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


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Old January 25th, 2010, 01:20 AM   #1
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Starting a Wedding/Pre-Wedding Videography Services

G'day gents,

Can anyone please give me some tips in starting a new wedding/pre-wedding videography services. I'm sure most of you must've started from zero at some point in time.. please share to me how you build your career and what are the best lessons learned over the years?

My biggest challenge at the moment is with; portfolio and budget.

PORTFOLIO - I've made one pre-wedding video which turns out to be good but may not be enough to convince people to start paying for my work esp. on their wedding day - where you can't re-take any scenes. How do you start building your portfolio and get enough experience? Charge them ridiculously cheap or even for free?

EQUIPMENT - I've been hiring a Z1 from a local equipment rental for making a pre-wed video but keen on getting my own equipment. Looking at Canon 7D to get all those pretty pictures but blimey the price to invest on the lens are over the roof!! What equipment did you started with or would recommend to start with? Keep hiring or might as well invest on your own?

Any kind of story from your experiences would be greatly appreciated!!

Cheers,


John
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Old January 25th, 2010, 01:43 AM   #2
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I think in your shoes a dedicated, competent and proven camcorder is the way to go, and the Z1 makes an excellent all-rounder should you be asked to take on other work as well. Of course you'll still need a selection of microphones and audio recorders, a fluid head tripod, LANC controller, video light and of course a backup camera with tripod etc etc. As the card cameras take over, the Z1's price becomes ever more attractive.

Ridiculously cheap and free for friends is the way to start and how many of us here got going. Happy brides gush the news to their family, friends, bridesmaids and if you're good, word quickly spreads. I found working for a wedding video agency good - it takes away the paperwork, leaves you to hone your filming and editing skills.

Best lesson? Shoot as many weddings as you can and get an experienced eye to watch the finished films and (bravely) point out your mistakes. Keep fit and well, grow eyes in the back of your head and keep moving, watching, filming, predicting and anticipating the future.

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Old January 25th, 2010, 05:19 AM   #3
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Hi John

I started doing weddings in Perth back in 2000 (after emigrating here) and despite a previous 20 years of video and photo experience you will still have to work hard to get known and referred!!!

As already indicated "don't quit you day job" and do as many actual weddings for free for friends and family so you have a decent portfolio!! Brides want to see actual wedding footage, and here that means both a Church wedding and a civil wedding outdoors plus all the usual reception footage. You can probably get away with a radio mic pack on a single camera for the first one and then build on that!!! Before you start charging for weddings you MUST have 2 cameras and at least 2 radio mic systems for Church weddings plus as mentioned tripods, softbox lighting for speeches and on cam lights for the reception too.

It's important to be well prepared with at least half a dozen weddings under your belt before you "throw yourself to the wolves" The wedding market in Perth is fairly small considering we have over 10,000 weddings here a year and only a very small proportion consider video!!! However if your sample work is good then you will get clients and at that stage you can confidently buy your own gear based on upcoming work!!

Good luck in your venture

Chris
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Old January 25th, 2010, 06:13 AM   #4
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I would stay away from the 7d until you are well and truly comfortable with the whole wedding process. Apart from the fact that they can overheat midway through a ceremony, they also add a whole new level of complexity in getting good audio, choosing the right lenses, etc. I'd second a used Z1, or even a FX1 with a beachtek/juicedlink adaptor. You would probably be fine to keep renting for a while until you have earned enough to buy a camera.

I'm at a similar point as you - I've been working for another wedding studio, filming and editing their video's using all my own equipment but only getting about 1/4 of the fee. Now I've decided it's time to start out on my own and collect 100% of the fee!
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Old January 25th, 2010, 12:30 PM   #5
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I agree with John that using camera's that are complicated in run and gun situations (like a 7d) should be avoided in the beginning. I would assure that you get the basics right, meaning good image and good audio, also use a tripod as much as possible.

A plain video with good framing, correct exposure, spot on focus, correct white balance and clean audio from wireless mics and some editing skills is all you need to build a professional portfolio. All the fancy stuff that 7d's, sliders, glidecams and such create can be added later when you made enough money to buy it and when you feel that you have mastered all the basics to make great video. You will feel much more comfortable using that extra stuff as you can rely on your own experience.

When I started in 2005 my first weddings were priced really low as I wanted to have a portfolio as quickly as possible and I also wanted to build lot of "field experience" in a very short time, the low pricing resulted in so many bookings that my first year was booked full in one month.

That first year was really though for me but it has been the best learning school, on every wedding I concentrated to get at least the key moments right.

The next year I had enough for my portfolio and I raised my price considerably, the only problem you get when doing that is when you get referrals. They heard how cheap you work and are disappointed when they hear how much more expensive you have become. But that is something that will pass over, just make sure that once you price your work that it is based on experience and equipment used. If you feel you deliver high end productions adjust your price accordingly.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 04:10 PM   #6
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You miht find this an interesting yet sobering thread Lowballers
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Old January 25th, 2010, 06:11 PM   #7
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I think there is a difference between people that are undercutting prizes considerably all the time and the ones that do it only at their start-up just to get the ball rolling, don't see how that thread has any relevance.
I have to deal with "low ballers" as well and I get paid much more doing events compared to weddings. Why? because the weddingbusiness is filled with hobbyists in Belgium, people that have a regular job and doing weddings in their free weekends, they don't have to deal with any company related costs because most of them do it "illegally" and you know what? Brides constantly ask for cheap videographers on weddingforums, a lot just don't want to pay for it. I can't compete against them pricewise and I won't but it's just the way it is and it will never change, no matter how much you'd complain about it.

When doing events I work for clients that have small companies and they want a nice invoice so they can declare their costs, here my only competitors are other "legal" videographers that charge "normal prizes" and the only difference here can be the quality that is delivered.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 06:50 PM   #8
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Hi Guys

You will get lowballers all the time anyway!! What happens here is a 17 year old leaves school, does a 6 month "video production course" and Daddy buys him all the gear and VOILA..he's a professional wedding photographer/videographer!!

We have one bunch of students here who do your wedding for FREE!!! All they ask is the cost of hiring cameras and edit facilities from the college they are attending. Whether they get any work is another story but you have to ask yourself "Would I buy a product that's 1/8th of the normal retail price???" More often than not brides will not take the chance of letting someone do a never to be repeated event for a bargain price unless they have a really tight budget!! More often than not they would rather skip the video altogether!!!

I occasionally see the odd ad on google for "weddings for $250 but really, who is going to spend 10 hours at a wedding and at least another 10 editing for that price. Add travel costs and seeing the bride and you are working for probably $10 an hour!! To be realistic in this part of the world you need to cost your time at $75 to $100 an hour and then add overheads and costs and surely anyone with any sense wouldn't hire a videography company that charges $10 an hour????

Chris
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Old January 26th, 2010, 09:29 AM   #9
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What Chris says is true around my area too. Low prices and even freebies starting out are a NECESSITY when just starting out to begin building a portfolio. No one could ever make a living from this business with those kind of prices. The only reason anyone who is serious about doing it professionally offers low prices is because it is necessary when starting out. Seriously, who would ever pay the industry's going rate to someone just starting out? No one in their right mind would chance it. The only way a newcomer can compete with established professionals is by seriously undercutting the going rate. The established pro's have all the other advantages from their years of hard work and referrals from satisfied clients. It's the old chicken and the egg conundrum. No clients without referrals, but no referrals without clients. I expect several years before my business breaks even.
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Old January 26th, 2010, 11:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Hardwick View Post
Ridiculously cheap and free for friends is the way to start and how many of us here got going.
A more constructive way would be to freelance for an established company and mentor. You learn LITTLE having a fool for a teacher (self taught) versus having the guiding hand of an established mentor.

Free for friends? I don't disagree with that. Just be careful how you define "friends"...
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Old January 26th, 2010, 11:34 AM   #11
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In my view you have to do four things.

1 Finance your equipment purchase - renting equipment is OK but see my other points. Remember your5 gear is like a chain, as strong as the weakest link. Greatest camera + useless microphone = useless programme. Re-invest constantly.

2 Learn your craft - ie practice practice practice making programes, handling your camera, doing smooth zooms and pans - hence the need to buy your gear. Be able to operate your cameras blindfold. Edit every which way you can - and read the standard film making texts. The old ways still work. When you've mastered them you can break the rules. Don't let the fact that the clients don't know good from bad, right from wrong be any excuse for not delivering your best every time.

3 Remember that freebies and low prices only get you work. Any referrals from them will be of little value because the people will expect the same price as the referrer - and you'll have moved on. You must charge your real worth as soon as possible.

4 Promote yourself everywhere, all the time. On your car, your t-shirt, on your Christmas cards, to all your friends, on Facebook and myspace, in press releases to local press and radio/TV stations, on your letterheads and here. Remember that anything you write here will appear if someone googles your name, so be nice :)

That's not everything, just the most important in my view.
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Old January 26th, 2010, 12:55 PM   #12
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Another tip I have for people starting out (or looking to hone their skills after years of shooting and editing only their own stuff) is to try and get a gig editing someone ELSE'S well shot footage. What you'll get out of the deal is a fresh perspective of what to shoot, how sequences can be built, creative ideas for shortening time...

Also the reverse is true - let a seasoned editor work with your footage and allow them to "rip you a new one" for all the stuff you AREN'T bringing back.

After 4 years of shooting exclusively EFP stuff, I started shooting ENG news. One day an editor from the French newsroom came down and publicly HUMILIATED me in front of the shooter pool for not giving him anything to work with.

I had two choices: blow him off or ask to come upstairs and see what he was talking about. I chose the latter, swallowed my pride and became a pupil for an afternoon. I learned a LOT.

Two months later the SAME editor walked out of the edit bay and in front of the entire newsroom pointed out that I was his favourite shooter to edit because I was concise but creative. I gave him the "meat and potatoes" BORING stuff he needed to transition AS WELL AS the rack focuses, tight close-ups, tracking shots and time lapse ready material that made the story visually interesting.

I'll never forget the lesson (albeit a HARD one to swallow at the time) that Dave taught me. High strung but superbly creative, ESPECIALLY when you look at what he was able to do with a linear A-B roll suite with a single channel DVE. He only RECENTLY moved over to AVID. He was faster banging tape around until recently.
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Old January 26th, 2010, 02:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Van Duyn View Post
What Chris says is true around my area too. Low prices and even freebies starting out are a NECESSITY when just starting out to begin building a portfolio. No one could ever make a living from this business with those kind of prices. The only reason anyone who is serious about doing it professionally offers low prices is because it is necessary when starting out. Seriously, who would ever pay the industry's going rate to someone just starting out? No one in their right mind would chance it. The only way a newcomer can compete with established professionals is by seriously undercutting the going rate. The established pro's have all the other advantages from their years of hard work and referrals from satisfied clients. It's the old chicken and the egg conundrum. No clients without referrals, but no referrals without clients. I expect several years before my business breaks even.
I understand the necessity of doing a couple free/low dough gigs to get rolling, but there are a couple potentially FATAL things your posting points out...

1. If you can't make a living with the low prices, you must QUICKLY learn and become capable of delivering professional level productions and raise your rates to a living wage - we're talking weeks or months... "years" means you'll be meeting lots of interesting new people as a greeter at a big box store... sooner or later.

2. You have to realize the technology is dropping rapidly in price (thus lowering one bar to entry), and at the same time raising quality expectations (at least in theory, we KNOW the image from a sub $1K camera can be pretty stunningly good) while "commoditizing" the "product". The simple "plain talk" summary of this means "everyone is a potential competitor", because the technology is rapidly becoming readily available and affordable... I doubt that wedding march video of last year was shot on anything "fancy" camera wise (and it wasn't that well shot, though not bad)... yet I'd venture it got more eyeballs than the collective work product the membership of this forum created last year...

3. Think carefully about #1&2... the net result of #2 is a potentially endless supply of warm bodies trying to escape #1...

Ultimately you need to sit down and work up a business plan, a budget, and then run it like a business, with the knowledge that you'll probably be competing in a sea of hacks, lowballers, and kids with video cams (and I just saw a blurb on CNBC that the BBC will be airing a special where they outfitted chimps with video cameras - c'mon, you all KNEW that was coming!! Anyone know where I can hire a crew of these, I hear they work for peanuts... er, bananas!).

You'd better be able to show WHY you deserve the business and the additional $$. And oh yeah, did I mention you should also have a "plan B"... there's lots of good used gear on eBay from people who realized plan A wasn't working out for them...
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Old January 26th, 2010, 07:47 PM   #14
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Hi guys, a lot of great lessons worth learning here! After much reading, here's my thought:

1. I'm planning to start most of my work in a pre-wedding video as there's been quite a few demands. I'd be investing in my own equipment (7D + lens) to use just for getting pretty pictures to put in the wedding/pre-wed highlights.

2. For long running sessions (ie. church wedding and reception) I'd still be hiring a Z1 as suggested my most of you guys to record all the important scenes. And I agree, it will be a safer bet for me in building my portfolio before having enough confidence to charge them.

3. Yeah, seems like I need to start 'free' ie just charging them for the cost of hiring equipment. Getting enough experience under my belt while keeping my day job (which is totally irrelevant to the world of videography). Sadly, I've only started recently and have missed some of my close friends wedding the last two years where they didn't hire a videographer at all.

To Chris Harding (a fellow Perth dweller) - it surprises me there's only 10,000 weddings in WA! But my wish is to move to Eastern states one day so perhaps once I've built my business that can self-sustain I can fulfill my dream.

A good friend of mine last night told me a good tips - you gotta aim not in making profits but to get your client happy as they can! They would eventually give good referrals to other friends and if your client is a generous couple surely they would reward you with some cash as well.

I agree with the principals that it's not the profit that makes your busineses, it's the relationship you build.

Cheers,


John
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