This is Part II of the How To Get Started In Wedding Videography series. I split it into two posts as it’s just so huge. If you haven’t already, you should read Part I first.
Continuing where we left off in Part I, let’s get stuck into Part II:
What You Will Learn
- The editing workflow that I use for my wedding videography business.
- Why you need a Terms & Conditions document.
- Why getting paid up front is so important.
- The types of packages you need to offer in your wedding videography business.
- Where to find royalty free music to use in your films.
- The best starting equipment list for wedding videography.
Editing and Workflow After The Day
Once you finish filming a couple’s big day, the most time-consuming part of your work is just beginning. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Backup footage into a minimum of 2 different places
This cannot be stated more strongly, and it’s probably old-hat rubric for anyone who’s been in video production for even a short amount of time.
You want to have everything you’ve filmed backed-up in two different locations (read: properties, actual buildings), and you should even look into a redundancy backup system using RAID.
2. Edit the Highlights clip and then build on that to create the full video
This may seem counter-intuitive to some people, but it works well for us. The Highlights clip sets the visual standard.
It also helps to have each of the 9 sections (as listed in the Working On The Day section) as parts of the Highlights clip that you can then build upon when editing the main wedding film. Seeing each section of the day as a kind of short film itself can be helpful.
Here’s a really informative video on wedding videography editing by Wedding Film School that you’ll find helpful:
3. Release Highlights clip online using Vimeo
We try to deliver this within 2-4 weeks after the wedding itself. Busy season can take longer, of course. If you have a team of editors, this is naturally a quicker process.
I’ve written before about the superiority of Vimeo over YouTube as a professional video sharing solution. Your mileage may vary, but the important thing is to release great work in a timely manner, using a platform that allows the couple to easily share your work to all their friends and family on social media (yes, referrals!)
4. Deliver the full video
Packaging is important – great presentation is a big part of what the couple are paying for. You can consider DVDs/BluRays, but there are inherent complications with both.
A USB drive (or 3) packaged in a beautiful box is the best delivery method we’ve found. Most couples are young enough to know how to use a USB drive in their TV and/or computer. Also easy to make copies for themselves.
The box should be fairly big (bigger than the USBs themselves) and be beautifully decorated. Lace and ribbon are good choices. If you don’t know how to do this properly, find someone who can! Crafty family friend? Good for when you’re getting started. You might want to find a long-term solution as your business grows. There are plenty of companies (and eBay sellers) who provide a range of different levels of service for this.
Another option that’s growing is popularity is a solution like Mediazilla, an online setup that allows you to deliver videos to your clients using online interactive menus and also allows you to easily export to all the traditional formats like DVD/BluRay, USB, etc.
Top 9 Pointers I’ve Learned Along The Way That Will Save You a Lot of Bother
I have 9 pointers for you that have been formed by hard-won experience, trial and error and mistakes along the way:
1. Get Paid up front
This is one that many videographers struggle with and I can understand why. It takes guts to ask for money up front before you’ve even started the work. I mean, what other industry does this happen in? Do you ever walk into a hairdressers and the hairdresser asks you for the money before they’ve even begun?
It’s not unique to this industry, but it’s pretty unusual. Still, getting paid up front is important for obvious reasons and it’s something that couples actually expect to do.
And I’m not just talking about getting your deposit. That should go without saying. A deposit protects you in the early stages of your relationship with the client and prevents you getting stung by tire-kickers and those rare clients who will go back on their word.
Let’s look at a breakdown of how we do this, as I’m sure it’ll be a useful model for you:
- Client books your services. You only lockdown the date and add it to your calendar when they’ve paid the deposit. A good rule of thumb is that the deposit should be about 20% of the full balance due.
- 60 days before the wedding date, remaining full balance is due (minus the deposit amount, of course). Some people like to go with 30 days. Your mileage may vary.
- You need a cancellation fee structure to protect your time, too. If they cancel 6 months or more before the wedding date, have a cancellation policy in place for 30% of the total. 4 months before = 60% of total. 2 months before = 100% of the fee.
Now, a cancellation fee structure is something that you need to sit down and think about carefully with your team. Can you make this legally binding? Exactly how much power do you have to enforce something like this?
I’ll tell you upfront that it’s a huge legal grey area. In fact, no one in the industry really talks about this because it’s such a grey area.
I’d highly recommend having a cancellation fee structure that protects you, your time and your business. You should have this ever-present in the Terms & Conditions that your clients read and sign before working with you. This is the best protection you can muster, I’m afraid. More on Terms & Conditions in just a minute.
You can, of course, relax your cancellation fee policy based on the reasons for a client cancellation. Obviously, someone who has “had second thoughts” is going to be treated a little differently to someone who’s had to cancel based on a family crisis.
The point is: you set up this cancellation fee structure to protect yourself and also give yourself the opportunity to be flexible when you want to.
2. Get your packages written now asap
One of the things that videographers struggle with in their early days is the age old question of, “Should I advertize my prices or clients clients contact me first?”
Some people say you should not have your prices on your website, others say your prices should be ever-present in front of the client through all parts of the marketing and sales process. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
I think making my prices visible was the best thing I could have done for my business. Let me explain why.
Getting my packages and their prices organized, structured and writing down in an easy to understand way helped me to visualize my business and just what I was offering to clients. Beforehand, it was kinda hazy, but once I formed my Packages, I had a strong vision going forward. It was like writing a business plan.
The proof of the pudding was that once I put the packages and prices on my website, I suddenly had 500% more enquiries in the next 3 months. Once that happened, it was hard to go back to the old way of hiding my prices and hoping to sell the client once they contacted me.
Some people worry that having structured packages means that you’re rigid and locked in to what you can do for a client. That’s not the case – having packages is just the start, you can always be flexible with add-ons and subtractions if you want to appease a client.
I’d advise you have 3 core packages that you stick to your guns with. You can have a menu of optional extras that clients can pick and choose from if they want more flexibility.
So three core packages:
- an entry level package,
- a mid-size one,
- a premium one (for the big spenders).
Name your packages to make them more attractive and give them a life of their own. Examples:
- The Silver Package
- The Gold Package
- The Platinum Package
Prices. I’m not going to tell you how much to charge, but my recommendation is to have your prices visible and proud alongside your package details.
The argument against having prices visible on your website is often, “Well you’ll eliminate potential clients if they see your prices and they’re too high!”
Yes, you’ll lose potential clients who might have emailed/called you and wasted your time, but so what? This is qualification in action, wedding out the clients who aren’t for you and pre-qualifying the ones that are.
3. Communication is always key
Whenever you’re working with people, especially in a professional capacity, communication becomes the measuring-stick of success. How well you can communicate throughout your career will set the standard of how far you can go – this is true in marketing, in sales, working on the shoot, as well as the various discussions you’ll encounter after the work is done.
Like I’ve mentioned here before, communication is key. Some quick pointers within the pointer:
- If you can’t do something, let the client know as soon as possible.
- If something is added on after signing a contract and it’s going to take you a lot of time and energy, charge for it.
- Be upfront and honest from the start and set expectations from the outset.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no” and stand your ground.
- Always remain polite and professional no matter what situation you find yourself in.
4. Deliver digitally on USB thumb drives rather than DVDs/Blu-Rays
This is a controversial subject in the world of videography. We’ve delivered using everything from DVDs to BluRay, to purely online and back again. Here’s my take:
One of the real ‘elephant in the room’ in videography issues is that conventional DVDs can’t store HD files. So what’s the point of shooting is glorious HD 1080p (or more) if we end up just giving the client an SD DVD?
Along came Blu-Ray (quite a few years ago now), but for whatever reason it hasn’t quite taken off properly. Finding clients who can play Blu-Rays is far from a given, making the delivery options for videographers pretty difficult.
Do you stomach the SD situation and give your clients chaptered DVDs with menus? Or do you give them a Blue-Ray and hope they have the facility to play them?
Another option would be to produce a non-menu DVD that literally has the raw HD file on it.
Many videographers are using Mediazilla to deliver their wedding films to clients online, complete with fancy chaptering and menu options.
More and more videographers are now moving away from physical discs and towards USB thumb drives. You can store large amounts of data, it keeps well and clients can make multiple copies and archive the files easily. And with companies like this making custom designed USB presentation cases, things are looking up.
I think a well made and premium looking custom USB, along with a well designed and equally premium looking presentation box is a great way to deliver your wedding films. It takes changing technology into account, as well as still appealing to the visual and ‘hold it in your hands’ desire of clients.
5. Use royalty free non-copyrighted music
Ah, music and whether you can use it in your films. This debate is one of the biggest in video production circles and always inspires a range of emotive answers. Here are the facts:
- You can’t use copyrighted music in your films and display them to an audience.
- Copyrighted music includes Sony Music, as well as that small indie record label in your town.
- An audience can be one or more people.
- If you’re not putting a certain film online, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever get sued for using copyrighted music in it (although it has happened).
- YouTube regularly removes copyrighted audio from videos posted on their platform, which kinda makes the video pretty much unwatchable.
This is an understandably emotive topic for a lot of people. On one hand, we’re creatives and we believe that using a beautiful piece of music in someone’s wedding video shouldn’t be a reason to be punished by lawyers and government.
On the other hand, we’re creatives and we understand that intellectual property has to be protected in some form.
All the politics and back-and-forth aside, the facts are this: whilst it’s unlike that a big record company will sue you (unless your video goes massively viral), it’s probably more of a risk that someone might report you and you’ll have all your online video clips removed from a platform. Either that, or you’ll be forced to re-edit everything without the offending music.
That should be enough of a reason to use non-mainstream chart music in your videos online! So some sites where you can purchase licensed, royalty-free music for use in your wedding videos:
6. Have Terms & Conditions that protect you and set expectations for the client
I’ve hinted at this throughout the two parts to this series: having a strong, well-written Terms & Conditions document can be an absolute lifesaver.
Now, is it legally binding and enforceable in a court? You’ll have to consult a legal party in your particular country/region to know whether your particular Terms & Conditions are legally binding.
The important thing here is that 99.9% of the time you won’t have to enforce your Terms & Conditions or your contract. It’s the 0.1% of the time that it might be needed and we do this for our own peace of mind.
If you haven’t worked it out yet, I’m using Terms & Conditions as a polite way of saying contract. In the wedding market, things are more relaxed compared to the corporate world and couples would much rather sign a Terms & Conditions document than an official looking contract.
So what should you have in your Terms & Conditions. Here are some examples:
- The points of your Payment Policy and Cancellation Policy outlined. Essentially, exact wording on when you expect payment and what happens if they cancel.
- Your rights and claim on the ownership of the footage filmed. See point 7 below.
- Things like your mileage claim amounts for travel and/or accommodation bookings for working away from home.
- Change requests for minor re-edits and your policy on that.
- How long you keep the footage after their wedding.
Find some sample wedding videography contracts, but I’d warn you not to out-right copy another wedding videography company’s T&Cs, as their points might not reflect your style and situation.
Having your Terms & Conditions in place from when you get started in wedding videography is so important. Doing this right will mean that you’re already ahead of 95% of wedding videographers out there.
7. You Own The Footage
This is something that should be in your T&Cs (as above), but is hugely important from a business perspective. You own the rights to the footage you take and it’s in your best interest to use the Highlights clips as marketing material (for your website portfolio of work, on your Vimeo channel, social media, etc).
You should make this clear in the T&Cs and give clients the option to express any issues they might have with their wedding being used in your marketing campaigns.
This is normally only an issue for high-end and celebrity couples who might have NDA (Non-disclosure agreements) in place for situations where guests might not want to be identified as attending, or they’re in the public domain themselves and have strict prohibitions on how their image is presented to the public, have teams of people working on their public image, etc.
We’re talking here about celebrities, politicians, sports stars, etc – clients that you’ll only get to reach after a number of years and success in the business. For most people reading, this kind of situation won’t be something you need to worry about for now.
If clients don’t want to have their wedding included in your marketing material, then you have two choices: 1) take on their wedding and obey their requirements, 2) don’t take on their wedding.
We don’t find this is an issue normally, but would actually choose to turn down weddings where clients expressed to us beforehand that they don’t want us to use their video on our website. Using weddings to get other weddings is a big part of a successful wedding videography business and if you’re at a stage where you’re getting enough work, then you can make decisions like this.
Obviously, this is something to consider once you are getting enough regular work to pay the bills, but why take on work that you can’t use afterwards to grow your business, if you have other options? For us, there are always exceptions, like specialist weddings that are on our Wedding Videography Bucket List, etc.
8. Have backups of everything
I’m not just talking about backing up your footage here (although that should be a given!) Have gear backups, too.
Just one example of a recommended gear backup: Have a backup camera in your bag ready to go in the event of a camera dropping out on you.
Yes, we all hope it doesn’t happen, but rolling with just two cameras is a risk that you shouldn’t want to take. This goes two-fold for things like memory cards. Too many memory cards, too many batteries, or too much hard drive space is always better than not enough.
9. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Yes, 64GB memory cards sound cool, but in practice they’re very dangerous indeed – shooting an entire wedding on one card is a recipe for potential disaster. Imagine if that card got lost or corrupted!?
Want to know how I learned this pointer?
Minimise the potential damage by shooting on multiple smaller capacity cards and regularly backup/upload your footage to hard drives throughout the day.
Don’t put “all your eggs in one basket,” as they say.
Wedding Videography Equipment You Need (for real this time)
As mentioned at the start of the post, I avoided beginning this guide with a list of my equipment recommendations. People often write-off an article based on their equipment preferences and subjective opinions on what they consider good, often at the expense of the pointers and learnings held within.
The truth is, there’s an unhealthy obsessive with gear/equipment in the videography and filmmaking worlds. I’ve lost track of the amount of people arguing back and forth on message boards about which $10,000 lighting set up is their favourite and then when you get into a discussion of what they’ve actually done, you draw a blank.
Rather than getting out there and push themselves to gain experience with whatever equipment they currently have, they’re sat on a message board arguing about lighting setups, 4K cameras, or, worse, they discount a quality guide because the author recommended Canon and they prefer Nikon!
With that said, I’ll list what I consider a quality entry-level gear list for getting started in wedding videography. This is just my humble opinion, but I know of plenty of people who’ve started with this (or a similar setup), gained huge success and gradually scaled up from there in both monetary equipment costs and delivered value.
Note: I was going to include lots of images of gear here, but Kraig Adams over at Wedding Film School has a great visual representation of required wedding videography gear.
The Filmmaking Lifestyle Get-You-Started Wedding Videography Kit List
For sake of argument, and because I’m a fan-boy, let’s go with a Canon setup!
Go full-frame from the beginning, if possible, so that you avoid that whole “Should I go full-frame and how will it affect my crop-frame lenses?” question later on. I’d recommend at least the Canon 5D MarkII, if not its newer MarkIII brother.
Walkaround lense – Canon 24-70mm 2.8. Great for shooting the majority of a wedding.
Close-up shots – Canon 50mm 1.8. Cheap lense that’ll help you get lots of lovely close ups with the so-called ‘blown out’ depth of field look.
For longer range stuff – Canon 70-200mm 2.8. Get the more expensive one with image stabilization, as it’ll pay off. Pricey, but renting is always an option when you’re starting out.
Tripod – all important. Too many beginners think shooting handheld 90% of the time is somehow cool because they saw a still of their favourite indie DP doing it one time.
Get a solid fluid head with a sturdy tripod. Manfrotto are some of the best manufacturers here. You’ll need a number of fluid heads to go with your tripods, monopod, slider, etc. But, obviously, chopping and changing with the same one is an option when you’re starting out.
Monopod – For when one leg is better than 3! It nearly always is at weddings, aside from the ceremony and the speeches (and even then, a monopod can be used effectively!) I like the Monfrotto 500 series.
Slider – not entirely necessarily when you’re first starting out, but prices have come down a lot and it’s such an awesome affect that you’ll love seeing in your films! Just don’t get addicted to slider useage to the point where it becomes like 75% of the shots in your film! Not only does that look ridiculous, but it cheapens the affect and stops it being special.
I’d recommend the Konova range of sliders as a good entry level. The Konova K3 Slider Kit is cool.
Ah, sound. At this point, it’s become something on a cliché to talk about how important sound is to the quality of your wedding films, and how hellaciously undervalued it is in most video that you see on the internet.
Yes, couples will stomach a bit of grainy footage here and there, but hearing terrible audio (especially for the vows!) is like scratching your fingers down a blackboard! And that stuff will get pulled off faster than a bride’s panties when they get back to the bridal suite!
Alright, terrible analogy there.
Get a RODE VideoMic on top of your DSLR for recording sound as you travel around the event. It won’t get you A+ sound all the time, but it’ll be decent background hubbub sound. Pro tip: using background hubbub in your wedding videos can really raise the quality of the overall production. Sound engineering is highly underrated.
Mic up the groom during the ceremony with a Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 wireless mic system for awesome sound quality, and then do it again during the speches. Just make sure you re-clip it to each person everytime there’s a speaker change.
Use a Zoom H4N for picking up background sound in great quality. Can be placed in the church near the front, on the speeches table, or anywhere else you can craftily hide it during the day.
You can also go more advanced with the Neewer® 2x 160 LED light kit Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel Digital Camera / Camcorder Video Kit, which comes with lights, lighting stands, a soft-box and more.
Yes, these setups will help out your image quality in low light situations, but you’re also adding an extra cumbersome element to the day, which might not suit every couple/venue. You should always measure the ease of use and efficiency with the quality return, not just the monetary concerns.
It should go without saying that you need quality memory cards for your camera of choice.
Using the earlier recommendation of the Canon 5D MarkII, you’ll need to look at CompactFlash cards. I highly recommend the SanDisk Extreme range or the Ultra range, but there are of course many choices out there.
Three important notes on memory cards:
1. Don’t go for cheap cards thinking you’re getting value for money. This is really not an area to cheap-out on, as it could be the difference between reliable cards and cards that will corrupt easily.
2. Go with memory cards that are no more than 32GB capacity. I have lots of 16GB and 32GB cards. As I mentioned earlier, putting too much footage on one card (and not uploading footage during the day to a hard drive) is a recipe for disaster.
The chance of loss or corruption is an ever-present reality, so take steps to guard against those issues. On most wedding shoots, you’ll have some downtime whilst the guests are eating, so take advantage by backing up your footage to hard drives during that time period.
Sometimes we’re too busy to backup footage during the day for whatever reason, so change out your cards regularly and don’t try to fill one 64GB card, as you’ll be playing with fire!
3. Make sure you buy cards that are fast enough for video camera reading. A good rule of thumb to be safe is to look for a minimum speed of 30MB/s, which is displayed on the front of the card.
Expanding your gear
From there, you can of course look into the more expensive gear purchases, or just upgrade with items that are helpful luxuries rather than absolute necessities. Some ideas:
- More L-glass. Can you really ever have too many Canon L lenses!?
- Camera shoulder mounts.
- A glidecam like the GL-HD2
- A steadicam.
- Jibs/cranes like the PROAIM 12 ft Jib
To drone or not to drone
Aerial/drone videography has become huge in the last few years. More and more couples are requesting it for their wedding films after seeing a clip here and there on social media.
We offer it as a service add-on, but outsource the work through reliable companies that have the relevant qualifications and insurance, rather than try to do everything ourselves (and take on that legal quagmire!)
The final take on gear
Listing potential gear options and combinations is a huge topic. It’s true that you could go down virtually any avenue you want with equipment.
I haven’t even begun to get into upgrading your camera itself. Lots of videographers are moving towards the Canon C range of cameras from their mark2/3s, but at a hefty price tag of upwards of $3,000, it’s out of lots of people’s budgets when they’re starting out.
Then there’s those crazy folks out there shooting weddings and events on 4K! It’s both not necessary for most clients and can be a huge burden storage and delivery wise. How many clients do you know who can play 4K and benefit from it? Maybe something for the future, but not until technolgy and consumer demand align a little better.
Ultimately, with gear just like most things, you want to start basic and scale up from there. Don’t get caught in the ‘equipment envy’ trap. Being a great filmmaker is not directly correlated to owning expensive gear. Great wedding videography can be created with inexpensive gear. Solid storytelling always trumps having the money to invest in the latest and most expensive gear.
I could literally go on forever about this subject, but I’ve tried to keep it as a concise and easy to follow as possible. I hope this series of guides has helped you learn how you can get started in wedding videography.
It should also be noted that this series (as detailed as it is) covers a lot of ground, but it’s still an overview of sorts. I couldn’t possibly cover everything (even in these 8500+ words on the subject), and I encourage you to dive in deeper on areas that interest you with more research, reading and of course practice. I’ll endeavour to tackle more detailed looks at some of these topics in future posts.
If you have any suggestions or questions, don’t be afraid to include them in the comments below.
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