Becoming a videographer might be the dream of many film lovers and camera junkies, but the path toward becoming one isn’t all that simple. There probably isn’t one clear path to becoming a great videographer.
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 differently before they finally get that big break.
A videographer needs to study the history of filmmaking, learn from others, build a network of contacts, and polish their skills before they get anywhere in their chosen careers. If you have a passion for becoming a videographer, that will undoubtedly help you along the way.
Let’s delve into what a videographer is and what you can do to become one as soon as possible!
With technological advancements changing the video industry and enhancing its growth, there’s a lot of potential for videographers.
What is a videographer? What do they do?
You may want to be a videographer, but that doesn’t mean you know exactly what a videographer does.
Strictly speaking, a videographer records videos needed for television, films, or the Internet.
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 and several other shooting aspects. For instance, you’ll also be overlooking a videographer’s editing, sound, lighting, equipment repair, and maintenance.
Sometimes, a videographer works alongside small teams, including light and sound technicians.
A videographer is very much the need of the hour for smaller venues. Here, most people don’t want the hassle of a film crew, let alone 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!
If it does, a videographer will be your logical career choice.
Before starting your own videography business, you should check out this article, where 40 professional videographers share tips and tricks.
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 there.
These two terms’ actual definition is different from how 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 responsible for the camera and the lighting crew.
A cinematographer follows the director and helps to realize the latter’s vision by making relevant artistic and technical decisions. They can use different lenses, lighting methods, composition, camera movements, filters, color gels, and other filming tools.
Each decision the cinematographer makes has to promote the director’s story and overall artistic vision.
It’s quite rare for a cinematographer actually to 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
Historically, a cinematographer worked with film and a videographer strictly with videos of other kinds.
The word ‘videographer’ came into common usage 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.
However, we can’t make the same distinction anymore since digital cameras have entered 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, giving them more chances to experiment and benefit from the unique technology. 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 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 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 covering events such as weddings, parties, interviews, corporate videos, and commercials, they’re also responsible for video editing, sound, etc. Therefore, they work on a smaller pr
The question now arises: why do some videographers label themselves as cinematographers?
Some videographers market their services as cinematographers because most of them are freelancers. This means they must put their profiles out there to get more clients.
With the digital camera changing the film industry, many videographers have used this opportunity to revolutionize the hierarchy.
Many people might consider videographers 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 the game by providing a cinematic, film-like image. This enables videographers to give cinematic quality to their work.
Another reason for this mix-up is 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.
Some videographers might prefer to call themselves cinematographers to escape such connotations and assumptions. In a way, they’re trying to deal with certain confusion but may create 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 your crew’s size (or existence).
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 much competition.
To become a successful videographer, you need a lot of ambition, relevant technical knowledge, and a decent level of creativity. This means you need to get much experience and maybe even a degree. I’ll get back to this in a 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 a portfolio to find the most lucrative jobs.
Some videographers gain fame through their unique style and way of experimenting with specific processes. So, focusing on finding your individual style is never a bad idea. But don’t skimp on getting the basic technical knowledge.
Your career advancement would probably be through television stations, movie studios, directors, news agencies, and media companies.
If you don’t want to enter 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 an event needs video coverage.
Qualifications for a videographer
The educational priorities for a videographer vary according to the kind of project you’re working on.
Remember that a videographer must work in several settings, lighting, and surroundings.
No matter the situation, you should be coached in the kind of camera to use along with other technical details. Knowing how to shoot the camera correctly is necessary 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 to capture the scenery and every movement necessary.
As a cameraman, you may also be part of a production team that makes technical and creative decisions together. To work as a cameraman in
In addition, you should also know the nuances of media production, electronics, and 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 in Applied Science in Video Production gives students detailed instructions on sound, storyboarding, motion graphics, concept development, lighting, and editing. The coursework might 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.
A Bachelor of Arts in Film or Television Production might also be available to take your education to the next level.
These classes include sound editing, media research, visual design, media law, and other subjects. In short, you have various 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 of technology just a few decades ago mean that many famous directors today attended the best film schools. These include James Grey, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, etc.
This is why the invention of the camcorder and, later, the digital camera is so revolutionary.
If you want to try making videos today, you don’t have to commit to years of film school. YouTube tutorials and online classes can help you get started.
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.
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 schools as well. For instance, the New York Film Academy offers vocational courses at a reasonable rate. This way, you can pick up some filmmaking skills in the classroom in a shorter period than in a four-year program at USC or NYU.
Skipping the whole protocol of film education and training for some gigs is doable, but you may not find any work without proper experience. You may also work for a long time with little or no pay.
Having a degree of sorts under your belt has two main advantages: getting some interviews and contacts. Of course, you can do without these tools, but they help 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 merits, but a proper degree is not something we can ignore.
Degree required for a videographer
At the very least, having a high school diploma is a good idea to become a videographer. This will equip you for a few courses focusing on the specific skills you need for handling the camera, editing videos, and making knowledgeable technical decisions.
If you’re looking for a videographer job instead of freelancing, you should remember that many employers prefer candidates with at least a post-secondary education. Most videographers in direct competition with you will have bachelor’s 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 to gain relevant experience. Another choice is to become an assistant and then strike out independently.
Videography degrees in the United States
Getting a degree in videography isn’t essential to making it your career, but it certainly helps develop and streamline your skills.
Several videography degrees are available in 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 close to Hollywood, which offers awesome internship opportunities. You’ll also get some highly useful guest lectures from industry greats.
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 annually.
Alums such as M. Night Shyamalan and Martin Scorsese are just two examples of why this institution is worth trying. 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 remember that the program is for slightly older students. The average age is about 27.
You can get a decent degree and experience in videography in several other places.
These include the University of California in Los Angeles, the California Institute of the Arts, Columbia University, Chapman University, and Emerson College.
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 videography-related aspects. At the same time, it provides 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 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 applicable.
Other jobs where you might use the same degree include broadcast engineering, product designing, television floor manager or camera operator, broadcast journalist, and VFX artist.
Since you’ll want to start your job hunt with industries related to the creative arts, the fierce competition might initially challenge you.
Work on gaining as much experience as possible; a strong portfolio and networking can give you that big break!
You can apply for contracted jobs in other industries if you want to go a more traditional route. These may include advertising, corporate business, marketing, charities, and even university teaching.
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! You might make epic videos of expeditions worldwide if you enter this career path.
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 gain some much-needed exposure.
Before that, though, you should learn the basics.
Invest in quality equipment and
Get the basics first, 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 videos. 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, ensure your final cuts are as clean and engaging as possible. Start with free editing programs and work your way up.
Make sure to put your unique touch into each video you make. Don’t be afraid of turning on the camera. You’ll develop your style by staying natural and true to yourself.
While inborn talent is a plus, you can make creative videos and become an expert if you work 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 fearing it.
Want some inspiration?
There are several famous videographers in the industry, each with their 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 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. He was hailed as the journalist who reported his death, as he was still filming while he was shot. The camera managed to capture the face of the gunman.
Winter is a photographer based in New York.
He specializes in documentaries and has even received a Pulitzer Prize for his feature photography. This was for his Barrack Obama presidential campaign coverage, though his work on sexual abuse victims in Alaska also came close.
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 often been discussed or spoofed on television.
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 your area of interest and learn about editing software and video equipment.
Whenever possible, film what you find of interest. Polish your editing skills. Eventually, you’ll develop an eye for engaging topics, interesting angles, and the right equipment.
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 to work with a proper crew, so take the opportunity to get familiar with the equipment and software they use.
Internships and apprenticeships can help bolster your career and fill your portfolio. This way, you’ll hopefully get more lucrative offers and can advance your career quickly.
Wrapping up: It’s time to spark up your videography passion!
Whether you 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 that offers many 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 a series for, e.g., Netflix or HBO.
It is best to 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 to make your videography career take off, but you won’t regret it once it does.