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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old August 24th, 2009, 03:59 PM   #1
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Beginner charging for weddings!

Hello everyone,

I'm meeting my first client this Saturday to talk about their wedding in June of next year. We have not discussed pricing as of yet and I'm just curious of what to charge. I've worked weddings as an assistant and fully edited all of them with Premiere Pro CS3. I use a Canon HV30 as of now and it has really given me nice footage and served me well. My idea for a base price was $850 but I really have no idea of what to charge. I don't want to get caught up and never get out of low pricing and I don't want to charge too much to cheat myself out of a job. Any advice would be greatly appreciated and thank you all in advance!

EDIT:
Here's a link to my work, this was the first wedding I shot as the main camera, all the shots are mine, and I fully edited as well!: http://vimeo.com/6257214. It should be uploaded soon. Thanks again!

Last edited by Ferlon Webster; August 24th, 2009 at 08:58 PM.
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Old August 24th, 2009, 07:18 PM   #2
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Hi Ferlon

You are looking at a business venture and it needs to be costed correctly. You need to decide what rate per hour you are worth and then figure out the time you will be shooting at the venue, the time you will take to edit plus client consultation and delivery time.

Plus of course, the extra costs of fuel, equipment hire (you will need 2 cameras) and any other gear you do not have. You just mention one HV30??? do you have lighting, tripods, wireless mics and lots more???

Weddings are serious business and you only get one chance at doing it right!!

I would look at your gear requirements first and then carefully cost each job otherwise you will run into serious problems!!

Chris
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Old August 24th, 2009, 07:40 PM   #3
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I'll get disagreement on this point But I'd be doing a few low/no pay weddings first. You've got the editing covered but shooting on the day is really stressful if you haven't got the gear and the client is paying for and expecting a great job.

When you see this client, what will you show them? some of the footage you've edited? - it ain't yours! and were I the shooter I'd be pretty peeved with you using it.

I think the 'theory' that you get stuck with low pricing is a fallacy - if you do low paid jobs well, then you'll certainly get referred to others with the same budget but you can move out of that group by slowly raising your prices.

check out the pricing in your area - they are your competition, come up with 3 packages that undercut them (business is business) a bare bones package, the package you really want them to buy and a top package.

That's what I'd do (have done) I'm sure people will disagree but that what a forum is all about.
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Old August 24th, 2009, 08:04 PM   #4
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I'm also working out what pricing I'm going to charge. I think it's important to stay grounded in reality as far as what others in your area are charging. That doesn't mean you should undercut them - in fact, being cheaper is not necessarily good - but being significantly higher isn't going to do you much good either.

My business costs are definitely a part of the equation, but they also have to be tempered in reality and what the market will bear. I can have a Red camera system and all the best lenses and own my own post house but if that doesn't translate into packages that the wedding market is willing to pay for, I'm out of business. So, it's capability and hourly worth coupled with realistic expectations and estimates of what the market will bear. If your work is much better than what your market will bear and you want to charge appropriately, you probably have to define and market yourself in a bigger pond.
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Old August 24th, 2009, 08:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Mailath View Post
I'll get disagreement on this point But I'd be doing a few low/no pay weddings first.
No disagreement here. I did my first weddings for free.
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Old August 24th, 2009, 08:43 PM   #6
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Hi Paul

I don't disagree with you at all!!! I have been doing "affordable" wedding for ages and I get paid well for the hours I work!! OK, I don't spend 40+++ hours on an edit (around 10 hours tops!! (usually 8)) There will always be a market for budget weddings as there is a market for Hollwood style weddings too!!!

I missed the point about doing freebies. Yes, you are 100% correct as well. I did maybe half a dozen family and friend's weddings for free purely so I had some samples to show new clients!! That is absolutely essential!!! If you show someone else's work unless you were maybe 99% shooting then what they get may be completely diffrent from your samples and it's critical that they get what they expect or your name will soon be mud!!!

In Perth I shoot a full wedding for $1400 and I didn't bother to check the competition either but I believe most are a little higher but some are lower. I worked it on the fact that my time and costs are worth $70 a hour here and I spend 20 hours total on a full wedding shoot ..hence the price. You have to make sure that you make a profit so charge what you need to make a fair profit. Simple as that!!!

Chris
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Old August 24th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #7
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thanks for the responses guys!

I just mentioned the hv30, but I also have a t1i for back up video, for now, I'm planning on upgrading to a z5u when I have enough money.

MY equipment goes like this:

canon hv30 here is a pic: My Canon HV30 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
canon rebel t1i
light panels micro
rode videomic and stereo mic
zoom h2 with lapel mic
501 hdv head with 190xprob legs from bogen imaging
I edit with Premiere Pro CS3

I guess I should have mentioned this earlier. I've uploaded a video on vimeo just now too!
By the way the stuff I've edited is fully edited by me, some shots are mine, BUT in this video these are all my shots and I was the main camera at this wedding, this is pre ceremony highlight footage that will be used for the intro to their wedding DVD! Thanks again for your advice and more is appreciated :-) thanks!

Here is the link and I'll edit my OP as well: Crystal + William on Vimeo. Give it some time to upload, Thanks!!!
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Old August 24th, 2009, 08:56 PM   #8
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Disagree

Shoot low cost wedding and that all you will get. 1 maybe 2 freebies at most so you have your own footage to show. Check the other guys prices before you quote, they will be going to them. You also need a solid demo. I would start at $1000 give your self room to go down to close the deal. You will need to use that money to buy backup equipment. Attend the wedding shows to see your competition. You also need a website. Todays brides are web savvy and will want references also. What ever you do make sure you have backup equipment in case things go wrong, believe me expect things to go wrong and learn from it.

Back up equipment: plenty of batteries , tapes, business cards and one other thing dress for success, when you shoot a wedding it makes you look more professional.

One last note if you are to low priced you also price your self out of the market and brides will think your just not that good. Perception and appearance can get you work. If you do cheap work you get cheap brides.

Last edited by Walt Paluch; August 24th, 2009 at 08:59 PM. Reason: additions more
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Old August 24th, 2009, 08:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
No disagreement here. I did my first weddings for free.
I did mine for very low pay back then. Money shouldn't be your concern when you're starting out. Surviving is.

so.. no disagreement either.

I also agree with Walt. The few things you need to get soooner than later:

1. A really cool name
2. Website
3. Business Card
4. packages (spend more time on this one)
5. FAQ (you will learn a lot about your business by doing this)
6. evaluate your shooting technique
7. read more dv info threads!
8. buy gear according to dv info threads! :P
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Old August 25th, 2009, 11:08 AM   #10
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Hey Paul,

I was in your shoes several years ago and I read a lot of threads to prepare. I was shooting with 2 vx2100s and had never shot a wedding but had done plenty of editing from sporting events (totally different from weddings). I decided to charge $300 for the first wedding in which they gave me a very good tip on top of that. They were very pleased with end result even though I had no samples to show them before being hired. I probably should have done it for free for that reason, but I was confident that I would do a good job and I went out of my way to make sure I did.
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Old August 25th, 2009, 02:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
No disagreement here. I did my first weddings for free.
I'm doing my first wedding for free, but ONLY to friends/family.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 03:20 AM   #12
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I went into weddings full time three years ago after 27 years in corporate and broadcast - loads of experience, great life.

Started with two Z1's, three radio mics from my corp days, did a couple of freebies, and a few weddings for about 600 (app $1200 then - the rates change). Then spent a year getting a half decent demo reel together, did eight weddings the next year for 870-1190 ($1600- $1900) each and bought a third Z1 on a radio controlled hothead. Then worked on a great demo reel - it's the element which clinches the deal, every time so spend time and effort on it. Bought a fourth radio mic and a few other pieces (glidetrack, short gun mics, Zoom H4). Now we're 1390 ($2100) per wedding and rising 200 ($300) each year.

But doing the wedding is only part of the job - you have to sell yourself as well. I spent countless Sundays at wedding fairs, gave away thousands of demo packs (demo DVD plus 4 side, A5 brochure and comparison chart - because we're a single price, all inclusive deal which looks expensive but isn't when our competitors extras are taken into account).

But the bottom line is that we're still not in profit. Sure we own all our gear - doing a wedding costs me 10-12 reels of tape and the time my wife and I put into it, but as a business it's expensive to get into and to stay in if you're doing it properly - the investment is terrifying. I estimate the thick end of $50,000 to start again and I'd be delighted if someone would prove me wrong. Corporate is much more profitable.

Plus, you'll always have a hobbyist ready to undercut you. That will always happen because the public don't always recognise the difference in quality - after all some people enjoy TV shows of 1980's VHS tapes shot from police cars.

Against all this a wedding is a great environment in which to work - no-one goes to a wedding to be miserable.

Last edited by Philip Howells; August 26th, 2009 at 03:24 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old August 26th, 2009, 03:48 AM   #13
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I don't spend 40+++ hours on an edit (around 10 hours tops!! (usually 8))
I slap my forehead in disbelief Chris. 10 hours tops, sometimes 8? It takes 5 hours to load the PC on a Sunday, takes 90 mins to carefully watch the finished movie before MPEG2 compression, then there's the paperwork, DVD and insert sheet to design and print, copyright clearance to obtain and countless other time-soaks even before you make your first cut, colour correction, audio sweeten or DVD burn.

Phillip's right - it's all too easy to under-charge, especially when you consider the write-off costs of equipment. It's only really tripods and mics that stay with you year after year (so spend lots on those Ferlon), all the other kit is getting older and sadder by the day.

Hobbyists will be there to undercut you, which is why your demo DVDs (I never have these - I always give a complete wedding DVD away as proof that I've not just chosen the best bits) should always be a huge step up on anything the couple have seen from Uncle Bob.

The only way to ensure that this is so is called experience, and I reckon it takes between 10 and 20 weddings before you have the right interpersonal skills and the on your toes dancing ability to be filming before important things happen.

One mother watched her daughter's wedding DVD while I was in the room. She kept turning to me and saying, 'Oh, you were so lucky to be standing there / so lucky to get that shot'. I smiled sweetly but it's nonsense of course - you make your own luck by out-thinking the humans that frequent a wedding.

tom.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 05:36 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Philip Howells View Post
.. did a couple of freebies, and a few weddings for about 600 (app $1200 then ... did eight weddings the next year for 870-1190 ($1600- $1900) each ... Now we're 1390 ($2100) per wedding and rising 200 ($300) each year.
.
SO... you can raise your prices, if you start low, you're not necessarily stuck there - thanks for the great example Philip.


I agree with your other comments too - it's a LOT of work & can be a lot of fun.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 07:45 AM   #15
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Hi Tom

Someone else said that to me too (that's where the 40+++ hours came in)!!
5 hours to just capture??? I will shoot maybe 2 hours tops on tape which means usually 3 tapes ..one for the A cam, one for the B cam and a third for speeches sometimes.
With the HMC cams I don't have to capture..just copy the source from the a + b SDcards

I usually would capture on a Sunday evening too!! My bride/groom preps are just single cam so editing is fast. Only the ceremony and speeches use both cameras so that is a tad slower. I don't "pussy-foot" around with fancy titles and spend hours perfecting an edit so most edits are slicing up the clips in Vegas to cut out the wobbly bits and then I keep transitions 99% of the time as simple crossfades. All background music is done in my SmartSound Library so it's quick and fits exactly!!

In the old days of linear editing I learnt that if you shoot "edit friendly" you save a mountain of time!!! If I'm on the ball, something like the cake cutting followed by the first dance you can virtually edit in camera so once it's on the timeline it's a super-quick operation. All my templates in both Vegas and DVD Lab are premade so when I start an edit a lot of stuff is already there to be just modified not created.

It's very simple!! it's a business and I like to make $70 an hour for my time so the average wedding has to be done in around 20 hours including the shoot!! That's my market here!!

Chris
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