It’s been 20 years since I shot my first wedding video. It’s my 7th year since I launched my own wedding videography business, and I’ve found that there’s a huge difference between working for someone else, and running your own show.
If you’re thinking about getting into the wedding videography business, there’s a lot of things you need to think about. I’m definitely not trying to discourage you, but there are a lot of things I’ve learned along the way that you might not be thinking about.
Sometimes you won’t get paid.
This doesn’t happen very often — in the past 7 years, I’ve only had one client disappear completely.
I had gone through all the preliminary meetings, showed up at the rehearsal, and shot the wedding. I require final payment by the day of the wedding, and sometimes that means being handed a check at the end of the reception. That’s fine with me. At the end of this particular reception, the bride said her checkbook was back at the hotel, and that she’d drop it in the mail first thing Monday morning.
I’m a pretty easygoing guy. Besides, the bride was a bit drunk, and she was celebrating what was hopefully one of the happiest days of her life. I told her it was fine to pay me the following week.
Then she fell off the face of the earth. Didn’t return calls or emails. I never edited the video — it’s still sitting on a hard drive somewhere. I did all of that work for the small deposit, which basically worked out to being paid around $12 an hour. And that’s not figuring in overhead and expenses.
Sometimes it happens, and you should be prepared.
It’s a long day of physical work.
On the day of the wedding, you’ll be on your feet pretty much the whole day. You’ll get to sit down in the car as you’re driving around, and maybe during dinner at the reception. But that’s it.
You’ll be hauling equipment around, running up and down stairs, going from standing to kneeling while shooting, avoiding drunken dancers — it’s a lot of work. After 8-10 hours of it, you’ll sleep really well.
I enjoy the work, but that’s me. Not everyone is cut out to endure it.
Shooting is the easy part.
Sure, the wedding day is long and hard. In the grand scheme of things, it’s the easier part of the process. Count on spending many more hours editing — as well as:
- rendering for DVD/Blu-ray/online
- authoring, burning, labeling, and checking discs
- designing and printing the packaging
- packing it all up nicely and shipping
The editing alone can be grueling at times. It’s for this reason alone that I’ve personally seen rookie wedding videographers drop out of the game.
Unless you’re going to hire an editor, make sure you know what you’re getting into here.
You have to know your equipment inside and out.
The day of the wedding is a whirlwind. You really have to be on your toes the entire day. There are times that I wish I had eyes on the back of my head. You’ve got to be aware of what’s going on around you, and be ready to spin around and shoot at a moment’s notice.
There’s not going to be enough time for you to stand there and figure out how to switch to manual focus, or how to boost the gain. You’ve got to know your equipment in a way that nears obsession. Especially your cameras. Otherwise, while you’re flipping through menus or scratching your head, the bride has just had a touching moment with her groom, or Uncle Jerry did a split on the dance floor that brought the roof down.
You have to be comfortable just hoping for the best.
This is especially true if you’re a solo shooter. Or you might set up unmanned cameras and unmonitored mics. There are going to be times when you have to press the record button and hope for the best.
Part of this is knowing your equipment. For example, I know how to set my audio recorders (Zoom H1, H4N, etc.) so that I’ll get a good strong signal nearly every time.
Another aspect of this is making sure you have a backup plan. I use several cameras with lots of angles, and I put lots of audio recorders at strategic spots. This way, if one camera or recorder is unusable (or worse yet — mysteriously powers off in the middle of the wedding), I’ll have other sources to pull from. Take the extra time to cover your butt.
Something that helps me get more comfortable with these unknowns is going to the rehearsal at the wedding venue. The vast majority of videographers and photographers don’t do this, but I’ve found it to be invaluable. It allows me to plan camera angles and mic placement, and to address any potential concerns with the couple and the people in charge at the venue.
Equipment will fail.
This will happen no matter how well you take care of your equipment. Like I said above, cameras sometimes decide to stop recording, or to power off all together. You’ll get back after a long day of shooting and find one or more SD cards corrupted. Your hard drive might crash, leaving your footage in lala land. There are a million things that can, and likely will, eventually go wrong.
That’s why planning is key. Take extra cameras, batteries, cards, lights, everything. Spend a few bucks on good recovery software — there are a lot of good programs out there that will recover your data nearly every time. Make multiple backups of your footage, and make sure they’re kept somewhere safe.
You can never shoot too much.
I was taught early in my videography career that the best way to learn to shoot better is to edit your own footage. One of the most important things I learned that way is that there’s no such thing as having too much footage. It holds true not only for having several angles available during the wedding, but also making sure to shoot tons of b-roll — all kinds of details, close-ups, establishing shots, creative shots, and more.
You’ll be able to be pickier with what you include in the final edit — only the best of the best will make it. Plus, you’ll have an easier time smoothing over awkward edits.
I’ve heard editors complain about having too much footage to work with. I understand this to an extent — sorting through hundreds of clips can be time consuming — even soul-sucking. But at the end of the day, I’d rather know that I have lots of great shots to work with, and the video will be that much better.
A lot of your summer weekends will be eaten up.
This is a tough one. If you’re going to shoot a lot of weddings, say goodbye to summer Saturdays relaxing in the sun. If you have a family, this is even more of a challenge.
You have to be okay with this, or you’ll burn out in no time. You’ll become frustrated and demotivated.
Make it a priority to give yourself other days to spend relaxing or having family time. Take a day off during the week. Knowing how busy and crowded that most beaches, parks,
It’s also a good idea to block off a handful of weekends — yes, you’ll have to turn down some weddings — so that you’ll at least have some weekends to enjoy.
Your contract must spell out everything.
You do use a contract, right?
I’m facepalming at this point if you don’t.
Not only do you have to use a contract, but the contract has to spell out every last detail. Your clients have to be clear on what they’re getting, when they’re getting it, and how. Are they going to feed you at the reception? Do they pay for parking? When do they pay you? How much communication will there be? Put it in the contract.
If every last detail isn’t included and signed off on, you’re bound to run into assumptions and misunderstandings that will likely lead to lost referrals, lost work, and lost income.
And get an attorney to look at your contract. If for some reason things come to legal matters between you and a client, you need to be absolutely sure that your contract is water tight.
You’ll need an accountant.
Come tax time, you’ll thank me for this. A good accountant will guide you, maximizing tax deductions and keeping you out of hot water with the IRS. They’ll help you keep as much money in your pocket as possible. They’ll also help you stay organized — we creative types don’t tend to be the greatest when it comes to organization and administrative stuff.
This alleviates huge headaches on the business side of things. And let’s be honest, that’s the worst part of running a business — actually running the business.