High-speed photographer

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Carmine, 23

From howitzers to car collisions, if it involves split second timing, crashes, explosions and flying debris, Carmine knows all about how to film it. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Sets up computer controlled high speed cameras and videos; records car crash tests.

Subjects studied: English, Mathematical Methods, Specialist Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Graphic Design.

Further training: Carmine has an Applied Science Degree in Photography from RMIT University (3 years).

Salary: $40,000 a year.

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Profile

Remember those slow motion pictures of what happens to crash test dummies? Carmine has the job of recording them.

He works for Autoliv, a company that makes seatbelts and airbags. It uses simulated crashes to test its products and to show prospective clients how well they work.

In a typical day's work, Carmine is given the circumstances of a test crash. He sets up the cameras and lighting-within the vehicle and without-to record the event. Then he does a dry run to ensure the system is working properly. The cameras are controlled by a computer which makes sure they all operate at the right time.

"The collision itself is over in an instant. Sometimes it is car to car, sometimes car to barrier, sometimes side-on or front-on or at some other angle. I take a few more post-crash photos, unload the film and video and take them to the lab for processing."

Unlike many filming jobs, the first take must be perfect, "I have to get it right first time, I can't just ask for some more cars to crash!"

Carmine clearly likes noise and action. He previously worked as an Imaging Technician for the Australian Army. There he filmed large calibre cannons in action.

It's both what you know and who you know

Carmine views both of his jobs so far as stepping stones to working in movies, documentaries and television. Not that he always wanted to be involved in making movies. At school, he studied science out of natural curiosity about the world. And photography was a hobby rather than a serious career option.

He only heard about RMIT University's Bachelor of Applied Science in Photography when he was nearly finished school. It was the perfect way to combine his interests. Work experience during the course opened the worlds of medical photography and ABC Television to him.

On completing his degree, Carmine picked up the job with the army almost immediately, thanks to the network of contacts he had established during the course.

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Job specs

Photographers operate cameras and lighting equipment to take photographs of people, places, products and other subjects.

Duties

Photographers may perform the following tasks: 

  • Operate a range of cameras, lights and light-measuring devices
  • Work out the camera angle, light positions, exposure and composition
  • Offer technical solutions to illustrative problems
  • Advise on photographic approaches and the selection of locations, props, models and colour coordination
  • Use computers for such things as image manipulation and the production of visual images in print or digital form
  • Mix chemicals, process film and make enlarged prints

Personal requirements

  • Artistic flair 
  • Able to learn the technical aspects of photography 
  • Self-motivated, with initiative and problem-solving skills 
  • An interest in contemporary styles and trends in such things as graphics, architecture and fashion is an advantage

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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