NFL cameramen work in a fast-paced environment filming the intense action of an NFL football game. If you've always wanted a career in sports, consider a position that is more behind-the-scenes than being an athlete, like a camera operator. Or, if you have a love for filming action, this job could be a great fit. But getting a job covering NFL games for a major network is not easy, although it pays well if you are able to secure a position.
Camerapersons working for a major sports network, such as ESPN, typically arrive way ahead of game time, preparing their setup three or four hours before the football players hit the field. Often, there is a pre-production meeting where in-game features are talked about. Some of those features need to be prerecorded. Sports networks may want you to shoot a quick segment with a reporter before the game begins. Then, you are responsible for shooting the actual game, moving around to catch the best shots. It is physically exhausting work, but can be very rewarding and exciting. If you know the sport well, you're better able to predict how the play will go and you will have a better chance of shooting important moments.
NFL Cameramen are often freelancers who work a number of different jobs, especially during the off-season. According to Vox, jobs vary from sport to sport, and beginners typically have to take whichever sport they can get, while more esteemed cameramen can specialize. This means that those lower in the ranks might cover everything from water polo to college football. Before covering a new sport, cameramen go to a pre-production meeting where they learn the basic rules so they know what to expect.
If you want to work as a sports cameraperson, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree in broadcasting, film studies or communications, then put in time working as a production assistant. You must have an in-depth knowledge of video equipment. Most companies expect cameramen to have experience in entry-level positions before hiring them to handle a camera at a professional level. Work as a production assistant can help you get direct experience in the trade and teach you the intricacies of lighting, sound equipment and the cleanup process. You'll also need stamina and an artistic eye to capture a game well.
The median salary for camera operators was $55,080 in May 2016. This reflects the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. However, salaries are usually higher for camera operators working for networks that cover NFL games, like ESPN. At ESPN, a cameraperson earns an annual average of $90,182. This salary ranges from $84,844 at the 25th percentile to $95,165 at the 75th percentile, with top earners earning more than $100,210. Fox News, which also covers NFL games, pays cameramen about $150,000 annually, or $72 per hour.
Many camera operators work in tandem with one or more assistants who set up the equipment and also may be responsible for its storage and care. Sometimes, assistants help determine the best shooting angle and make sure that the camera stays in focus. Today, most camera operators prefer using digital cameras because they are smaller, less expensive and provide more flexibility in shooting angles, especially if you're running around on a football field trying to capture plays.
The jobs of camera assistants have also changed with the advent of digital cameras. Assistants now download digital images or choose a type of software program to use with the camera, instead of loading film or choosing lenses.
Job Growth Trend
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of camera operators to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. With the growth of streaming services, along with the number of shows produced for these platforms, more work may arise for editors and camera operators. However, the NFL's popularity has decreased in recent years, which may mean fewer jobs for camerapersons interested exclusively in covering NFL games.