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HOW TO MAKE MONEY VIDEOTAPING WEDDINGS
There is a huge potential market for wedding videos. Just look in your local
paper any summer week and see how many weddings there were. Since almost
every household in the country has a VCR, you can bet that almost every
wedding has a video. Keep in mind, though, that there is also big competi-
tion in this field. If you want to make it, you'll have be sure of two
things: you have the skills necessary, and that you can offer more in your
There's more to taping a wedding than just setting up a camera and turning
it on. If you're married and had a video taken at your wedding, I'm sure
you'll agree. You, the photographer, can expect to be dropped into an
environment of potential conflict. Last minute spats between the bride and
groom, conflicts between family members, still photographers, all can be a
source of headaches for you.
The best way to prevent problems is to set up a meeting with the bride,
groom, close family members, and, if possible, any other photographers that
will be at the service/reception. This way, you can find out exactly what
the family wants, any special shots they will want, any unusual parts to the
ceremony that they may want on tape, how many people will be involved, and
other issues. Keep in mind, the family will be paying you, so they will
probably want to TELL you what you can or can't do. If what they want is
reasonable, don't fight it. That makes your job easier. But, if what they
want is unreasonable, be honest with them, but, by all means, be tactful.
If you can meet with the other photographer(s), discuss where they need to
be to get their best shots, so you and your camera won't be in the way.
Also, this will help you with your planning so they won't be in your video,
and you won't show up in the photos. This brings up the subject of planning.
Planning is all important when it comes to wedding videos. You will be
producing something that the couple will want to view over and over, that
their family and friends will be seeing. It's your best advertisement.
So, you will want it to be the best it can be.
If you know what the ceremony will be like ahead of time, and what special
shots the couple and family will want, you've got the ball in your court.
Be sure to attend the rehearsal, so you can set your equipment up and plan
your camera angles. Since you've planned your work, all you have to do is
work your plan.
Here's an idea of the equipment a well-stocked wedding videographer should
have or have access to:
- At least two VHS camcorders with high-quality low-light
- At least one VHS VCR for editing and dubbing
- At least one free-standing light for each camera
- A tripod for each camera, preferably ones with a large range
- At least two twelve hours of batteries for the camera
- The best quality wireless microphone you can afford
(one for each camera)
- All necessary cables, with spares
- Extra tapes, the best quality available.
Don't let this list scare you off. If you don't own all this, you don't
have to rush out and empty your bank account. You can either rent what you
need, or barter your services with someone who has the equipment. Then,
pick up the stuff you need piece by piece. Also, keep your eyes open for
good quality used equipment.
Other equipment you may want to consider would include a good video editor
deck, for putting your finished product together; a film-to-tape camera
attachment (can be used to create a montage of scenes from old home movies
of the couple when they were kids - a great service to offer and a unique
marketing point to offer!); and a graphics/title generator.
So, you may have wondered, why would you need more than one camera? If you
have two cameras set up, you:
- can have different angles of the action, instead of the
standard wedding video, which has a half-hour of a still camera;
- you're covered if one of the cameras messes up or lighting
Make sure your videos are special, different from the run-of-the-mill
wedding videos. Try to get a camera aimed toward the faces of the couple,
so you can capture them during the vows, and at other points. This will
also provide close-up footage to edit in at slow points. Try to have a
camera at the end of the aisle, so you can catch the exit of the bride and
groom. This camera could also be used to show the bride from the back,
entering the ceremony, an angle that you rarely see in a wedding video.
If possible, get or draw up a floor plan of the location of the ceremony.
It will help you plan your camera placement and shots.
Position your microphones where they'll do the most good. If possible, get
either the bride or the groom to wear one, and get the minister or celebrant
to wear one. This way, you'll have crisp, clear sound. Just remember to
warn the bride and groom not to whisper anything they wouldn't want the
microphone to pick up! (You can always edit out any unwanted sound.)
Other places you may want a camera would be (with the couple in the 12
o'clock position): 10:00 or 2:00. Use the camera to get views of the
crowd, the parents of the couple (edit a shot of them in during the vows -
catch the emotion of the ceremony), and the entrance of the attendants.
If the ceremony is a specialized ethnic ceremony (becoming more popular,
especially with Black Americans) or unusual, you should look for points of
interest to capture on tape which will show the special meanings and
emotions of the ceremony. If the couple and family can watch your tape and
feel the same emotions they had during the actual ceremony, your tape is a
Technical skills are important, but they can be learned. The most crucial
skills are smooth panning and zooming. Before you ever do your first PAID
wedding, practice with another event - for free. Practice makes for fluency.
The worst wedding video is the most common: one stationary camera, no zooms,
never moving. People look around when they're at a wedding, and so should
the camera, within reason. Practice a slow, smooth pan that keep the
subject in the frame of the camera. Practice smooth zooms that aren't
jerky, and aren't too close or too far from the subject.
You've probably figured that you'll need a helper for the actual taping.
Unless the only camera that will pan and zoom is the one you're operating,
and the others are stationary, you'll need someone. Be sure your helper is
well-trained, with skills up to par with yourself. Ideas: a friend who
also has a videocamera (here's a way to save on equipment costs); a college
or high-school kid with video experience (they're becoming more common, as
more and more schools add video classes to their curriculum); or a
free-lancer (possibly a crew member from the public access channel at your
At the reception, it's important to get the "traditional" events: the
garter/ bouquet toss, cutting the cake, toasts, etc. Use the same
guidelines as before: keep in mind what's important to have in the frame,
and try to tape it smoothly. A good idea may be to talk to the relatives of
the couple and see if some of them would want to say a few words about the
couple on tape (try to do this early in the reception, before a lot of
drinks have been served!).
If your videos are special and well-produced, you should be able to charge
fees that are toward the top range in your area. Premium wedding
videographers in large areas should be able to get $750 to $1000 for a
wedding. Discretely call other videographers in your area to get an idea
of what the range is. Marketing ideas:
(1) Scan your newspaper for engagement announcements. Then, use your
computer's word processor to print out personalized letters detailing your
services. Use your library's city directory to find the addresses you need.
Send the letters and a brochure to the lucky couples.
(2) Set up a referral network with florists, formalwear shops, printers,
and other wedding-related retailers in your area. You could offer them a
set commission fee each time a referral leads to a taping job.
(3) Find a wedding photographer in your area who doesn't currently offer
video. Set up a deal where your photo and video services could be offered
as a package.
(4) Participate in local bridal shows. These are attended by people who
will be marrying soon, qualified prospects for your services. Have plenty
of your brochures and marketing materials handy, so you don't run out. A
good idea is to have one of your best videos playing on a monitor at the
show (get permission from the couple on tape first, maybe offer them a
discount in exchange for letting you use their tape for marketing purposes).
(5) Advertise in your newspaper's wedding supplement. Most newspapers
publish at least one a year.
If your taping was simple, with only one camera, you may be able to deliver
the tape to the couple at the end of the wedding. If more extensive editing
needs to be done, make sure you give the couple a realistic date when they
can expect the tape. Don't give them a time that will leave you rushed. If
you don't have your own editing equipment, check ahead with your local cable
station. Many times, they have facilities for their public access station
which can be rented. Many also offer short courses in video editing which
are worth checking into.