Advice on getting started

Anonymous (not verified)

I'm trying to break into wedding and special event videography. I'm graduating high school next month and I would love to shoot a couple of weddings over the summer before I start college. I plan to major in business administration.

I have already shot my cousin's wedding two month's ago and everybody loved it. I shot it with a SONY DSR-2100 DV camcorder and edited it with Adobe Premiere Elements version 7. I burned the video to DVD on my Dell Win7 desktop pc. Everybody tells me that I have what it takes to start a home based video business and work myself through school.

For all the experienced wedding videographers out there, what advice would you give an aspiring event videographer? Is there any good books or reference material geared for an 18 year old like me? Although I have shot a wedding, most of my experience is covering school projects and my own families special occasions. How can I market myself and get my first paying gig?

EarlC's picture
Last seen: 4 years 1 month ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am

Hello Bob,

Video production CAN be an excellent resource for "working" your way through college. It is by no means simple, and can be some VERY hard work, with some of the world's most difficult clients ;-) However...

Up front (and forgive if you already know this, just trying to provide basic startup pointers)

1.) a wedding and event video-related website with some sample clips from the wedding you've shot for now, more as you get others.

IMHO people who search for and visit websites are ALREADY sold on wedding video or they wouldn't HIT on your site in the first place, so the overwhelming amount of verbiage found on MANY wedding websites ... "your special day," "you've always dreamed of" "how to pick a videographer (well, maybe this in a short paragraph, but it isn't essential because believe me all but the most stunted of Internet users have read this stuff, picked up info like it a bridal shops and fairs, etc.)

Again, it is my humble opinion and professional experience that brides are looking for essentially three things when they visit your site, and they want to find it quick and easy:

How much can I get for my budget? Can this video producer do what I want? Is my date available? You can spend a LOT of website real estate trying to sell your visitors on extras, but it is the essentials they mostly looking for: good quality audio, good quality visuals and the primary moments groom watching the bride coming down the aisle; the vows; the rings; and for goodness sake get THE KISS!

You first need to research and establish your packages (or simply charge by the hour like a commercial production company) and what they entail. Basic, medium and high end, perhaps. I'm not necessarily fond of the emerald, ruby and diamond or silver, gold and platinum and other such naming devices ... I think the romantic value of such naming conventions has long expired in the minds of today's bride elects.

So, a lean, mean, direct and easy-to-navigate website that gets them the three bits of info they want most. There's a point of diminishing returns on how many video clips to put up and share. I think we tend to overwhelm and dilute the mission when we post scores of weddings clips. These should be teasers, your BEST footage and highlight the essential elements the brides want vows, rings, kiss, processional and recessional.

Check out your competition. What are they charging for the packages they provide? What can you comfortably do the work for and actually make money. I have a LOT of friends in the business who have low, or even decent pricing, but lose their shirts in post where they spend 40 hours or more editing and producing. This is why charging by the hour, even if it's minimum wage, will actually do you better overall, again IMHO.

2.) business cards

3.) a nice brochure

4.) full length DVD production

5.) OK, you've qualified your camera. What about lights, batteries, mic systems, tripods and/or monopods? If you're light (no pun intended) on any of this, consider what it will cost to get some basics you'll need to provide that quality audio, visual you'll want to accomplish.

NOTES: Go to area bridal shops, tux rental places, bakeries, caterers, venues, look up wedding coordinators and planners, connect with DJs and photographers by phone, e-mail, letter, get-acquainted luncheon, etc. Let them meet and greet, shake hands and know you. Have cards and brochures, work out an arrangement. Don't beg. Be confident in your approach and sharp in your appearance. Don't mealy mouth around about "I'm just getting started, and it would be great if you could help me out ....

... OOPS! Don't go there. Everybody in the industry will want to know "What's in it for me?" and are NOT at all interested in "helping you" if there's not a promise of something in return.

The whole thing will crunch down to this: ARE YOU willing to press the flesh, do the research, make the effort and do you have the "stickability" to stay with it until you start getting something out of it. Some people experience nearly overnight success (really, or so I've heard) others plod along a long, long time gradually building up contacts, establishing professional relationships and hammering the nail until they suddenly realize their business is going very well.

And, of course, at college you will be in a major mix of people and philosophies. Some get married in spite of the challenge of pursuing a higher education. Others will opt to wait until the bachelors, or higher degree is out of the way, the house is bought, whatever, before actually getting down to the concept of marriage and an expensive wedding.

You will be hounded and pounded by tire kickers, people who think they know how to acquire and have the right to the bargain of the century (and a LOT of video producers who will grant them that) along with a few people who realize and recognize a value (provided of course you are a value). Do not be disillusioned by the reality that the vast majority of people you come into contact with will attempt to USE you one way or another. Stand your ground when you state the specifics of your business, your prices and the services you provide. Like The Trump says: "Nothing personal, just business."

Good luck.

About me? I do weddings and started out doing weddings, but I've since diversified because I am full time (only doing video and writing, graphics and design, marketing consultation) and can work anytime, any day, any hour, and often have and will do all nighters if needed. I simply chose after a year or two to NOT seek primarily weddings, but they remain a part of my weapons locker. I even have a few exclusives with venues I like that refer my company as their preferred vendor. These are sweet deals when you can get them, but you'll really have to tighten up your production package and time invested to make such arrangements, and the resulting concessions, pay off.


Eugene Rohland's picture
Last seen: 5 years 6 months ago
Joined: 06/03/2010 - 6:23pm

I am currently busy working through this book:

It is immensely informative. I suggest that you check it out.

grinner's picture
Last seen: 9 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: 12/29/2007 - 2:56am

Get in good with the wedding planner folks then don't vary from your set rates.

vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

Bob, there is lots of sage advice from the replies that you have received so far. The moreweddings and other events you shoot, the more you will learn and the value of your work will increase. If you search through these forums, you will discover an ample supply of adviceon equipment and techniques for all of your video making needs from helpful and generous posters.You can find info onthe equipment that Earl mentioned, from the top of the line down to the very basic stuff that will get the job done on a budget. As youenter into this business,you will probably want to look at the latter with the idea that you can upgrade as your skill and resources increases. Practice shooting video, practiceediting video and when not doing that read reference material and visit here and other forums like this. Keep shooting and good luck.