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


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Old May 21st, 2015, 04:22 PM   #1
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Business Advice

Hey everyone, I have been following many of the threads on this site for a while now, just trying to soak up as much information as I can. However, I've come to an interesting place in the beginning of my video carrier and need some help. Here's the situation....

So, I began pushing my way into the wedding video business this summer when I left my job as an assistant manager of a fast food restaurant. I've always wanted to get into wedding videography and have done some concert videography in the past.. I sent out some e-mails to photographers in my area to see if they could be of any help. The first one came back with a very interesting opportunity. I would shoot a wedding for free, while working "alongside" this photographer. They would show me the ropes and give me an idea of what to expect. I took the opportunity but didn't stop looking for allies in the photo field. A more experienced photographer got back to me before I shot my first wedding and let me shadow them on a wedding shoot a week before my first official shoot was to take place.

Long story short the more experienced photographer has been "mentoring" me ever since (a little over a month). They have expressed an interest in letting me start a video department for their brand. In return I am able to use their equipment consisting of a 5D mkIII, numerous L glass lenses, batteries, monopods, etc. I was thrilled to be given this opportunity with little to no experience in the wedding industry and as invaluable as this experience is, I'm not making any money from it. The photographer I'm working with at the moment asked me to shoot another wedding with them. When asked about some kind of monetary compensation they told me that they wanted to shoot it without informing the bride, for free, and try to sell the highlight video to the bride after the wedding. The intention being that we keep the video aspect under wraps until we can launch an official video service next year.. What do you guys think? Will the Bride buy the highlight video? Or will "breaking even" cost too much for a Bride to spend after the wedding? Should I get something in writing before I continue to work with this photographer?
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Old May 21st, 2015, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Business Advice

What are your personal finances like? How much longer can you hold out without making any money from this?
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Old May 21st, 2015, 05:12 PM   #3
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Re: Business Advice

Sounds like he has booked jobs with you as the videographer, then blagging you that they will buy a highlights video after the wedding which brides never do as there is no money left. Please just go on your own, he is using you...
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Old May 21st, 2015, 05:24 PM   #4
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Re: Business Advice

Well I can probably make it till August if I make no money, and I can always go back to fast food if I have to (it's not exactly a hard business to break into when you have 3 years of management experience.)

That being said, I don't think he has already booked them with me doing video because we only met a little over a month ago and I'm certain that he had most of these bookings at this time. Yet still I'm worried that I'm being used. On the other hand, I'm able to use gear that I couldn't afford otherwise which is great for my personal highlight reel...

Thanks for the comments so far. I appreciate any/all insight on the matter.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 07:53 PM   #5
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Re: Business Advice

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Originally Posted by Matthias Claflin View Post
Yet still I'm worried that I'm being used. On the other hand, I'm able to use gear that I couldn't afford otherwise which is great for my personal highlight reel.
I wouldn't look at it so much as being used as that the photographer is risk averse. If he hasn't mentioned video to the bride yet, and he goes ahead and offers you money, and then she doesn't want the video, or something happens you're not prepared for and the video is now unusable, or whatever else, then he's out of pocket to pay you.

You just have to decide if it's worth it to you to have this material.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 08:25 PM   #6
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Re: Business Advice

My advice is if you want to start getting into wedding videography, rent equipment until you can afford to buy. I think he is just using you for your skills. I doubt these brides will buy after. He could turn around and add video to his business and put it all on his website like "Boom we have wedding videos to show off."

Do it yourself, it can be done. I do it. :)
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Old May 21st, 2015, 10:05 PM   #7
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If he and you are not being hired to shoot video then there is little risk should you make a mistake. You will eventually make a serious rookie mistake if you haven't already. You might accidentally delete a data card or forget to turn phantom power on etc. Sounds like a great opportunity to build your skills. I'd still want to nail down the financial aspects so you both know what to expect.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 11:02 PM   #8
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Re: Business Advice

Mathias, I totally agree with Gary and Jim, read their comments and take note.

I have been in the wedding business in one way or another for over thirty years. You need to get your experience where you can find it.

You have so little experience, as you know, and you are not worth anything yet on the market, you have very limited skills at this point. The potential for making mistakes is huge as has been pointed out.

When starting out as you are trying to do now, your entire focus should be in learning the craft, not making money.

Don't get cocky or arrogant too soon. Even if somone makes money off of your work for awhile and you don't make much, so what. Going to school costs money, and in essence you are in school.

Keep a humble attitude, and grateful attitude, and be helpful to everyone you can be. When you're ready to really start getting paid you will know it and the money will roll in.

Regard this phase of yours as an investment in your future and it will all work out.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 07:23 AM   #9
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Re: Business Advice

As a B&G, I think I'd be a bit appalled if someone tried to upsell me to something AFTER my wedding day, and ask for more $$ than we agreed to. So I'd sorta question the photogs thinking on that. (Personally I think he's just gonna give the video to her, and as someone else said use it on his website).

Having said that, experience is good. Weddings are very run & gun & I'm sometimes shocked I was able to make it thru my first couple shoots on my own with little to no egregious errors. Its good to work with the DSLR, but think to yourself are you personally going to choose one, or stick with a video camera? If you'd go videocamera route then the DSLR probably isn't that big a benefit to you.

I would advise not shooting any more than a couple (2 or 3, myb 4) for free. After that, you've learned quite alot, and should feel confident enough to go rogue on your own. And on the other hand the photog should have received decent value in his sample video footage, gave added value to a few B&G's, and can better determine his options into continuing video into next year, and what rates he could charge vs what he should pay a video shooter, even one using his cam deserves some pay.

So I would suggest after shooting no more than 4 weddings thanking them for their assistance, but going forward your would need compensation for their shoot. Don't burn bridges, thank them for the experience but inform them you feel you've learned what you felt you need to & are looking to either shoot more on your own or be compensated as a shooter/2nd shooter.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 08:12 AM   #10
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Re: Business Advice

Take the opportunity to get free experience. At this point, you'll need it and more. However, I would NEVER show up if the bride did't know I was coming. Never. She should be politely asked, and offered a deal that is unbelievable.

For me, it'd be like... 'we'll shoot if and deliver it for free. If you love it, consider tipping the person who made it.' Free for her, low stakes experience for you.

----

Working for another person, the photog, as part of their brand can save you a lot of trouble. Just ensure that everything is in writing about expectations. That is about your deal with the boss, AND client expectations (what will you deliver?)

The money-balance will be key. I've worked with owners who were just trying to keep as much money as they could, and others who cared about a good balance of income versus a healthy compensation for you.

That said, you're a babe in the woods. You shouldn't get paid all that much, and they shouldn't charge all that much, either.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 08:47 PM   #11
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Re: Business Advice

Thanks everyone for your replies! I am sorry I'm not getting back to this topic till just now. I agree that I need all the experience I can get. I've now shot two full weddings as well as shooting a "highlight" for another. I know I need a lot more experience . Thank you all for your comments. I truly appreciate it. I am the first to admit, when it comes to the business of wedding video, I don't have a clue what I'm doing. I am getting the hang of the "craft" but I'm totally in the dark when it comes to this business.

I will continue, at least through the end of June, accompanying this photographer and learning all that I can. However, he has approached me with some questions about an agreement. One thing that he had said that worried me was this,

"Basically I want to set up a situation where I retain all the rights to all the moving images created at all the events that I am hired to be at. My clients hired me and they would be compromised if someone else ever used anything with them in it to promote themselves."

To me, this is odd. Is this normal in this business? I feel like he is almost treating it like I'm a second shooter, but in reality, I'm the 1st (and only shooter) of a completely different service. Why shouldn't I retain at least some rights to use this footage to promote myself, even if there was say a 1 year delay on the rights? Meaning I couldn't use it till I had left his company for a year, similar to a noncompete clause in the contract? Does that make sense?

Maybe I'm being "greedy" with the rights. I really don't know what normally happens in this business. Thanks so much again. I really appreciate all the tips and help you all have offered.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 10:36 PM   #12
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Re: Business Advice

Most photogs who take on a videographer will look at this the same way. The idea is to stop you doing a bunch of shoots as his "partner" and then using the footage on your own website as your own demo footage and then dumping him and going off on your own. Most newbies need the experience of shooting with someone else and then moving on (often taking some clients with them)

I can see his point of view that you might be just "using" him to gain experience in the industry. If that's the way you want to get your experience then you need to agree to his terms .. It does mean of course that when you want to branch out on your own you cannot use any footage that you created whilst under his wing to show new clients how great you are. You would have to start from square one again.

The other way is just to go it alone and do a few friend and family weddings to use as examples of your work but then you don't have the advantage of his bookings and experience.

I can see why he wants to protect himself ... if I had an assistant helping me I would do the same thing because the time WILL come when your assistant will want to branch out on their own.
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 10:41 PM   #13
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Re: Business Advice

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If that's the way you want to get your experience then you need to agree to his terms .. It does mean of course that when you want to branch out on your own you cannot use any footage that you created whilst under his wing to show new clients how great you are. You would have to start from square one again.
And that's why Matthias should walk away from this immediately. In this business, showing your work is everything, so if he's going to raise a stink about doing so, then find someone else who isn't making crazy demands.

What he said with that, "they would be compromised if someone else ever used anything with them in it to promote themselves" line makes zero sense.
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Old May 24th, 2015, 02:30 AM   #14
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Re: Business Advice

Agreed ! If he was a top videographer mentoring you THEN it might be worth it but he is a photographer. Buy two cameras (or even rent them) shoot a wedding or two for free and then you are on your way.

Probably we all started this way, I know I did ... I would shoot a wedding for free for family or friends than do it for some guys with restrictions ... My first full wedding was a family shoot and that generated me all the leads I needed to start off with. You would also get better mentoring on this forum than from a photog anyway!
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Old May 25th, 2015, 07:48 AM   #15
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Re: Business Advice

I started out shooting a colleagues Wedding, then did some freebies and low paid work for a year. To be honest as a learning curve, its better that than working with the Photographer. I did some paid work for a Photographer last year and her shot suggestions were basically video all the stuff she was taking photos of. One or two jobs as an assistant maybe, but nothing beats striking out on your own.
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