How to Start a Wedding Films Business
Cinematic wedding films are a great way for aspiring filmmakers to make a ton of extra cash, and to get more experience with the filmmaking and editing process.
It’s how myself and many other fledgling filmmakers got their start, but how and where do you start?
Well, today I’m going to share with you a plan on how you can start your own wedding videography business in the area where you live, to help bring in some extra cash, and give you some steady experience behind the camera, as well as the editing desk.
Getting started in wedding videography can be tough, because most wedding couples want to be able to see examples of your work before hiring you, and even if you are a great filmmaker with tons of other work, they might be hesitant to hire you if you don’t have any previous examples of weddings to show them. How do you fix this? It’s the chicken and the egg problem right?
You start by doing a couple of wedding videos for FREE.
That’s right! you can get your foot in the door by offering to shoot a friend or family member's wedding for free. Not only does it give you some work to show other potential clients, but the fact that you’re doing it for free takes a little bit of the pressure off, gives you more time to work on the edit, so you can take your time and make a really great piece for you portfolio.
This is all assuming that you have the necessary equipment to properly film a wedding event.
You know I’m all about using whatever camera is available to you, (like your mobile phone) but for certain situations like commercial video and weddings, you’re not going to want to show up and start shooting with your phone. To most clients, you're not going to look like a professional. So get yourself a nice DSLR if you can.
If you’d like to see my recommendations for a wedding videography starter kit, head over to our KIT.COM profile and check it out!
Once you have a quality wedding video or two under your belt, you're going to need to promote yourself if you want to get more work in your area.
My advice is to create social accounts on facebook, instagram and others, solely dedicated to advertising and showcasing your wedding work.
I'd also recommend business cards and an online portfolio, specially targeted at wedding couples, and showing off your wedding work as well.
If you’re like me, and suck at coding, I would recommend using a company like WIX.COM to help you make your online portfolio. You can make some really great custom sites through these guys, they have tons of cool templates, plus it’s really easy to set up and use.
Once you have examples of your work and ways for people to find out about you online, you’ll hopefully start having potential clients contact you about work.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t start pulling in clients right away. Sometimes, it can take a little time for word-of-mouth to start spreading in your area, and for people to start referring you, but if you keep promoting yourself, the work will come.
A lot of people worry about how much to charge for these things. My advice is to gradually raise your price with every wedding you complete until you get to a range that you feel is worth your time. After you get the one or two free weddings out of the way, start at around $500, and raise it by one-hundred with each new wedding until you reach a fair amount for your market area.
I would suggest looking around at other well known wedding film companies in your area, and see what they are charging. This will help you get a better idea of what people are willing to pay for what may be considered the #1 wedding filmmaker in your area.
Like pretty much everything else, Your income will grow with your experience.
Once you’re charging at least $500 to do a wedding video, you’ll want to start charging a non-refundable deposit up front to book the date of the event. This protects you from clients backing out on you at the last minute.
Some wedding venues may require you to have photographer’s insurance, so keep that in mind. It’s not very expensive in most cases, and there are even some companies that will let you buy it for a single event.
Also, remember if your planning on getting any drone footage of the venue, you’ll need to have proper certification to make money with your drone, and possibly insurance to cover that as well.
Usually, you’ll want to meet with clients before any money is exchanged to discuss any expectations or concerns from either party. That way, There is no confusion about what situations might arise the day of the wedding, or any confusion about the product you will deliver. Also, be sure to get a timeline of the day's events as soon as you can.
I would recommend sitting down and coming up with a basic package for your wedding service. and what i mean by that, is a list of what your clients will be getting for a set amount of money.
For instance, lets say you offer them a “Basic” wedding package for $800 that includes a 5-6 minute highlight film, one licensed song, all day coverage of the ceremony, reception, editing, travel expenses... You get the picture.
Then if a client wants something extra that isn’t included in your package, you can negotiate an extra fee for that added-on service.
Once you know what you’ll offer, and what a particular client wants, you’ll want to have a contract/or invoice drawn up itemizing everything that they are getting, and how much it’s going to cost them. Have them sign it, and each of you keep a copy for your own records.
Another important note, is having your clients understand how long the editing process will take. I usually put on the contract somewhere to allow 90 days after the date of the wedding for the delivery of the final video. That way they know what to expect, and you'll have plenty of time to make the best film you can.
Which brings us to delivery! Don’t offer DVD’s, nobody does that anymore. You can either do online delivery, or you can mail them a USB flash drive. Include this in the contact as well.
There are also some cool site out there like Photo Flash Drive that will create really snazzy custom flash drives that you can tailor to your clients, they look awesome, and are a really nice touch. Just don’t forget to include the additional cost of production in the contract if you offer them to your clients.
Just following these steps won’t be enough to bring in lots of clients. Your wedding videos will need to be high quality, and grab potential customer's attention.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating you’re first wedding films:
Tell a story with your film! A cinematic wedding film should try to capture the emotions and story of the couple’s big day. Make the viewer feel like they are re-living the day of the wedding by following the story of the couple from the time they are getting ready, into the ceremony, and the party afterwards.
Audio is super important in any film and that goes for weddings as well! Be sure to talk to the DJ or whoever is running sound at the wedding. Find out how to get the best audio recording of the ceremony, toasts at the reception, and any other times audio will crucial to telling the story. Don’t be afraid to use sound effects and licensed music in your film to help bring it to life.
Be nice to the photographer(s)! For most of the day while your shooting the wedding, you and the photographer will be working side by side. Creating a happy working relationship with the photographer while your shooting is a great idea. You can help each other out by not getting in each other’s way, and if things go well, you can help each other plan your shots for the day. Collaboration with the other wedding vendors is the key to success.
Bring along a zoom lens! A lot of times there will be situations where you can't get somewhere fast enough, or you want be able to get close enough to your subject without getting in someone’s way. Be sure to bring along a zoom lens if you have one to ensure you can get all the best shots.
On the same note as equipment, don’t forget extra camera batteries, batteries for your audio equipment, and extra memory cards!
Check your camera settings! Always double check your camera settings throughout the day. You don’t want to run into problems color correcting later, and don’t overexpose your bride’s wedding dress, this can be an issue if you're shooting outside in bright sunlight.
Keep the camera steady! Use a monopod when you can. They are lightweight, easy to move around and don’t take up a lot of space. You only have one chance to get some of the most important shots, and you don’t want them ruined by shaky footage.
Be comfortable! Be sure to dress light and comfortable, while also looking presentable. You don’t want to be walking around in a stuffy suit all day, but you also don’t want to look messy. I would recommend wearing khakis (shorts or pants depending on weather) and a casual shirt. Also, don’t try to carry around a ton of gear with you. You will be miserable by the end of the day if you're loaded down.
Be prepared for low light situations! Keep in mind that at the end of the day, chances are you will be filming the after party or a send off at night. Bring some lights with you to set up if your camera isn’t very good in low light situations, but use them sparingly as to not be too much in the way of guests.
If you can swing it, bring along an assistant or a second shooter to help you out. If you have to pay them a little for their trouble it may be worth it. Add the amount into your contract if you need to. Or if you don’t want to pay anyone, maybe your significant other wouldn’t mind learning the ropes of the camera and helping you get some additional footage.
And one final tip: Stay calm! Shooting a wedding can be very stressful, so remember to stay calm! Take your time when you can, and double check your settings! Pre-planning a shot list and having a timeline of the day’s shoot can go a long way in helping you stay relaxed.
I think that wedding films are a great way for us to get amazing experience, and really improve our filmmaking skills. They teach you how to tell a compelling story, they teach you about using your camera and it’s various settings properly in a myriad of situations, they teach you about capturing great audio, and they are great way to help you fund your filmmaking hobby, and have the money to buy new equipment as well.
Who knows? You may become so successful as a wedding filmmaker, you can quit your day job and make films full-time. Wouldn’t that be nice?