A guide to becoming successful in the wedding video business written by those in the trenches. Part of a series on how to make money making video.
We've all heard stories of brides who lose their cool when planning their weddings. Thanks to TV reality shows, they now even have a name for them: Bridezilla. But the good wedding producer takes change, drama and mishaps in stride, knowing that, as long as you stay on top of everything, stay professional and keep your cool, your end of the deal will work out fine.
As good video cameras become more common, so does the wedding videographer. But just having a good video camera doesn't mean you're going to be successful. Here are 10 important keys to help you become successful and profitable in the wedding video industry.
Tip #1: Have Good Equipment
Video equipment is becoming more and more affordable these days. But you're going to need more than just a good camera or two. I learned that the hard way starting out. Here is a list of what I take with me to every wedding.
a) 2 Prosumer Cameras and Tripods (I use Sony HVR-PD170)
As I said earlier, cameras are getting more affordable, and they're also getting better. I would recommend at least a 3CCD camera, but you can still get good results with a consumer camera in the $1500 range.
b) 2 Wireless Mics (Sennheiser EW100 Series)
Audio is very important to creating a quality product. Nothing screams "cheap" louder than poor audio quality. Wireless mics allow you to be very flexible with mic placement without your having to run a bunch of mic cables everywhere. Never rely on your built-in camera mic!
c) 1 Camera Light (Pag Light C6)
More often than not, wedding receptions take place in low light that translates to poor camera performance. Even if you use it only occasionally for capturing people on the dance floor, it really isn't that intrusive, and it makes a huge difference.
d) 1 Hot Light and Stand (Lowel Pro Light with Umbrella)
This is something I don't always use, but sometimes I can't do without it. This comes in handy when you need to do guest interviews and don't have a well-lighted place to stage them. It looks better than a camera light, and it saves you on battery power.
e) 1 Wired Mic and Cable (Shure SM58)
Most of the time it gets really noisy when conducting guest interviews, and sometimes the only place to do them is right next to the dance floor. Having a good close-range mic cuts out almost all of the ambient noise and isolates what the interviewee is saying.
Tip #2: Go Get Experience
If you plan on going out and selling yourself and making money, you first need something to sell. When I first got into shooting weddings, I offered a reduced rate to friends and family who were getting married. This allowed me to get valuable experience and develop a portfolio at the same time. You want to be careful not to give away your services free. It cheapens the product in the eyes of the client, and it may set an unwanted precedent among your peers. We'll talk more about pricing.
Tip #3: Produce a Solid Product
When you have a few weddings under your belt, it's time to make a demo reel. One of the biggest mistakes I see aspiring videographers make when showing their work is they show too much. Let's be honest: a wedding video is about 95 percent boring unless you're in it or you know the people in it. The last thing you want to do is to bore a potential client with someone else's wedding video. When people are shopping around for a videographer for their wedding, they will be looking for someone who captures key points from the day and does it with style. So take the best of the best from each of your weddings and edit them together in a two- to three-minute reel. Once you've done enough weddings, you can put together a demo DVD that contains a full ceremony, reception, love story, etc. from three or four different weddings for clients who want to see more.
Tip #4: Present Yourself Well
The old saying is true: you have only one chance to make a first impression. When first meeting with a client, try to present yourself as an established business. This makes the client feel a little more comfortable about possibly spending money with you. Try to avoid meeting at your home or messy edit station. If you have an office, set up a client area with a viewing station. If you don't have an office, offer to meet the client at a classy coffee shop, or you can even offer to come to their house. And make sure you dress appropriately.
Tip #5: Market Yourself
Marketing strategies have changed over the last few years. As people become more tech-savvy, we've had to change the way we get their attention. Potential clients used to use the phone book; they now turn to online search engines. So my advice: don't waste money on putting an ad in the phone book - it can be very expensive and return very few results. Instead, put the money into your online presence. Social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace) and pay-per-click advertising are very efficient through companies like Google and Yahoo. Also, try posting a blog. They're free - and remember to regularly post your work.
One of the most effective ways to get yourself out there is to participate in Bridal Shows. This gives you the opportunity to put yourself directly in contact with potential clients and show off what you can do first hand. Maybe even spend a little money and pass out something cool like a light-up pen or a mini DVD with your demo reel on it.
Finally, try getting your info displayed at bridal retailers and wedding venues. Often the establishments are happy to let you display your stuff for free. You can even offer a little referral incentive.
Tip #6: Pricing
Pricing is a very important part of being successful. You don't want to price yourself too low, as it sends a bad message out to clients. But you don't want to price yourself out of the game, either. My advice is to start a little high and give yourself room for discounts and specials. Even if you always offer a "season special," if people think they are getting a deal, this goes a long way. I advertise three packages: a starter, middle and high end. However, I have two lower-end packages that I don't advertise. I've found that when I advertise the cheaper ones, people always go with them. If someone doesn't have the money but really wants to hire you, instead of lowering your price and cheapening your product, try offering them a limited package instead or even a filming-only package with the intention of editing down the road. Be careful with this one, though, keeping in mind they will see all the bad work you've done before you have a chance to edit it out.
Tip #7: Get Out There and Network
One of the best resources you will have is other wedding professionals. As you get established as a wedding videographer, you will start to get to know other wedding vendors as well. Make a special effort to get to know and become good friends with these people. I can't tell you how many weddings I book just by referrals from other wedding professionals. So get out there and network, go to the social events, mixers, fairs, open houses, whatever. Just get out there!
Tip #8: Be Flexible and Easy to Work With
As you are building your wedding video business, the last thing you want is a reputation of being hard to work with. Flexibility is a must in this business. While filming a wedding, expect plans to change, schedules to fall behind and brides to get stressed. You can set yourself apart by being helpful and easy to work with. This goes a long way, especially when it comes time for the bride to recommend you to her friends.
Tip #9: Educate People
When people think of wedding video, oftentimes their only experience is seeing a poorly-done video by a friend or relative. Part of your challenge is to re-educate those potential clients on how a good video can and will look. When talking to an apprehensive client about an upcoming wedding, don't be afraid to get aggressive and insist that they take the time to look at your work. Explain that they need to see a wedding video done the right way before they make their decision. You may feel like a salesperson, but that's OK, because you are.
Tip #10: Educate Yourself
A major key to being and remaining successful is to stay up on current technology, style and technique. I spend at least three hours a week reading tutorials, trying new software and playing with new ideas and techniques. Not only does it keep you current, it also gives fresh inspiration and keeps your job fun.
The wedding video business can be a lot of work, but you'll find it can also be very profitable. So remember to take it seriously, but, most importantly, keep it fun!
Brent Holland is a wedding/event video producer and owner of a video production company.