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

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Old February 2nd, 2010, 08:29 PM   #1
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Advice Needed from Wedding Videographers


I am new to this forum and could use some advice from videographers, particularly those of you who work in the wedding videography business. I apologize in advance that this is dreadfully long!

Here is my story: I will soon be leaving my current job (unrelated to videography) and be a stay-at-home mom. I'm very happy with this decision. However, as someone who has a very strong work ethic and a desire/need/passion to CREATE, and be an artist of some kind, I plan to return to work eventually when the kids are a little older. After much soul-searching and trying to figure out what I really want to be when I grow up (!), I've had the idea to perhaps get into wedding videography. Please understand that I did not soul-search for just a few days and stumble across this idea...this has been a very long process for me. I seek your advice to have a better understanding of what I might be getting into before I plunge forward with the limited knowledge I have of what it takes to be successful in this endeavor.

Here is my background: I have an undergraduate degree in television, radio, and film production so I am very familiar with the work that goes into pre-production, production and post-production. I worked briefly in the field after college. I took a "wrong turn" to get my master's degree in another field, basically to have a steady job with a steady paycheck. I am more than ready to move on...

and after much reflection, I realized that one of the most FUN, EXCITING, and JOYOUS times I've ever had in my life was one weekend while at college when I was holed up in an editing suite all by myself editing a documentary I had made about my family. I absolutely LOVED the ability to create, to see my vision through to the very end, to make every decision on my own, and most of all, to present it to my family and watch their reactions to something I had done that was SO VERY COOL! Indeed, one of the best times of my life.

Here’s where I need your advice: I have not been around the above-mentioned environment since around 1995. There is a public access station in my area that offers workshops in pre- and post-production- in your opinion, is that lame or a good start? Also, I thought about contacting wedding videographers in my area to find out if they are in need of an assistant. My concern, though, is my outdated experience and that they’ll laugh at me for even asking! And, what are the chances that they may need administrative or marketing assistance? I am so eager to start at any level to begin to learn about the business.

Also, because I thoroughly enjoy creating videos, how do I know if I have what it takes to start my own small business? Some personal characteristics of mine are that I am a very diligent and conscientious worker; I get along with many different kinds of people; I am very organized; I am willing to learn…and I know I have a lot to (re)learn. This last trait is what I will depend on to handle the business side, as I’m not exactly business savvy.

Why wedding videography? I think for me it’s simple: it’s a time of happiness for people, a celebration of life, love, and family. I know how much I love my own wedding video (created by such an amazing artist…a true inspiration!) that it would be an honor to create that experience for others.

I would also like to know what your “typical” week or month or year looks like. This is not something I want to rush into as I am raising two small children and that is my priority right now. But, I want to take necessary (part-time) steps now (if that’s at all possible) so that I can hit the ground running in a few years.

Your advice is so GREATLY appreciated. Thank you!

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Old February 2nd, 2010, 10:48 PM   #2
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Welcome to dvinfo Rose!

There is a ton of valuable stuff available here to get you going...

You will find that to film and edit weddings well is really a challenging process that does require a great deal of passion and dedication. It really doesn't bear much resemblance to much other production work. The word 'Cut!' doesn't exist in this world.

You can learn a lot from looking at wedding clips posted by some of the masters here. Study them and look at how the shot was accomplished (composition, movement (static, steadicam, slider, etc)) how it was edited (color grading, fx), and also how the audio was mixed.

You haven't said if you have a camera now. If you do I would advise you to think about filming someones (friend, relative) wedding for free. Once you have the footage, you can edit it to your hearts content, trying different things.

I'm sure you can find someone (maybe here), who would let you help out on a shoot even if it's just babysitting a camera on a tripod for starters.

There is an absolute wealth of info here that you can peruse at your leisure...

Good Luck... and all the best!
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 12:38 AM   #3
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Advice Needed from Wedding Videographers

Welcome Rose...

If I started over, I would purchase the book: "Refocus: Cutting Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business" by Ron Dawson. It's an excellent book to get you started in the business end of events/wedding videography.

Ron is an expert wedding videographer who crossed over into corporate video.
Ron also has a blog to inspire you. His blog is: Blade Ronner: The Blog of Ron Dawson
to help you get started in this area...
Creative Video. Excellent Service
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 01:55 AM   #4
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Rose, I hate to sound negative because I always try and encourage people coming into this business but there are a couple of important things.

Firstly it is a business. Your OP is high on emotion and motivation, low on business. How much have you to invest? Do you have an alternative income source? How much experience have you of starting and maintaining a business. Have you done the maths?

Secondly I think your glasses are a little as your name, rose tinted. Making someone else's wedding video - and meeting their demands - is far from the satisfaction of making your own family video programme.

Thirdly, even real television these days is far from the job of producing, recording, editing and selling your own product. I reckon I use my 30 years experience in television and video production more times in overcoming wedding shoot unplanned events than in any other type of programme I've ever made. The man who moved from weddings to corporate was making the easy move.

But I don't think your situation is terminal.

There's a book that could be written about your situation but to be brief, if I was in your place I'd take a different route.

My first thought, if you are as experienced and competent as your training suggests, would be to hire out as a freelance to broadcast, corporate, even wedding production companies - though the margins in weddings are so tight (in part because of the number of hobbyists deflating the market) freelances in weddings are unusual. That way you could take the work offering when it suited you and avoid much if not all (depending on the business model you want to take) the investment involved in setting up a production business.

The absolutely accurate fact that weddings are a wonderful environment in which to work is an indulgence only people of my age and situation can afford to make a pivotal decision factor in choosing the market they want to work in.

Sorry, but it's my view. Good luck.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 06:38 AM   #5
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It sounds like you have a passion for video. That's good. Also, the idea of starting now part-time is also a very wise idea. You can get your feet wet and see how you can grow your business over the next few years.

Contacting other videographers in your area is definitely a good idea. In most markets there are plenty of weddings to go around, and in a lot of cases, having your name in the hat can mean getting a call to help out and get some experience.

At the same time, I would work on contacting friends, and friends of friends and let them know you are trying to break into the wedding video market and see if they know anyone who is getting married, who maybe doesn't really want (or is willing to pay for) a wedding video and ask to do theirs as an experiment. Do that a few times. That's exactly what we did 10 years ago when we started. It is very low risk and it will (1) give you some material to show others when you DO get ready to start charging (2) give you some valuable client feedback.

You never mentioned your budget, but I would expect to spend at least $3000-$6000 getting the basics: Camera, shotgun mic & shock mount, wireless mic, extra camera batteries, plus an XLR adapter if the camera you get doesn't have one built in (the Sign Video XLR Pro is what I use), new computer(?), editing software are just some of the basics you will need to do a basic wedding video.

You'll also need to consider getting a business license, liability insurance ($1 million policy plus equipment) and maybe even a bookkeeper (I personally don't like accounting lol).

If you do it part time, you can take off a lot of stuff on your taxes against your regular income. It works out pretty good.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 07:24 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Philip Howells View Post

Thirdly, even real television these days is far from the job of producing, recording, editing and selling your own product. I reckon I use my 30 years experience in television and video production more times in overcoming wedding shoot unplanned events than in any other type of programme I've ever made. The man who moved from weddings to corporate was making the easy move.
I have to second this one. There's no take 2 or you can't yell cut during weddings. You have to nail the shot the first time. I also have the luxury of doing corporate work before, you are actually being spoon fed on set, there's a guy in charge of audio, lighting, playback, director, you will be all of the above as a wedding videographer.

Go freelance for a Wedding Videographer, and test the water. Good luck we were all newbies at one time.

My 2 cents.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 07:27 AM   #7
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Rose, I agree with alot of the other posts, especially Kyle's above. One thing I'd emphasize is overcoming any fears & letting friends, family & acquantiances know you're getting into the field. References are key in the industry. Don't worry about "breaking in slowly", that's how it happens. In fact, you'll likely be breaking in a little too slowly, but that's how it goes. Check out Craigslist TV jobs section, as well as the Creative & Crew & Events gigs sections as well.

Like you, I've been in & out of the industry off & on. I graduated in 1995, prior to non-linear editing. So I worked on video. Surprisingly though, it's pretty similar imho. Instead of pushing the "edit" button, you now move your mouse over the "edit" button, and just click. Ok, it's a little more different than that, but you get the idea. The fact that you understand the basics & theory of camera angles, jump cuts, storytelling etc will still apply. And you'll likely find they help you if you do take a workshop. I would recommend it. I took a few at a community center over the past 10 years or so. Oddly enough, a 16mm film course in the late 90's. Then went more digital. In the last 5 years I took short workshops for FCP, HTML, & Flash. So I'm a jack of all trades, master of none. But I know a little about each so it was a start. I think you'll find it beneficial. What I did then (and people will laugh) is buy the Books for Dummies for each program that I have (I have the mostly older versions). I'd recommend that or something similar. It helps when I'm stuck or can't figure something out, or want to learn how to do it, I just open up the book, read how to do it. Then do it. 9 times out of 10 it works. And is a great website for learning software. Watching short tutorials etc.

Finally equipment. It is pricey. You need to figure out how much you want to invest, and what level of equipment you want & can afford (consumer/camcorder, prosumer, professional). Check out B&H Photo Video | Digital Cameras, Camcorders for equipment & pricing. Personally, even though I do not use it, for a beginner who is probably not looking to invest alot of money into editing, I'd recommend Sony Vegas. I think versions start at $99. Although I think Adobe makes an Elements editing software for a similar rate. I use an older Premeire and like it, though I should consider changing. Search the forums for feedback & opinions.

And lastly, let me emphasize it isn't "OK, I'm here doing weddings, who wants one?" Then people come at you like you're Eddie Murphy & Dan Akroyd selling Frozen Concentrate Orange Juice stocks at the end of Trading Places.... It takes time to first get you're reel & a couple to trust enough in you, let alone get a few booked each month. It's a slow process, but sounds like exactly what you love & want to do. And you seem like you might have the time & ability to make it work & jump into the venture. Keep in mind the second point Phillip made, some couples are difficult to work with and hard to please. It's not always fun. Good luck!
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 07:48 AM   #8
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@ Phillip....

I take your posting to heart...Word for word...I wish i would have read and digested that information 6 years ago...Very good advice for newcomers....
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 08:11 AM   #9
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Rose, it is quite simple to enter into wedding videography, but not on your own initially.

If you are quite serious, choose a camera, buy it, and then seek work with a local videographer. This is how to begin. Once you enter into the videography world through an established company, doors will open for you.

This is exactly how I did it, and how many people begin. There is no need for long drawn out analysis of the business aspects initially.

I decided I wanted to enter videography one day, sold my motorcycle, bought a camera with the money, and then started calling around to the studios. Almost immediately I found work with one, and everything took off from there. Eventually you will choose the software you will use to edit, etc., but that will come later.

You seem to have the passion, etc., and if you pursue your dream as outlined above you cannot fail.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 08:54 AM   #10
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I agree with everything that's been said so far.
First, if this is something you really think you want to do then you need some gear. Doesn't have to be 20k worth but a camera, light, tripod, audio...the basics. Then learn the gear until it's 2nd nature. Watch all the amples you can. Both highlight and full coverage events so you get to understand what's required of you to cover a wedding. As had been said before, it's a one take event. There are no retakes. Then, you need to let everyone know what you do. Network, talk to everyone you meet, give them a card, tell them who you are and what yo do. If noone knows what you do how can they hire you. Find a or some other video people in your area and see what kind of deal you can make with them to work as a 2nd camera operator, probably won't pay much but you need the experience, then while you're doing this, you can set up your business. Whatever you need, computer, learning how to edit, adding gear if needed, website, other advertising, whatever.
Remember we're all freelancers and we all need to start somewhere. When I started in video 26 years ago, I had been a working still photographer for 12 years and while I had a business model, I had to readjust it for my new business. Did I work cheap in the beginning? You bet. Have things changed over the years? You bet. It didn't take 26 years for things to go big, but it doesn't happen overnight. Now on the downside of my career I find I still enjoy doing weddings, just not as many (I have averaged about 50 a year over my career so time to cut the number down) but I do still enjoy the job.
A last point, insure your gear and get liability. There are more and more venues that you can't even work in with proof of liability and as stated above, if something were to happen you need to be covered.
I have always equated the wedding business to shooting news. Things happen fast, they happen once and you've got to be ready for it. Having been in war, I can say this. Like war, there are hours of boredom and moments of terror. Don't let either scare you! ;-)
Good luck and let us know how it goes.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 05:02 PM   #11
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I work for myself. I meet all my clients, I shoot the weddings, I edit, I take the heat when they are pissed. I then have a few second videographers that act as a back up or second.

This is my third year and it's my busiest. I meet with clients 2-3 times a week driving all over the place. This is very time consuming and doesn't guarantee a gig. My Saturdays are gone, my Sundays are spent uploading, setting up to edit, finding music and then I edit the rest of the week 4-6 hours a day. I'm busy from January till about September and my wife only deals with it cause she wants that new kitchen! My point is that your time is gone and it's very hard to have a social life with friends and family cause I work weekends and nights meeting with clients and editing. I have a 15 month old son too which makes it more difficult.

Watch as many sample on the internet. Go to a bridal show and pick up copies of the vendors DVD's to see how they edit from beg to end.

Consider a decent HD camera like a Sony or Canon and buy used if you can.

Sounds like you really wanna do this, so expect to drop $2000-$5000, not including your editing machine.

I rented a Sony V1U for $150 that included batteries and tripod. You can charge the client or friend the price of your rental and gas. Don't be afraid to charge you friends either. I did my first wedding for $400 and they jumped on it. My second wedding was $800.

Also, visit this forum plus other sections like "editing" "cameras" and start learning about the different types of cameras / editing suites etc.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 05:36 PM   #12
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Kelly brings up a good point about the workload.

When we (my 2 former business partners and I) started into this in 2000, we were all single and working full time jobs. Initially the work wasn't too much because we were just getting started. But, after a year or two, word got around quickly because we were doing good work and aligned ourselves with top florists and photographers in the area.

It honstely was not uncommon to go to work at the day job, get off at 5:00, grab some food and work until 11 or 12 and then get up at 6:00 AM and do it all over again M-F. Then on Saturday your day was booked, and then Sunday was spent going to church and then as soon as you get home, capturing and cataloging.

It really was not uncommon to work 60, 70, or 80 hours a week. And, that was fine and good when you're single and have nothing else to do. Plus, we really enjoyed it.

Now, we are all married and have kids. It's a much different world. Our time is valuable and we split up the original partnership and each went our separate ways in the video world. One thing for sure though, our prices make sure we are compensated for our time!
KR Productions;
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 06:16 PM   #13
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Hey Rose,
if you wana do it - do it, but don't buy anything yet, to spend your money takes seconds,
first you just have to see if you can and if you'll like that business, cuz I've seen couple guys that invested into equipment big time and then after a few months decided that this is too much for them, and that filming 12-16 Hrs live event is a very hard and stressful job.
Best idea is to get an assistant role, not for one, for a few gigs, better with experienced wedding operator, maybe even for free, because at the point where you are now, it'll be priceless knowledge and experience.
Don't be afraid to call or email to the local guys, there is no room for doubtful and shy in any business, and event videography is a business with marketing, promotion, sales and production. And you will have to learn all those aspects, but there is nothing you can't do if you really want it.
Here you can find answers to all your questions that you will have on your way;
And again, if you wana do it – do it, don’t let anybody , or anything to hold you from being what you wana be,
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 09:11 PM   #14
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working for free for other companies isn't the most fun at first, but you will gain so much skill and knowledge and will have the confidence the branch out if you find that it is really something you want to do. If you can't work for someone else, how can you expect to work for a bride? If you do get the chance to work for someone else, ask lots of questions about gear, shooting techniques, etc... can't beat free education!

The Re:Focus book mentioned earlier is a great read (from what I have heard). Once you actually want to dive into creating your own business you should already be looking at the blog of IN[FOCUS] Awesome site with tons of information related directly to wedding video creators. Also IN[FOCUS] Conferences will have all of the videos of the presentations from the last event... life changing for me and many others. They talked about branding, marketing, shooting technique, editing work flows, same day edits, and much more...

Dive in and just do it or you will regret never giving it a shot! Good luck!
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Old February 4th, 2010, 05:33 AM   #15
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I am interested to hear what Rose has to say about all the advice provided thus far. No further posts since the initial one. Has she been scared off with the reality check? Or has this made her more determined to try it out.
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