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


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Old January 19th, 2010, 02:00 PM   #1
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Lowballers

I had a meeting with a woman today who was looking for people who could produce commercial spots from beginning to end (short story: her business model is fatally flawed so if I get work from her I'm asking to be paid up front).

After explaining to her that you CAN'T film a professional-looking commercial spot in two hours (!), she asked me how much to shoot and edit a large four-hour fund-raising reception, including interviews and guest speakers, into a five-minute promotional video. I quoted her a rock-bottom price for a two-camera crew (considering the coverage she wanted).

She seemed a little taken aback and replied that she had spoken to someone who could shoot and edit the spot for $250. And according to her, the work he's done before is impressive (although it's the opinion of an uneducated eye).

Is that what's it's come down to now? That's why I am very reluctant to do events such as weddings and receptions, you're up against every yahoo with a camcorder who's managed to figure out which end to point. They undercut you by hundreds of dollars for a quick buck and give up on the business after a year because they can't sustain themselves at such low rates - but the pros who have been at it for years are left with a market that expects to pay misery wages, and five more camcorder jockeys to take the place of the aforementioned yahoo.

Interestingly, the woman told me that I am at the top of her list because, of the seven candidates she interviewed, I was the only one to insist on the importance of lighting and hair/make-up for a commercial spot. Apparently, no one else felt it mattered much in producing something that looks professional.

So that's what's out there, folks. That's our competition.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 02:10 PM   #2
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Jacques,

Just walk away...

While there are those delusional people that believe this - they will find out that they get what they pay for.

Just keep working to distinguish your work from the amateurs.

If you think it's bad for us - think about professional photogs, I think that they have it far worse.

Remember that with the major shift to online video - (and I'm not talking about crap on Youtube, but mid to high level productions for small to medium businesses), this is an incredible opportunity for those who are poised and ready.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 02:20 PM   #3
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I also have been experiencing a lot of that lately. Now I hate to just tell a prospect on the phone "if your budget isn't at least $xxxx please don't waste my time" but I'm close.

In the past few months I've had more than one prospective client ask for a face-to-face meeting, often with multiple staff members, only to find out 30 minutes into the meeting that they're looking at spending $500. Seriously? You thought it was appropriate for me to invest several man-hours into preparation for this meeting and interrupt the schedules of one or more of my employees only to find out you want to keep this project "under $500"??? My goodness sir, I should bill you $500 for this meeting alone!

Any suggestions for "pre-qualifying" these clients?
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Old January 19th, 2010, 03:07 PM   #4
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Jacques,

Just walk away...
Can't think of any better advice that I can add.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 03:44 PM   #5
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but, leave your card anyway...there's a slight chance you'll get a phone call from them (or in my case, their replacement) in about four weeks, deperate for someone to 'fix this mess'.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 03:49 PM   #6
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Welcome to the new world folks!
This is what's happening in every facet of every business.
Those of us who have been around awhile simply can't charge what we used to.

I'm primarily an editor but have done a fair amount of shooting. I used to rent gear and hire crew and that's just not feasible any more for most clients. I ended up purchasing the basics (camera/lights/audio) and doing everything myself unless I can get a decent budget. While my upfront cost was substantial, I don't say no to much of anything these days as it's income. Quantity of work has made up for the smaller budgets. The hardest thing for me is judging the client. Do I give them my book rate up front (which scares off all but the most experienced clients) or do I try to pry out of them what the budget is and figure out how to make them and myself happy? Sometimes you sacrifice the quality of the end product but the client always needs to be made aware of those sacrifices.

Reality is I'd rather work for a lower rate than sit around twiddling my thumbs! However, I do have a lowest possible rate that I will not go below. Careful attention to budgeting is key and I factor in travel, setup/teardown, and several other seemingly minute details that can destroy a budget before you know it.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 04:00 PM   #7
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I believe your work will tell the tale. If you are doing things right, your prices will be a reflection of the quality of work you do. Morons who undercut everyone cannot possibly do the quality of work that a true professional does. The two are mutually exclusive.

There will always be idiots who charge way too little, and ones who charge way too much. And if your prospective clients don't know the difference, RUN the other direction from them.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 04:27 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Jacques E. Bouchard View Post
So that's what's out there, folks. That's our competition.
I call them (both service providers and customers) a CraigsList Generation. If you ever look through ads posted there for gigs or crew, the knife opens by itself in your pocket. Everyone expect pro service and looks for free or close to.

Save yourself a headache and let her go somewhere else.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 04:54 PM   #9
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The absolute best way to combat this is to stand by your pricing and your quality. If someone wasn't offering a video for $250 this lady probably still wouldn't contract you. As others have said, just walk away and let her come back when she's ready for something professional.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 05:41 PM   #10
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I'm not one to easily sympathize with wedding photogs - but I was at a bridal show this weekend where photogs were battling over brides, and there was one company who prominently displayed a banner with the package listed below:

2 Hour Engagement Shoot
Minimum 25 Ready to Print Engagement Images
8 Hours of Wedding Day Coverage
Minimum 300 Ready to Print Wedding Images
Personal Online Photo Gallery
5 DVD Photo Set
10 Day Photo Turnaround
$895.00

Like another photog said who was right beside me, 'that's not sustainable...' Which is indeed the case. Even if you were booked each weekend (both days) for 16 straight weeks - you'd be looking at about 30k worth of revenue.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 05:44 PM   #11
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Craigslist is a free market with a lot of opportunities for almost everything. Not only people lowballing us there, but every other pros.
Perhaps I am just stepping in to the business, and putting many efforts to keep the potential clients, I never go lower than average pro market prices are. Not that I am charging high, but keep it in the gold middle sometimes touching the lower border. If person starts talking about low ballers out there I ask what does he/she do for living and explain them the situation using examples from their profession. I have mentioned that people who can afford market prices are more educated about basics of my work that others who do not understand anything about it and try to pay as low as possible. If there is any potential in them to pay more, I would use it, and advice them not to go lower than it costs in real world.
Even if I don't have a lot to offer as my reel, I know my work has value. I am sure some established guys out there may not like my rates as well, but it is not a "dollar stealing" situation, it's competition.
I prefer to please my customer with a stock of few free DVDs at the end. The other day I have made a short recap video for no charge without telling them about it. It lives them with a good impression.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 08:54 PM   #12
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It's good to hear that I wasn't just thinking the exact same thing to myself (that people want video stuff done for $200).

I know I'm relatively new at owning the videography business, but I had experience in the field prior to starting up...but people hear that I've owned the business for six months, and they automatically think that's supposed to equal low low low prices.

I'd like to hear any other suggestions some of you guys have as far as "battling" those low-baller folks.

Or what do you say to the person that tries to undercut your quote by saying they "don't need lighting" or ask if we only do one or two takes "so there's not a lot of editing" if it would be cheaper..
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Old January 19th, 2010, 09:54 PM   #13
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fast, cheap, quality, pick one...
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Old January 19th, 2010, 10:03 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ken Diewert View Post
Remember that with the major shift to online video - (and I'm not talking about crap on Youtube, but mid to high level productions for small to medium businesses), this is an incredible opportunity for those who are poised and ready.
I actually believe that makes people's expectations even lower. The woman I met kept repeating that she wanted her web content`to be "equivalent to what we see on TV", as though she had come up with a revolutionary concept.

J.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 10:33 PM   #15
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but, leave your card anyway...there's a slight chance you'll get a phone call from them (or in my case, their replacement) in about four weeks, deperate for someone to 'fix this mess'.
I don't think that's the case with this type of client. They go with the low-baller, get crappy work but by now have blown their budget. Their mistake benefits no one, because the next client will think they can get a deal for $250 too, and the cycle repeats.

The low-ballers don't count on repeat business to make money. They just rely on the inexhaustible supply of pigeons out there.
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