywood film crew to do the job!

Sounds interesting?

If it does, a videographer will definitely be a logical career choice for you.

Videographer vs. cinematographer: What’s the difference?

What is the difference between a videographer and a cinematographer?

These terms are often used interchangeably, which only adds to the confusion. However, the difference is definitely there.

The actual definition of these two terms is different from the way they’re defined in the freelancing and video-making world.

A cinematographer is usually part of a larger crew

If you’re making videos as part of a large crew, you’re probably working as a cinematographer. A cinematographer is also called the DP, DOP, or the director of photography.

He or she is the person responsible for the camera and the lighting crew.

A cinematographer follows the director and helps to realize the latter’s vision by making the relevant artistic and technical decisions. For this, they can make use of different lenses, lighting methods, composition, camera movements, filters, color gels, and several other filming tools.

Each decision that the cinematographer takes has to promote the story and overall artistic vision of the director.

It’s quite rare for a cinematographer to actually handle the camera. That’s what the camera operator does; taking their orders from the cinematographer.

Historical meanings of the differences between videographer and cinematographer

In a historical sense, a cinematographer worked with film and a videographer strictly with videos of other kinds.

The word ‘videographer’ came into common usage in order to label the person who worked in video production or videography, not the production of cinema films.

In a nutshell, a videographer made videos while a cinematographer dealt with film stock.

We can’t really make the same demarcation anymore, though, since digital cameras have come into the game!

Many of our most famous and distinguished major motion picture directors and cinematographers have moved to use digital cameras.

This shift is only logical, as it gives them more chances to experiment and benefit from the amazing technology that’s available now. This doesn’t mean they’re videographers now.

Videographers are camera operators working with small crews or solo

Today, we can’t use the distinction between film and video in order to differentiate between videographers and cinematographers. Instead, the distinction is defined by the crew they’re working with.

As mentioned before, videographers typically work alone or with a small crew.

Videographers are more like camera operators, as they actually handle the camera themselves. This is why some may refer to them as the cameramen or the camera operators.

But their responsibilities go way beyond those of the cameramen!

The job of a videographer is usually to work with event videography. When they’re covering events such as weddings, parties, interviews, corporate videos, and commercials, they’re also responsible for the video editing, sound, and so on. Therefore, they work on a smaller production levels than cinematographer.

The question that arises now is this: why do some videographers label themselves as cinematographers?

Some people who are clearly videographers market their services as cinematographers because most of them are freelancers. This means they have to put their profiles out there in order to get more clients.

With the digital camera changing up the film industry, many videographers have used this opportunity to revolutionize the hierarchy.

Many people might look upon videographers as being less qualified than cinematographers (which isn’t true). If videographers label themselves as cinematographers, they might find a way of getting more gigs.

The DSLR camera has also changed up the game by providing a cinematic, film-like image. This enables videographers to give a cinematic quality to their work.

Another reason for this mix-up is due to the negative response within the videography community to wedding videographers in the past few decades. While there’s nothing wrong with limiting oneself to wedding videos, many videographers don’t want to be put into that box.

Weddings are lucrative, but a lot of videographers want to move further.

To get free of such connotations and assumptions, some videographers might prefer to call themselves cinematographers. In a way, they’re trying to deal with certain confusion but may actually end up creating more!

So when you’re seeking to describe yourself as a videographer, don’t get sidetracked by people telling you that you’re just a person with a camcorder.

You can unleash your artistic creativity with a DSLR or mirrorless camera and a video editing program like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut X.

Today, the only major difference between you and a cinematographer is the size (or existence) of your crew.

What you need to become a videographer

If you’ve decided to become a videographer, there are certain items to tick off your list. While anyone can buy a digital camera, videography is a field with lots of competition.

To become a successful videographer, you need a lot of ambition, the relevant technical knowledge, and a decent level of creativity to boot. This means that you need to get a lot of experience and maybe even a degree too. I’ll get back to this in second.

After you’ve entered the field of videography, you need to focus on finding gigs that will take you up in the industry.

As with other artistic career choices, you may have to work with what you get and build up a portfolio in order to find the most lucrative jobs.

Some videographers gain fame through his or her unique style and way of experimenting with certain processes. So a focus on finding your own unique style is never a bad idea. But don’t skimp on getting the basic technical knowledge.

Your career advancement would probably be through television station, movie studios, directors, news agencies, and media companies.

If you don’t want to go into the major film industry, you may also try public institutions such as courts, colleges, universities, offices, and other organizations.

In short, you should aim to be there whenever there’s an event that needs video coverage.

Qualifications for a videographer

The educational priorities for a videographer vary according to the kind of project you’re working on.

Keep in mind that a videographer has to work in several different settings, including different lighting and surroundings.

No matter what the situation is, you should be coached in the kind of camera to use along with other technical details. Knowing how to shoot the camera in the right manner is necessary in order to become a videographer.

News broadcasts, for instance, usually make use of stationary cameras. That is unless you’re the one out to cover an event in the field of course.

Cameramen for motion pictures, on the other hand, might need to use crane-mounted, track-mounted, or both kinds of cameras for capturing the scenery and every movement necessary.

As a cameraman, you may also find yourself being part of a production team that makes technical and creative decisions together. To work as a cameraman in these scenarious, you should ideally have a post-secondary degree in film, video or television production.

In addition, you should also know the nuances of media production, the electronics, and the hardware so you can easily cope with any challenges.

If you’ve decided to apply for a position based on your education, usually, you should have at least a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree under your belt. Both of these degrees give you hands-on training as well as classroom knowledge.

An associate’s degree for Applied Science in Video Production provides students with detailed instructions on sound, storyboarding, motion graphics, concept development, lighting, and editing. The coursework might also include video manipulation, camera operation, field production, and more.

If you wish to train yourself in industry-specific software, go for courses in Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, and the like.

For taking your education to the next level, Bachelor of Arts in Film or Television Production might also be available.

These classes include sound editing, media research, visual design, media law, and several other subjects. In short, you have a variety of options that will help you diversify your career.

Becoming a videographer: film school or self-teaching?

Traditionally, those who wanted to make videos or films had to attend film school to boost their career right from the beginning. If they didn’t do so, they probably wouldn’t have been able to set foot on a film set and get to work with the expensive equipment required for movies.

The limitations on technology just a few decades ago mean that many of the most famous directors today attended the best film schools. These include names such as James Grey, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, and so on.

This is why the invention of the camcorder and later the digital camera is so revolutionary.

Today, if you want to try your hand at making videos, you don’t have to commit to years of film school. YouTube tutorials and online classes can help you get startet.

Now, however, video editing doesn’t require a $25,000 system. You can easily get a whole editing system based on your laptop for $1,500 at the most.

Film school, however, weighs in at a staggering $80,000. Since you now have the tools at a cheaper rate, why pay to learn filmmaking as a craft and spend another year as a student?

Still, one has to consider the expansion of film school as well. The New York Film Academy, for instance, gives you some vocational courses at a reasonable rate. This way, you can pick up some filmmaking skills in the classroom in a shorter period of time than from a four-year program at USC or NYU.

Skipping the whole protocol of film education and training for some gigs is doable as well, but you may not find any work without proper experience. You may also have to stand a long time of working with very little or no pay at all.

Having a degree of sorts under your belt has two main advantages: you get some interviews and you get some contacts. You can do without these tools, of course, but they certainly help to shape your work.

Ultimately, your work will determine how people receive you in the industry, not the place where you got your film education. Gaining experience in the real world has its own merits, but a proper degree is not something we can ignore.

Degree required for a videographer

At the very least, it is a good idea to have a high school diploma for becoming a videographer. This will equip you for taking a few courses that focus on the specific skills you need for handling the camera, editing videos, and making knowledgeable technical decisions.

If you’re looking for employment as a videographer instead of freelancing, you should keep in mind that many employers prefer candidates with at least a post-secondary education. Most videographers that will be in direct competition with you will have bachelors’ degrees in video production, videography, or something relevant to this field.

You may want to attend a film school or at least take up some vocational programs to ensure a successful career in videography.

Some videographers may also get internships or conduct a shadowing gig in order to gain relevant experience. Another choice here is to become an assistant and then striking out on your own.

Videography degrees in the United States

Getting a degree in videography isn’t essential when it comes to making it your career, but it certainly helps in developing and streamlining your skills.

There are a number of videography degrees available in several universities and colleges throughout the United States.

These include the following:

University of Southern California

This institution has programs in the Cinematic Arts Division and Film and Television Production. The degrees available in these fields are M.F.A, B.A, and B.F.A.

Many aspiring videographers choose this university for its efforts in giving its students access to the most cutting-edge technology.

This will give you a better chance than just keeping up with the latest Hollywood trends.

This place is physically close to Hollywood, which makes for awesome internship opportunities. You’ll also get some highly useful guest lecture from the industry greats.

NYU

New York University has an excellent Tisch Undergraduate Film and Television program with B.F.A and M.A degrees. The students and professors combined make an impressive strength of 5,000 members per year.

Alums such as M. Night Shyamalan and Martin Scorsese are just two examples of why this institution is worth trying for. However, this option might cost you quite a bundle.

American Film Institute

This popular choice gives you a Certificate of Completion in Cinematography.

Here, you’ll get a hands-on experience like no other. You’ll be exposed to trial-and-error for about two years, but keep in mind that the program is for slightly older students. The average age is about 27.

There are several other places where you can get a decent degree as well as experience in videography.

These include the University of California in Los Angeles, the California Institute of the Arts, Columbia University, Chapman University, and Emerson College.

Take a look around and read online reviews before settling on one college, or apply to them all and see where you can get in!

Jobs available with a video production degree

A video or film production degree will help develop your technical knowledge of cameras, lighting, and other related aspects of videography. At the same time, it provide several opportunities for honing your creative talent and passion.

These skills and knowledge will also help you excel in other careers in many different sectors related to the film and video industry. 

Within the film industry, you have the obvious choices such as a film director, video editor, lighting technician, location manager, television producer, and many more. This is where your degree is directly useful.

Other jobs where you might make use of the same degree include broadcast engineering, product designing, television floor manager or camera operator, broadcast journalist, and a VFX artist.

Since you’ll want to start your job hunt with industries related to the creative arts, the fierce competition might challenge you at first.

Work on gaining as much experience as possible, as a strong portfolio and networking can give you that big break!

If you want to go a more traditional route, you can also apply for contracted jobs in other industries. These may include advertising, corporate business, marketing, charities, and even teaching at universities.

Whether you work as a contractual employee or a freelancer, continuous learning plus making contacts is the key to success.

Salary for videographers

Within the United States, recent data (Feb. 2019) shows that the average salary for a videographer is about $28.61 per hour. But the reality could be quite different based on where you’re working and in which manner.

As a freelance videographer, you have some control over how much you earn and how much time you can take off.

Many companies can employ videographers for their advertising and marketing purposes as well. These could pay you $50, $70, or close to $100 an hour.

How to become a travel videographer

A travel videographer is an exciting career, especially if the passion for making videos won’t leave you be! If you make it in this career path, you might end up making epic videos of expedition all over the world.

You need to have a dedication to filming as well as traveling. It’s also best to be social media savvy, as that’s how you’ll start off gaining some much-needed exposure.

Before that, though, you should learn the basics.

Invest in some quality equipment and premium software as soon as possible, and find out how to use it properly.

Get the basics first, and then move on to the cutting-edge stuff when you’ve made some money. Renting is a good option if you don’t have the cash for outright buying.

You’ll also have to learn how to edit your own videos. In fact, you’ll have to become a pro at editing before you make enough money to hire an editor of your own.

While editing skills will take time, make sure your final cuts are as clean and engaging as possible. Start off with free editing programs and work your way up.

Make sure to put your own unique touch into each video you make. Don’t be afraid of turning on the camera. You’ll develop your own style by staying natural and true to yourself.

While inborn talent is a plus, you’ll definitely be able to make creative videos and become an expert if you put in the hours. Go on YouTube, watch travel videos, and get a few mentors for inspiration.

Start posting the videos on your YouTube channel and learn from the criticism instead of staying scared of it.

Famous videographers

Want some inspiration?

There are several famous videographers in the industry, each with their own skills and niche. We’ll discuss a few below so you can get an idea of the diversity available in this career:

Bradley Roland Will  

Brad Will was a videographer who used his skills for journalism and activism. He had affiliations with Indymedia, an experiment in Web-publishing. He was also one of the pioneers who used their own cameras and the internet to report and track their topics of interest.

Tragically, Will was killed during a protest/dispute in Oaxaca, Mexico. While his life was short, he fulfilled his passion for social justice and video-making at the same time.

Will’s passion for videography was made clear in the way he died. In fact, he was hailed as the journalist who reported his own death, as he was still filming while he was shot. The camera managed to clearly capture the face of the gunman.

Damon Winter

Winter is a photographer based in New York.

He specializes in documentaries among other things and has even received a Pulitzer Prize for his feature photography. This was for his coverage of the Barrack Obama presidential campaign, though his work on sexual abuse victims in Alaska also came close.

Lasse Gjertsen

Gjertsen is a videographer and animator as well as a musician.

He’s known mostly for his short YouTube pieces, which were highly unique in the initial phases of the video platform.

Gjertsen and his work were featured in the Wall Street Journal and have been discussed or spoofed on television many times.

How to become the best videographer

Becoming the best videographer means going up against some very tough competition.

The proper education is the first step, with high school being an essential priority.

Even at a young age, you can start taking short courses or any opportunities to work with a film at school.

The AV club or the school paper might be a great place to start.

You may also be able to find high school courses in art, film, journalism, broadcasting, and technology.

Student film contests might also prepare you for the real world sooner than you think.

The next step is to take the relevant courses in college. Narrow down your area of interest and learn what you can about editing software and video equipment.

Whenever possible, film what you find of interest. Polish your editing skills. Eventually, you’ll start to develop an eye for engaging topics, interesting angles, and the right equipment to use.

Becoming one of the best videographers around is also about the equipment. If possible, get experience and training during a film-related job. You may get work with a proper crew, so take the opportunity to get familiar with the equipment and software they use.

Internships and apprenticeships can help to bolster your career and fill up your portfolio. This way, you’ll hopefully get more lucrative offers and can advance in your career more quickly.

Wrapping up: It’s time to spark up your videography passion!

Whether you decide to get a degree in videography or prefer to go the autodidactic route and become a self-taught videographer, working with film and video is an exciting career which offers lots of different opportunities.

You can work alone as a freelancer, as part of a larger crew or even pursue a career in Hollywood.

You can shoot weddings, become a documentary filmmaker, make a living from shooting corporate videos, do vlogging-style travel videos for YouTube or work on big TV-productions or on a series for e.g. Netflix or HBO.

It is best if you start early, but there’s no reason why you can’t learn the required skills a little further down the line.

No matter the path you decide to pursue, you’ll have to put in the hours to know your gear, know how to edit, know how to utilize social media, build up a network of industry professionals, get clients, know about lighting, and know about a lot of other aspects of filmmaking.

In short, you have to work hard in order to make your videography career take off, but once it does, you won’t regret it.


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Jessy Faraday is a writer who uses her words to influence people, decisions, directions, and above all: the readers! With the passion to explore various opportunities this world offers, she loves to spread her knowledge to others. When she’s not writing, she loves to enjoy nature.

5 thoughts on “So You Want to Become a Videographer? Here’s How!”

    • Hi Luke.

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, it IS hard work, but fun! I hope you’ve managed to get through the current state of affairs. It’s hard to maintain a business when everything gets shut down.

      Best, Jan

      Reply
  1. This is a beautiful content on the becoming a videographer.This article is very helpful and informative. I loved reading this article. I am sure many people will come to read this article in future. Keep sharing such informative articles in future, will be appreciated.

    Reply
  2. As an individual who have age against him with no prior training or experience. I got onto doing personal videos to help make a product for my lady and become a rather high influence as to her having the “guts” to produce her own live singing performance. We did 3 local shows in 3 years pretty much at our OWN expense. I first acquired a few small Sony camcorders to began with but soon realized that I needed a higher grade of professional cameras in order for her production to be taken seriously by others. Putting a nice video product together for public viewing was want I made wanted to do and then have it placed on YouTube for people all over the world to see, and that is exactly what happened. While some parts of some of the videos were not so great, there were others that were well worthy of a high caliber presentation to whereas YouTube had placed them in the same category along side other high videos of quality (visual and sound). Since then I have acquired more equipment than I ever thought I would bought, I even got a professional studio broadcast tripod worth a 1k or 2. I have no regrets in investing my hard earned money in it and I found this tutorial here to be even more help to me than I could imagine. Thank god for this piece, it only encourages me more to continue on this path without the pressures of success. You see, I do this at my own pace within my own ability. It’s not a hobby but an incurable interest to get better at it. I did this to help another, not myself.

    Reply
    • Hi Charles

      Congratulations on your journey. Luckily, there are many roads you can take to become a videographer. But if you’re just starting out it can be difficult to know which way to go. So this article is meant as help and provides some ideas of different paths to take. Thanks for sharing yours.

      Best, Jan

      Reply

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