Learnings from Being a Full-Time Wedding Videographer
How I became a Wedding Videographer in the first place?
Being the Geek of the pack allows you a lot of slack in college. Maybe you hate attending classes, or have a lousy personality and work ethic. The hustle began with an innocuous request, 'How can you contribute to this event?'
I never considered myself to be a smart person by any stretch of the imagination, nor did I have any qualms about being extraordinarily talented. But I loved technology and applying my creativity. The perfect combination of skills came in handy when I volunteered to create the branding for my college fest. The long endless hours I spent learning about Fonts and Illustrator and Photoshop out of pure childish curiosity suddenly found an audience. You can still have a look at the stuff I created on my Behance Page.
I was on cloud nine with accolades thrown in for no apparent hard work. As Paul Graham, the founder of Y-Combinator observed, "prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like. "
Fast forward two more years, my college days were coming to a close. Never being the sharpest tool in the shed in terms of academics, led me to believe I had a possibility of hitting off in Graphic Design. There was just one hitch, I never formally trained to be a designer, with no idea on how to even make a bad free-hand drawing. A quick internship at a Web-development agency as an intern finally dawned upon my inadequacy as a professional Graphic designer.
Cue a month later, my friend who was working in event management asked for a favor. A wedding he was planning had a crisis; the photographer he had booked bailed on him. The wedding date was just weeks away and there was no feasible way to find a reliable stand-in for the role of the photographer.
Being the ever-ready hustler, I said okay and I had to shoot my first Engagement Shoot. It went okay I suppose and the couple never complained. But I had stumbled upon the idea to make a quick buck until I figure out a way to get a real job. But as it has happened to many of my contemporaries, I never learned the value of delayed gratification. I did work a few jobs but the amount of money I was making on the side without even creating a proper resume kept me on a high.
I was now out of college living on my own in a bigger city with a few wedding assignments to keep paying my rent. And suddenly one fine day I got linked to a senior photographer with a much bigger network than I had at the time to shoot for their wedding photography company. I said, yes.
Then for the next 2 and a half years, I worked for this company. I shot photographs for the initial few months and then moved onto videography full time as I had a hunch that I might be more employable as a videographer in the long run.
My Key Takeaways from 3+ years as a Wedding Videographer
Always keep in mind, the big picture. Think about what you will be doing 5, 10, 15 years down the line with your business. Many businesses have the inherent capacity to grow and compound in size. If you're in it solely for your passion, you will be sorely disappointed because 1) when your network of referrals grows you can't possibly shoot by yourself for each and every event. You will have to start delegating shooting jobs. Being the most passionate person on each job will drain you mentally in the long run and make you jaded. If you're doing it solely for the passion start another line of work or work on your own projects. 2) It is a mostly referral-based business and no matter how much SEO or Social Media optimization you do, every wedding you leave at the table will cost you in referrals.
Still rejecting a job is completely acceptable if you are getting a bad vibe. Wedding Videographers and Photographers are the last in line to keep in touch with the couple due to our nature of work and every bad experience they have had with the other vendors are likely to result in an outburst onto your work. If you've had this experience trust me, it was never your fault.
Build your own portfolio of work whether you are working for dirt cheap or working for a large organization, building a personal portfolio of work allows you to take solace in creating a comprehensive body of work or better yet have a measure of your years of work.
Cultivate interests and passions outside of your main work and Instagram. The Instagram algorithm is brutal and if your work revolves around the algorithm you will be left with a sour taste for no meaningful outcome.
You don't need the latest toy to become successful. We videographers have a tendency to simp on gear reviews for an ungodly amount of time. It is by design and the camera + accessory companies along with gear reviewers have a parasitic dependency on the end-user. The real fact is none of your clients can really point out the difference between your work captured on a 5dMkII or an R5 by looking at the final output.
You need much less gear than you think you require.
Still, gear upgrades are necessary. Most camera bodies are majorly upgraded to a newer series every 3-4 years and hence existing bodies in your kit will experience depreciation. Camera upgrades are necessary for reasons absolutely unrelated to the quality of your footage as many youtube gear review videos will make you believe. The real reason upgrades are required is to make your workflow more efficient and keep hence keep you competitive in the marketplace. For example, a camera with barely acceptable autofocus will cost you in time and effort to get the shot than a camera with stellar autofocus. Additionally, your computers need to be upgraded to handle newer codecs and data requirements hence their depreciation also needs to be accounted for. Lenses if chosen for a widely available and adaptable system will, however, experience much less depreciation and can be maintained easily for 10+ years. However, gear upgrades will depend on a large part on your current situation and
It is not a "real-job". It sounds harsh but please hear me out on this. No matter how much effort you put into your wedding masterpiece, the couple will be the ones meaningfully appreciating your work hence if you think your sole reason is to make them happy; you have a noble intention but the amount of work effort we videographers put on behind the scenes will never really repay for the limited audience we get. It is to better make youtube videos consistently on the side or create content for a meaningful cause and take pride in them as they have the ability to culminate into getting a decent appreciation of you as a person. Also, if your career goes south for any reason, as many of us in the lockdown have realized; your wedding portfolio becomes worthless in an instant as the skills required for this job are never appreciated outside our tight-knit circle inside the industry.
If you are planning for the long term you have to stop feeling guilty about squeezing newcomers coming into the field. I have never met or known a successful professional in this industry who has survived for long without squeezing the new entrants into the market. The reason is this- Outside of our quality of work which is a very subjective measure, the only quantifiable metric is our price and years in the industry. Hence every established professional in the interest of self-preservation has to pay less and less to the newcomers in order to keep his profit margins safe while simultaneously fighting off the onslaught of newer cheaper labor into the market.
Another thinly veiled deception in our field is the fact that most photography conferences and workshops are actually conducted to put a few aspirational cool kids on the pedestal and sell dreams to the lesser ones and scoop some revenues for these cool kids. However, going to the meetups and workshops do have their merits on expanding your horizons.
My takeaway is to ensure your own self-preservation spend less, hustle more and keep an eye out for the future.
Despite all the challenges posed by this line of work, it genuinely has some pockets of joy. Creating a lifelong memory for a pair of strangers and having fun while earning a living while following your passion is a perk of this job that hard to replicate. Go forth but don't lose the sense of the horizon.
Previous post: Why
Next post: WordPress is not worth the Hype