Camera Operators – The Invisible Ones

Jake Wattenphul and Canon 60D on Glidecam HD
Me and my Canon 60D

You don’t experience the moments – you capture them. You don’t create memories – you help people remember them in a creative way. You are a camera operator. Is it worth it?

This is a shout out to all those who spend their lives behind the lens. You are on the front lines of capturing life through still and moving pictures for our future world to see. You’re the ones adjusting lighting, changing lenses, focusing through a viewfinder, adjusting aperture, gain, ISO and F-stops to make your art as beautiful, real, and captivating as possible. But is it all worth while? 

You contort your bodies into weird poses to get the right framing at an event. You find yourself on your tip-toes, down on your knees, climbing trees, leaning out of cars, strapping GoPros to things and making many risks and sacrifices to get the perfect shot. I feel you. We keep our eyes, arms and fingers steady for the right moment to snap photos. We walk softly like a dancer while carrying our cameras on our Glidecams moving in, out and around our subjects to get a “cool shot”.

Ravens Practice Jake Wattenphul Canon 60D Glidecam HD
Raven’s Practice shoot at Stevenson University

Non videographers watch a video and see the content, experience the emotion.
Non photographers see a photo and look at the subject of the photo and experience a desired response. 

Most people don’t comment on the framing, the color balance, contrast, RGB curves, how it uses or breaks the rule of thirds. They certainly don’t comment on the smooth dolly shots they see or the fantastic use of a camera operator’s depth of field choice or how an action sequence is more intense because of the fast shutter speed that was used. They don’t see the hours and days that go into each photo, each frame of a movie, each motion graphics component. They see a work of art. They see well presented information. They see a fun title sequence on a movie.  

The true videographer, photographer doesn’t care how many hours are put into a project or if anyone knows their name. As long as the message is conveyed in an appealing manner that invokes the right emotion your job is done. After all, you want the world to see the beauty that you see. 

“As photographer and Editor at Large Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols puts it, ‘I want people to remember the pictures, not my name or what I look like.'”
National Geographic article 

It’s fun to be recognized for our work, but in the end, our pictures will fade. Our movies will be forgotten. Sure it may endure on a wall in a gallery somewhere or in a DVD collection on someone’s shelf or in a file on some computers, but is that all you want to be remembered by? Photographers often are humble people in many respects because they place their art above their personal comfort or personal recognition. Sure there are famous photographers and videographers, but they don’t get the status of rock star or movie actor.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”
– Colossians 3:23-24

What really matters? Creating great art to please God. Just as the verse above suggests we are serving God and want his approval above any earthly person. Not that we should ignore our bosses, by all means we must also follow the advice of the Apostle Paul who says to “submit to authority”. However, if your work contradicts your Christian convictions you should first obey God and favor truth and purity over appeasing your bosses. I have not personally run into requests to do unethical jobs, but they could happen and I want to handle it with grace and humility.

I love the Artist’s Creed by the Gaius Project. It has inspired me over the 8 years I’ve been doing video/photography work as I have a copy of it taped to my wall in my office.

If you’re an artist, I’d love to see you work. Feel free to post a link in a comment below.

 Being a videographer/photographer is fun and exciting work most of the time and can be very rewarding when people enjoy your projects, but it’s God who we serve and ultimately answer to. Be blessed today and, as always, thanks for reading!

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