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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old November 29th, 2009, 02:12 AM   #1
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Asked to do wedding video as favor from family member

Hi Guys

I'd really appreciate any advice on the following please especially if you have found yourself in the same predicament.

Awkward predicament here where I'm only starting my business, time is precious and cash is scarce, but I've been asked by sister of my partner to shoot their wedding video in March, with the implication I feel being that they would expect it done for free, or for a massive discount because she's family.

If I were to agree to shoot their wedding, I'd want to do it right, I couldn't settle for a 'hack' job, so as far as I'm concerned, including attending the rehearsal, the day of wedding and post production including capturing and logging in Final Cut, editing in Final Cut with paper edit reference, Motion Graphics - titles and transitions, Soundtrack Pro multi-track sound and music editing, Color contrast adjustments, color correction/grading, DVD authoring and printing stills onto DVD case and covers, it will take me the guts of 3 weeks at considerable time and expense to myself.

I would be totally happy to do the video for them - it's just that I would only able to do an excellent job on it, which takes time. I wouldn't want my name associated with a video that was rushed or had quality compromised in any way. So, I would have to charge them for my time. I'm sure I could shave some cash off the total but I fear I may be an outcast if I mention cost to her!

I think the perception with a lot of people is that a videographer can just whip out a camera for a wedding and that's the end of it, but the reality is that there is a lot of post-production work which has to be labored on - if there are any shortcuts to do postproduction faster I'm not aware of them! :o)

What do you think guys? Any advice whatsoever about how I could gently handle this would be really appreciated.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 02:27 AM   #2
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How about if you suggest that she encourages guests to take video and stills of the wedding and you offer to edit this material into a film at no cost (assuming that you want to do her a favour). That could be interesting and fun for you and her. It shows willing too.
If she wants the full works you could suggest that she goes to another professional. That would make her aware of the costs and amount of work involved too.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 03:07 AM   #3
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If I was in that situation I would happily agree to do the job for free. Of course that's on the understanding that I haven't got paid work on the day (perhaps they could cover the costs of the day so I can reserve that time = deposit.

Of course I could only complete the edit in my spare time, could take up to 12 months. Unless of course they wanted to reserve some time on the edit suite so I can devote my energies to their project.

they need to understand that you are losing money by working for free for them. That's just my opinion - I trust that the more experienced members of the community will have some sage advice on the subject - Don?
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Old November 29th, 2009, 05:06 AM   #4
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Advice to Peter

I do video/TV production. I film weddings only for close friends or family. I don't do weddings not even for friends of friends. But, that is just personal preference. Here the advice I can give you, and this is the way I do it.

When I am asked by a friend to do his/her wedding, even before accepting it, I ask first to meet with the couple. When the meeting happens I always take my agenda (time-book) with me. I ask them to share with me what is in their heads concerning the video. Listen first and take notes. Then you ask as many questions as you need to have a very clear idea of what they want and/or need.

Right in front of them I do a few calculations: Wedding rehearsal, 3 hours. Wedding day 8 hours. Then the reception, say, 5 hours... while you do this calculations you will see their eyes open bigger and bigger. Then you explain why you need 8 hours before the ceremony (I must capture every possible moment, I want to show the bride chatting nervously with her friends, parents, etc. Same with the groom, walking nervously, looking at the windows... etc... basically, capture the "before" memorable moments, then the ceremony itself and the reception.) At that moment they will notice that it is not just a 3 hour thing.

Then, you start thinking about the post-production, same way. Plan a bit about the hours it will take doing everything you mentioned in this forum.

They will realize that it is really a BIG job. 98% of the time the talk of money will come from them. That is when you can go to details about costs. Let them know how much you would charge to a client and tell them that because they are friends (or family) you will not charge that amount. Then, the "How much" question should come from them and that is when you should have a number for them.

When I shoot weddings I go to that meeting knowing that I will not charge them anything, but, I want them to know what it takes to do it right.

If the "we were expecting it to be free" comes, then you have to have an answer ready.
1. "No way" (say good bay to friendship) or
2. "Hmmm... I have a few projects in the pipe... I will be glad to give part of my free time to do it... I will be able to have it ready as a gift for your 1st anniversary." or
3. "Hmmm... would you be willing to pay for part of the time I will put into this? That way I could have it ready sooner that for your 5th anniversary"

You should end up with some money in your pocket and with a long period of waiting time to have the product ready. I hope it helps. Keep us posted, we may learn something from your experience!
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Old November 29th, 2009, 06:01 AM   #5
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Hmmm, well first off you've gotten some good stuff to think about before you jump into this gig.

Here's my take. First be careful when doing work for family or friends of family. It is expected for you to do the work gratis and while you might in fact do it free, they have to understand you do have expenses to do the job.
So IMO they need to sign a service agreement (contract to some) I will not do a job without it. Then I price it out and on the bottom line I show them the reduction I gave them (discount to some). I make sure they know exactly what I will and won't do, the hours I will be there and the fact that I am a VENDOR not a guest. I've done family weddings where my wife and kids were there as guests having a great time and I was working. There is a hugh difference. The job goes into my edit cue like any other client and get's done when it comes up on the schedule. Just like any other client.

Now having said all of that, the job is in March when you might very easily have a PAID job so you need to be careful about booking it. I'll explain in a bit. Next it seems that they EXPECT you to do it for nothing. Hmmm, be careful. What I mean is this. While you are new to the business and you need samples and experience you need to at least get you need to at least get paid your expenses. Say $100.00 AND once the job is booked it is booked. That's their day. I know there are some who will get someone else to do the job is a better job comes along (better means more money). And while we are all tempted, it is my opinion that as a boutique shop (meaning a 1 man operation) when I book a job that day is gone, off the calendar.
Regardless of who the client is or what I charge I always strive to do the best possible job, the client may not deserve it but I do.
Good luck
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 06:11 AM   #6
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Some good advice there.

Another thing you may wish to bear in mind - were you invited as a guest to the wedding?
I know lots of guests take photos and video at weddings but you can't really do both - enjoy the family occasion and film it to professional standards. Believe me, been there etc.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 07:14 AM   #7
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Good point Colin. To do it professionally and to be a guest would not go together. And, following on Don's advice, he mentioned the need to have a contract, I completely agree with that. A contract (or written agreement) is not a way to show mistrust but a good way to show that you are a professional. It is done for BOTH side's peace of mind, even when the client is a family member.

Usually the whole project should also involve an invoice where Peter shows the cost of the project and the percentage discounted, even if it is 100%. Peter, that will help you on your projections. That information will be very useful two years from now when you plan your annual revenue.

And, you mentioned that you are starting your business. Use these first projects to build your resume. Clients will always ask "Can I see an example of your work?"
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Old November 29th, 2009, 07:35 AM   #8
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Peter you've been asked some pertinent points already - the most important is are you a guest or a pro? You can't be both.

If you decide to do it as a pro I think you should tell the bride and groom you'll do it for free (if that's what you want and they expect - and assuming you own all your gear so your outgoings are confined to tape) on the basis that a) you can use it as a demo b) you edit it to your discretion and c) you'll complete it when you can.

I disagree with Don here, I wouldn't rub in what they should be paying - just do it exactly the same you would for a paying client except no time specification.

The payoff is that you'll have complete control over the product, and it should be the best demo you'll ever make and in my view that's a big plus.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 07:51 AM   #9
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You have a lot of options:
As far as pay:
1. Do it for free and consider it as you/partners wedding gift.
2. Don't assume its free maybe they would rather pay someone they know and like.
3. Tell them you'll give them a great price half the going rate or whatever their budget will allow.

As far as how much you should do:
1. Do it the best you can do so you can use it in your demo real.
2. Do it really basic with little or no editing, titling etc. If your afraid of it reflecting poor on you then don't put your name on it. Some couples just want it for themselves. Hand out your business card to prospective clients at the wedding and send them your demo reel. That way you are in control of what they see.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 08:32 AM   #10
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I didn't say to rub in what they are paying nor would I or have ever done that but they do need to understand that you do have some expenses and that is what you are charging them. Even when first starting people will understand charging them say $100 or whatever to cover expenses.

Honestly, they would probably think more of you by doing that than not charging anything IF you explain it them correctly.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 11:05 AM   #11
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I'd do it for free, that will my gift to the couple sans Family member.
Noel Lising
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Old November 29th, 2009, 12:04 PM   #12
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You can simply take the amount that you would have spent on their wedding gift as a guest, and subtract that from your full price as a professional videographer. Considering only dollars and cents, they will still receive the same wedding gift, and you will still get paid your fair rate. This hard-nosed approach becomes subjective though if you consider this situation...Will you attend this wedding even if some other couple comes to you and asks to hire you at full price to film their wedding? If this person you mentioned is close enough to you that you will absolutely attend their wedding, regardless of any other job opportunities that may come your way, then any profit you make from their wedding would represent money that you would never have been able to make otherwise, and in your mind that may very well deserve a big discount in order to retain this "client." Think of it this way...if you're going to attend this wedding for sure, it's the only job in our universe that be able to take on that day, and you need to decide what discount you might be willing to offer in order to get the job versus what amount of work you'd be willing to put into the film for the monetary profit.

Assume that you do this film for free. Yes you'll get a demo, but that demo will probably only be useful to you for a year or so. In one year's time, you will probably become a better videographer (as we all do) and end up with a far better demo from a fully-compensated job. So, will this demo generate enough jobs over the next year to justify the work involved?

Think about who else will be expecting a special rate after this particular wedding has passed? Whose feelings will you hurt if you were to do this wedding for say 50% off, and then tell someone else close to you down the road that they had to pay full price?

Alec Moreno
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Old November 29th, 2009, 12:25 PM   #13
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My advice, FWIW, and based on doing several if not many of these over the years for friends and family.

Do it for free. Consider it their gift. But don't do the "Full Monty". Use one or possibly two cams - you can do a nice job on the wedding, just not over the top. Cut a killer 3-4 minute highlight reel - for them and for your demo. Give them the vows etc. And do it as fast as reasonably possible.

If you are starting out it's good practice and great karma. It's better for them to always remember the wonderful, benevolent work you did, than to have them think that you were a cad for charging 'family'. Remember, they will be showing there friends, and that is great promotional work for you. Especially if you cut a really nice 3-4 minute highlight piece, host it on Vimeo, and let them embed it in their Facebook page to show the world (make sure to throw your logo at the end).
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Old November 29th, 2009, 05:44 PM   #14
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Maybe you should just document the ceremony for them, with basic editing. When you donate your time just decide how much time and effort you are willing to donate. It's like my personal policy for loaning friends money. I only loan as much as I would be comfortable just giving to them. Then there's not a need to worry about being taken advantage of. If you wind up feeling resentment, it's just not worth it.
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Old November 29th, 2009, 09:25 PM   #15
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Pete, I've been in your position as well and I offered my services for free. I was also at the beginning of my carrier but my folks when asking me they stated clear they want to pay. They left the decision up to me how much and if to charge them. I did it for free. We also signed the contract and went though all details of the day. It also helped them a lot with planning. They got complete package but it took 12 months to deliver it.
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