For many, the wedding season is year 'round, but things tend to speed up in the spring and summer months. Being prepared for the height of the season well before the season is upon you will insure your wedding shoot will go smoothly.
A successful wedding videographer begins to prepare months before the season is in full swing. Even though a wedding may not happen until next spring, you should be in preparation mode as early as October.
For every wedding photographer and videographer, promotion is the first step. You should be on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media and traditional outlets you use to get the word out that you are booking weddings. After the proposal the average bride will know her wedding date months or even a year before the event takes place. Getting your company image to her is essential when planning begins. But brides are not your only resource; you should be marketing to wedding planners all year long so they recommend you before anyone else. This includes sending out samples of your work and keeping your website in front of them. Meet with wedding planners and get to know them. You should be in constant contact with every wedding planner in your area.
Keep in mind, however, that many brides may not use a wedding planner. They may have a friend or family member help them organize and plan the event. So it is a two-fold process, marketing to wedding planners and to brides directly. There are many resources to help you find brides. Look for any Facebook pages, websites or forums that cater to brides near you and join them. You will get leads from these sources but you should not negotiate via the Internet.
Drop your card off at local hair salons and get to know the stylists, especially the ones that cater to higher-end clients. Believe it or not, after they tell their family and friends, the first person many brides turn to is their hairstylist. Make contact with your local bridal boutiques and get to know the owners. Attend and have a table at any wedding expo or event in your area and be prepared to shake many hands and offer congratulations. This face-to-face will put you in a position to give out sample DVDs and talk to the brides.
Samples are a great way to get brides to your doorstep. Try getting permission to leave several samples and business cards at local bridal shops. Though you can, you do not need to create elaborate promotional materials in plastic cases, usually a DVD in a paper sleeve attached to a card will suffice. It is the contents of the DVD and the contact information that will be important to the potential client. If possible, include a complete wedding on the DVD, not just a short promotional video. Seeing how you created a full wedding can say more than an advertisement.
Make It Personal
Keep in mind that brides, and people in general, do not hire companies. They hire people. Your personality will garner you more jobs than any other means to promote yourself. Though a bride may come to you via the Internet, only a meeting will bring you the job.
Brides want to know and trust you. They want to see your work and envision themselves in your videos. They trust you to capture their special day and you need to build on that trust. Brides also may not know what to ask you so be prepared to break down the day of shooting into easy-to-comprehend information so they feel comfortable working with you. Put them at ease but also let them know what you will be looking to capture during their special day.
Make It Clear and Concise
Avoid being technical, brides do not care about your fancy camera and equipment; they care about what you can make with it. Keep notes on every bride, a nice day planner is very useful to keep track of dates and bridal preferences. It is important that you set up a date to meet with the bride away from bridal events and concentrate on her needs.
You can suggest a meeting with each bride and her wedding planner as she is planning her special day and meet at a local coffee house. This is a good opportunity to get the feel of the wedding as well as sign contracts and receive your deposit to save the date. You will want to know the colors she will be using in order to help you select or create any graphics for the video that will match her color scheme. Get her involved with the artistic process of making her wedding video. Let her know her input is valuable and important.
If the groom attends the meeting and you intend to wire him for sound, have a talk with him to go over when and where you will hook him up.
Sign Here, Please
Make up a simple wedding video contract template and get them to sign a preliminary contract with deposit as early as possible to secure the date and assure the gig. Using a basic contract is a good idea and it should be flexible so you can add in any additional time or requirements for their specific wedding plans.
Find out who the photographer will be. You may have worked with this photographer before or she may need one. This is a good opportunity to network and suggest vendors you trust. Getting them business will work to your advantage if they will recommend you as well. Photographers are not the only resource you should have at the ready. Wedding rental agencies, DJs and florists are also good vendors to know and recommend. And each of them should have a few of your samples as well. Talk with the bride about floral arrangements and how she envisions the wedding to look. Keep notes and begin to prepare how you will shoot the event from this point on.
Check the Locale
The location of the event will have a huge impact on how you will shoot it. No matter if it is an indoor or outdoor setting it is a good idea to visit the place well before you will be expected to shoot there. Shooting an outdoor wedding will bring its own problems, most notably the lighting. Try to visit the location at the same time of day the wedding will take place. This will help you know where the sun will be and how to place cameras. If the wedding is in a church or building you have never been to, be sure to scout the location. Look around for windows, power outlets and how the building is laid out.
If you can visit the location with the bride you may be able to get a better feel for how the wedding will happen and locate any problem spots well before you will need to deal with them. It is a good idea to bring a camera and test how the images will look with the lighting that will be used during the ceremony.
Now that you have promoted yourself, your calendar should be filling up. Again this is where you will begin loading up your day planner. Note any special equipment you will need and all you have learned from your visit with the couple.
Don't think you've booked the date and you are done for six months. It's good practice to stay in touch with brides throughout the year. Let them know you are available for questions if necessary. A simple email will suffice, you don't need to call the bride often, just be available.
Facebook can shine here as well. Become friends and like her comments as she plans her special day throughout the months leading up to it. You may even have comments that help her along the way. This is an ideal video marketing strategy that can get your work seen by many of her friends and potential clients, too.
As you near the event, get organized! Your equipment should be in cases and everything should be where you can get your hands on it quickly. Organize your camera bag with everything you'll need for each shoot. At this point nothing is more powerful than a checklist, and it should be organized as well. Listing everything by the bag the gear is stored in makes it easy to review. Place items together that belong together; camera, batteries, tapes, and lenses should be with each other. Tripods, tripod heads, monopods and stabilizers would go together.
It's also a good idea to have a separate bag for audio gear. Microphones, mixers and cables will go in this bag. As you are organizing your equipment be sure to clean the camera lens and test everything! The last thing you want is to get on location and find your microphone has bit the dust, or a lightbulb is shot.
Once everything is organized it's time to charge batteries the night before the event. At this point you should know and trust that your gear is ready. The next step is to attend the rehearsal.
Take notes during the rehearsal. Where the bride will come in and exit, how the bridesmaids will be positioned and all the little things that make up a wedding. Meet with the wedding planner for any last minute changes and discuss lighting. If there is no planner, check with the bride if she has designated an official 'go to' person and work with her. Locate where you planned to set up your cameras and let the wedding party know where they will be. Be prepared to compromise if necessary, remember this is their special day and you are there to document it, not be a part of it.
Floral arrangements may not be in place during the rehearsal so you may need to imagine where they will be and if anything will be in your shot. If this happens, and eventually it will, be prepared to move to a secondary camera location. Try to get the pulse of the rehearsal, the confidence of the planner and bride and groom, and anticipate where problems will arise, and then be prepared to record the event in any situation. All of your preparation with the bride and planner from previous months will come in handy here; some may even account for your needs if you have become a trusted friend and ally.
Planning a wedding can be like planning a football play. In fact it is a good idea to draw out the ceremony on paper and place an X where key players will be. Draw arrows for player movement. Note where musicians will be and the placement of candles or ceremonial objects that will be used. Floaters or portable cameras should be in the right place at the right time to help provide coverage.
Shooting a wedding is 20 percent recording what happens and 80 percent anticipating what you think is going to happen. Your ability to be there before action takes place is the key to a successful wedding shoot. Be prepared to anticipate the flow of the event and get ahead of that flow! The fact is, planning for a wedding is a continuous practice that you will be doing until the bride and groom drive away. The more you know ahead of time, the smoother the shoot.
J. Michael Long is an event video producer as well as a special interest documentary producer with 19 years broadcast experience.