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5 Huge Mistakes That Cost Wedding Filmmakers Money Every Day

By February 5, 2015 Business 55 Comments

15 min read

When wedding cinematographer Ray Roman began less than 10 years ago, he was overworked and underpaid.

It took a few years and a lot of lessons learned but in that time he’s emerged as one of the preeminent wedding cinematographers in his field. He’s filmed the weddings of prominent athletes, like NBA star Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. He’s filmed social media mogul Sean Parker’s elaborate wedding in the Redwoods of California—a really fun shoot that I got to help on. (It was out of this world—there were bunnies!)

So when we had the opportunity to sit down with Ray, and we could ask him anything, we wanted to know more about his incredible journey. We wanted to understand how he went from charging $2,500 a gig, to a business that films spectacular weddings all over the world. We wanted to know what made Ray one of the top wedding cinematographers out there today.

We learned that Ray Roman’s success is built on years of experience, a stellar reputation, and exceptional expertise, but that he made a few mistakes along the way too. Mistakes that cost him money. Mistakes that he’s sharing with us—with you—so that you can learn what to stop doing today so that you can start making better money tomorrow.

Mistake #1 – Taking on too much work

How can taking on too much work cost you money? It sounds counterproductive right? You’re getting paid to do what you love—to make films. So shoot a lot of weddings, get a lot of practice, become a better (compensated) filmmaker. Right? Wrong.

In the beginning, around 2007 and 2008, Ray was shooting around 40 wedding films a year. But a lot of work can quickly become too much work.

Ray Roman

Being able to go out every weekend and travel to different locations to film is one thing. Having months and months of video back log is another. Having hours and hours of footage sitting on hard drives in the editing bay—just haunting you, is another.

“The back log can drown out your business. It’s going to create a bad reputation for you in your local market. With us specifically, one of the problems that we had was—the work was there, our brand was there, but we had this back log issue. And that relates to customer service. That’s not to say that we were neglecting customer service, but we just didn’t know what to do at that point.

“We were trying to find editors, and we were trying to evolve at the same time. There was brand new technology that we had to sit down to learn, so the back log just kept piling up. Everything that we were doing in terms of our work was just taking longer and longer.”

Today, Ray takes on about 24 to 29 weddings a year. This is a comfortable and manageable amount for him and his crew to not only shoot, but to edit and deliver to clients in a timely fashion.

How do you avoid taking on too much work at the risk of your reputation? Taking on less work sounds simple enough, but it may be hard to know when—or how. To get a good idea of when you need to start saying “no”—look to your back log.

Let the number of wedding films you have completed and ready to go out the back door inform how many brides you’re letting in the front door. Don’t accept more jobs if your back log is out of control. Your customer service, and ultimately your income, will suffer as a result.

Mistake No. 2 – Giving Too Much Away

When Ray started out he was charging $2,500. For everything. It wasn’t until he met an accomplished wedding photographer, who shared his own billing practices, did Ray recognize that he was making a huge mistake in his own career.

But Ray also saw an opportunity. Right then, he decided that he was going to stop giving too much away with his packaged wedding deals.

It happened so many times. When Ray would sit down with couples and go over his wedding packages, there would be so much in the package that some couples wouldn’t want one or a few of the services offered. Then they would ask how much cheaper it would be without that service, and Ray found himself driving down his price even further.

What did Ray do to stop giving too much away?

“I decided, I’m going to take everything that’s not relevant out of the package and I’m going to sell it separately. I’m going to create this a la carte system like the photographer had.”

To stop giving too much away with packages, stop offering packages—now. Instead, work with an a la carte system similar to Ray’s.

“Establish a base price based on your value, and based on the product you’re delivering. And you go from there. Our base rate is a certain amount, and this literally just includes eight or nine hours of coverage, a feature film, and the tape that’s going to be covering the event. Beyond that is a la carte.”

When you quote clients a price, start with a base working rate that reflects what your time and skills are worth, and the quality of what you do.

From there, offer—not include—an array of filming services (like capturing the reception’s live act) to editing services (like a highlight trailer the couple can share with family online) for couples to pick and choose from.

Then charge for these items in addition to your base rate. As the couple makes these decisions, your contract rate is going up very quickly. And you’re making more money.

Mistake No. 3 – Limiting the Bride’s Spending

This idea of allowing the couple to pick and choose from an assortment of options directly relates to another big mistake that wedding cinematographers make: They limit the bride’s spending.

This is another downside of wedding packages.

But what does this mean?

Ray Roman

The inverse effect of bundling your services is that you take way the bride’s ability to pick and choose—to amass a number of services, and to spend a lot of money.

When Ray was first starting out, he packaged wedding deals that included his pay, the filming of every shot from the first look to the end of the reception, to full service editing and raw footage. Doing this severely restricted the bride’s ability to spend more money on top of that package.

“Another very, very common mistake made by videographers is having packages at set prices. I’ll give you an example, if a bride were to come into my studio and I had a top package for $7,000—but she actually had a $12,000 budget for video. I’ve just lost $5,000. Which now she can take over to the photographer, the florist or the cake designer and spend it there, rather than at the video studio.”

Things are different now for Ray. Now, he has that extensive a la carte list so that no bride is constrained in how much she can spend.

“There’s such a wide array of items on this a la carte list that if a bride came to see us with a $20,000 or $30,000 budget, she can actually spend all of that $20,000 or $30,000 with our studio.”

Brides have the money and they want to spend it. How do you keep that $5,000 from walking out the door?

It goes back to the a la carte list.

The services you can add to this a la carte list are only limited by your creativity and imagination.

“Anytime I can think of something that I can sell on the backend, I add it to the a la carte list. We have drone service, we offer a jib service, we offer raw footage, we offer a concept film. Shooting in 4K. There are so many things on our list.”

While drone shots may be out of your budget, there are other shots and editing services that you can break down and offer individually.

You can charge additional fees for covering the rehearsal dinner or producing a highlight trailer—which are two very popular options, according to Ray. You can also charge additional fees for covering any live acts during the reception. These are just a few ideas. Documentary footage of the complete ceremony. Complete coverage of toasts and speeches. Raw footage. These are a few more ideas.

“The more things you can sell a a la carte, the better. The more money you can potentially make.”

So now that you’re building your a la carte services list, remember to be creative with the services you offer.

Look through your entire process from production to shooting to post, to see if there are things (there are) that you could be offering a la carte. And don’t bundle it, let the bride choose to her heart’s content.

Mistake No. 4 – Having a Set Price Without Knowing the Wedding

Sometimes—and maybe you’ve felt this yourself—after you get the last shots, you pack up your gear, and you head home, and you just get the aching feeling that you did too much work for too little pay.

This has happened to Ray too.

You’re telling the client that you’ll agree to perform certain services without fully knowing what rendering those services entails—such as filming the rehearsal dinner, not realizing that this is a 6-hour dinner, not just a typical 2-hour one.

Ray knew something had to change, not just to make more money, but to make his time and his work more valued, so that he could be paid more fairly.

It’s not that the client intended to take advantage of him, but Ray realized that there was something he could be doing on his end that would end a lot of this stress and lost money.

“I knew I had to go back to the drawing board to figure something out. That’s when I came up with the questionnaire system. This way I can learn a little bit about the wedding before I quote out a price.”

In order to start getting paid more fairly, in order to learn more about the wedding, Ray sends out a questionnaire to clients as soon as they inquire about his services. It’s actually included in his first follow-up correspondence.

Ray asks questions like, Where will the bride be dressed? Where is the reception? If these places are not in the same location as the ceremony, he knows there will be more travel time. It can mean the difference between and 8- to 9-hour day and an 11- to 12-hour day.

Knowing about how many hours may be required can actually save you time too.

“Another key reason I went to the questionnaire system to learn about the wedding, is that I wanted to be able to determine how many hours the client needed me to be there for coverage. We’ve all been at weddings where we’ve been contractually obligated to be there 12 hours, but after the tenth hour we know that we’ve already filmed everything that we need to film, but we’re still contractually obligated to be there for an additional two hours, just sitting around. It’s a waste.”

Knowing more about the wedding doesn’t just save you time, but can open up the potential for more money.

In the questionnaire, he also inquires about the reception. Especially, in the higher market, if there are incredible performers lined up for the reception. (Ray’s shot weddings where Mary J. Blige, Marc Anthony, Michael Bublé, and Cirque du Soleil have performed at the reception.)

If he asks the question in advance, and the couple answers no, this gives him the opportunity to shoot the performance, then use it as a potential up-sell later. If the couple would like the concert included, Ray’s studio can edit the piece for an additional fee. It’s additional editing time that the couple will have to pay for.

So if you want to be paid more fairly, learn more about the wedding by developing your own questionnaire. Ask questions that give you a feel for how many hours the project will require (Are the wedding and reception at the same location?) and any potential for extra services (rehearsal dinner?)–there’s always potential for extra services.

Mistake No. 5 – Getting Trapped in the Mid-Range Market

The low- to mid-range market, where couples typically spend about $1,500 to $6,000 on their wedding film, is a very worthy market that gives two people in love a very touching memento of their wedding. It’s the popular market where 80 percent of the brides hang out. It’s also the obvious place to start your cinematography career, and can be a very rewarding career for many. And the money comes easy because of the high number of clients, so it’s easy to remain in that market.

But in spending all your energy in the low-to mid-range market where most of the brides gather, it’s easy to become complacent in your filmmaking.

This is when the higher market starts to become attractive—make more money to do fewer weddings.

Ray transitioned to the higher market by doing three things: he established his brand, he established his skills, and he made very good contacts—the kind that can bring in clients who like to spend upwards of $30,000.

This is when you’re filming Napster founder Sean Parker’s wedding in Big Sur, California. This is when you’re flying to paradises all over the world. This is when you’re filming weddings where even the waiters’ attire is designed by Oscar de la Renta. This is when Cirque de Soleil is the headline act of the reception.

But it’s also much more competitive.

Establishing great contacts takes time. Establishing your brand takes time. And establishing your skills takes time, but honing your skills in cinematography is the base of all three. It’s the root that anchors the other two, allowing them to flourish.

“With us, I wanted to establish ourselves with work—with great work—and be respected because of our great work. The branding came later on, the main focus when we started was our work. Once the work was there, we started working on the contacts.”

If you’re working in the mid-range market, and want to transition into the high-range market, Ray recommends that while you’re starting, use the low- to mid-range market to hone your craft. Learn the skills you need to produce your best work.

Once you feel that your work is where you want it to be, that’s when you make the leap.

“The markets, the low- to mid-range markets, I stayed in those markets for a long, long time until I felt comfortable enough to take it into the high-end market. Because in the high-end market, you may have only chance, and whatever you show at that stage, that’s typically what you’re going to be known for.”

So use your time now—in the mid-range market—to really develop your craft. Make the films now that you can later to attract high-end brides. Treat every mid-range market job now as an opportunity to put out your strongest work, your best work. Then make the leap to the high-end market.

Ray Roman

Over the years Ray has learned from these mistakes.

Now, rather than taking on too much work, he takes on around 25 weddings—this is far less than the 40 weddings a year when he began. The 25 number isn’t random, rather it’s based on how many wedding films he can produce for clients in a timely manner to provide great customer service. And to understand those timeframes, he looks to his back log to see how much more work he can take on to provide excellent customer service.

Ray also abandoned his packaged deals in lieu of a contract with a base price and a la carte system. This allowed him to stop losing money by giving too many services away, and stop losing money by limiting the bride’s spending. Removing the packages from his options removed the restraints he was putting on his clients, allowing them to spend much more. And allowing him to earn much more.

Before Ray adopted a questionnaire system, he was getting underpaid for services and contractually required to remain at weddings long after his work there was done. Sending a questionnaire off to potential clients gives you an idea of the amount of work involved with the wedding, allowing you get an idea of the hours involved and what you should charge.

And finally, to transition from the easy money of the low- to mid-range markets to the good money of the high-range market, Ray advises you to hone your skills. See your time in the low- to mid-range market, where everyone starts—and many people stay—as an opportunity to bring your craft to the highest level possible.

Ray is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to wedding cinematography, and he’s taking his wealth of knowledge on the road. If you find yourself making any of the mistakes listed above, and you find that Ray’s advice helps you, maybe you’d like to learn from him in person.

He’s stopping all around the US—with two stops in Canada—to offer in-depth seminars and interactive courses. In-depth seminars cover everything from camera settings to how to shoot the ceremony and reception to pricing guides.

Ray Roman

The interactive master class is limited to 26 students and pushes these ideas that much further and break them down in greater detail Ray shows you how to cover the bridal preparation and first looks to in-depth ceremony coverage and a live demo with brides.

In addition to improving your craft, attendees get a massive amount of free stuff, like gift cards to LensProToGo and credits at NewBlueFX.

Because Ray is awesome and we’re happy you’re here, we have a special discount code that you can use to get 10 percent off when signing up. We’re also giving away one seat to his in-depth seminar.

Sign up at this website and use the discount code ‘stillmotion10′.

If you like to get the free spot at his in-depth seminar, share the biggest challenge you have today in the business of wedding filmmaking. Share this in the comments below. Post your thoughtful answer below by February 8th. We’ll announce with winner right here on Feb 9th!

I want to leave you with the time Ray and I shot Sean Parker’s wedding. It was a really great experience working with a really talented cinematographer. And the bunnies were cool too (though way over the top).

P.

 

About Patrick Moreau

I love stories that challenge the way we see things.

55 Comments

  • Great article Patrick! I watched Ray talking about the same issues in his creativeLive workshop, very enlightening! Now, I have a few questions, if I may! :-)

    * How is one suppose to hone their skills when the advise is not to take a lot (too much work)?
    * What would you consider to be a good delivery time (delivering short-form approx 20 minutes)?
    * What is Stillmotion’s and Ray Roman’s currently delivery time?
    * How would one know when to raise their prices? Indeed, how do I actually now I am not charging too much and my work is worth what I charge? I find this very challenge as there are so many (some really good ones!) charging so little and some clients still sees video as a sub product…
    * The thing about packaging is so complicated! There are lots of ‘guru’s out there saying that you need to have a 3 option package in your website, blah blah blah, and then Ray, a successful guy has none! I am not sure if this is different in every market but it seems like a lot of wedding filmmakers in the UK have a package system in their website… Really lost here! :-)

    Sorry for the load of questions, hope you manage to spare some time in helping us out! :-)

    All the best!

    Gione

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hey my friend!

      Thank you for the post. I can’t speak for Patrick, but I’ll answer these as best I can.

      * How is one suppose to hone their skills when the advise is not to take a lot (too much work)?
      You can spend more time on your current work and figure out which areas need attention.
      * What would you consider to be a good delivery time (delivering short-form approx 20 minutes)?
      Faster delivery times are great and should be your goal. We currently deliver in 90-120 days. If you consider that most photographers take more than 3-6 months to deliver photo albums, this is not unreasonable for delivering a feature film.
      * What is Stillmotion’s and Ray Roman’s currently delivery time?
      90-120 days for me (900 days for Patrick.. hahaha. just kidding).
      * How would one know when to raise their prices? Indeed, how do I actually now I am not charging too much and my work is worth what I charge? I find this very challenge as there are so many (some really good ones!) charging so little and some clients still sees video as a sub product…
      It’s all about demand. What percentage of your inquiries are you booking? 100%? That would mean you’re too cheap. You should generally be in the 20-30% range. Try slowly raising your prices until bookings slow down to about 20-30%. This is a pretty good way of determining your market value.
      * The thing about packaging is so complicated! There are lots of ‘guru’s out there saying that you need to have a 3 option package in your website, blah blah blah, and then Ray, a successful guy has none! I am not sure if this is different in every market but it seems like a lot of wedding filmmakers in the UK have a package system in their website… Really lost here! :-)
      Anytime you have a package with a set price you are limiting the bride’s spending – BIG mistake! This basically means that if you have a top package for $5000 and the bride had a budget of 10k for video, you just lost $5000.

      Good luck my friend!

      -Ray

    • What a great surprise to see your reply Ray! Nice one mate! :-)
      Thanks for the detailed answers!
      Based on your answer, if ‘it’s all about the demand’, does it mean that if I am in a cheap market, not closing the 20% – 30% enquiries, I need to adapt and actually lower my prices, making me as expensive as the guy with big camera and a shaky video!?! That is frustrating… :-(
      Anyway, look forward to your workshop in the UK.
      Cheers,
      Gione

  • todd urick says:

    My biggest challenge in the business of wedding filmmaking is deciding which equipment, (camera, lenses, stabilization gear, slider, monopod, tripod) to use at different times during the wedding day. I hope to get to attend the February 10th interactive masters class in Atlanta.

  • katie says:

    My single biggest challenge with wedding filmmaking is…overcoming my own fear and believing in myself that I am “good enough” – that the talent and style I have to offer is unique & desirable enough that Brides will trust me with telling the story of their special day – will also actually pay me enough to make it worth it all!

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Katie,

      You’re obviously passionate about your craft. This is critical. Next, you MUST believe in yourself. You MUST believe you can take your work to the next level and charge what you’re worth. The money is definitely out there waiting for you. Best of luck!

      -Ray

    • katie says:

      Can’t reply to Ray’s reply, so I will just reply to my own comment and say thank you Ray! :-) I truly appreciate your encouragement.

      I’ve gone through seasons of believing in myself, and seasons of struggling with that. This season is the latter. So I am trusting that as I continue to move forward, I will, again, come out of it.

  • Jake Reeves says:

    I believe my biggest challenge is my location. I’m based in central Arkansas and the industry here is lagging behind other areas of the country (East coast, west coast, larger cities). Many brides here still do not see value in having a wedding film. And because of that the prices here are low.
    I know there must be a way to either market my services elsewhere without uprooting my family or to convince the industry here as a whole to raise prices to reflect our value and worth.

    • katie says:

      Are you willing to travel for work Jake? :) Keep honing your skills and craft, and then try for advertising in other locations perhaps?

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Jake,

      Don’t believe this myth that things are better in big cities. The standard is low for wedding videos everywhere in the world (including New York, Miami and California). The reason for this is that videographers have historically set low standards. Remember this…brides have never told told us how much to charge. WE put the price on the product (not the brides). If you price yourself low, you are the only one to blame for the low standard. If we could all collectively raise the standard, this industry would be in a better place. Everything is possible my friend.

      -Ray

  • Great post!

    My biggest struggle is trying to make sure that I’m using the right tool for the moment and not just using the coolest tool (aka a gimbal for every shot).

    Daniel

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Most times for us, it’s not even about the tool as much as it is about the person using it. Using a gimbal for every shot will definitely get predictable and a bit repetitive. These tools should be used sparingly just to add value to the production. You should always rely on good ol’ basic fundamentals for your work (lighting, composition, color balance and audio). Without a strong foundation, the work will always seem weak (and no amount of gimbal shots will help). Good luck!

      -Ray

  • Dani says:

    at mistake no2. what does mean: “the tape that’s going to be covering the event”

  • My greatest challenge has honestly been audio. Capturing satisfactory audio has been the thorn in my flesh for quite some time now. I recently done a wedding where my sennheisser system went haywire, I had an H4n set up for backup, and I forgot to turn it on… It was terrible… Had to use my on camera audio… Luckily I was using a camcorder and not just the dslr audio, but still… Very frustrating. Better luck ahead!

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Audio is probably the biggest headache for every wedding videographer. Between interference, bad feeds and cheap equipment, acquiring professional sounding audio is about as likely as spotting a unicorn in real life. The great news is that I have a system that ensures perfect audio every time. Check my tour dates and make an effort to attend this workshop series..you will be thankful that you did. Best of luck!

      -Ray

  • Pranav Raj says:

    Very insightful article. Thanks for sharing.

    My first wedding film was a South Asian one. I have been very lucky with getting a lot of referrals ever since but all of them are for – guess what? – more South Asian weddings. 8)

    More projects are great for honing skills and making money but I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into South Asian weddings – not the ideal branding I want.

    My biggest challenge ever since has been with engaging clients from other communities and cultures.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on how to diversify one’s wedding portfolio.

    Thanks
    Pranav

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Pranav,

      It’s all about the message you’re sending to your future clients. I’ll give you an example. If you go to my website and check out the films, you will notice that most of the weddings were filmed around the world. I do this on purpose because if I only posted the weddings I filmed in my hometown (Miami), brides would probably think I only filmed weddings in Miami. I definitely wanted to travel and film cool weddings around the world, so I just needed to send the right message. Try it out…it works! Good luck!

      -Ray

      • Miroslav Majstorovic says:

        You didn’t really answer his question. How can he send the right message if all of his work is done in the same region? That’s what his question was, how to not be seen as a videographer doing only South Asian weddings if South Asian weddings is the only thing he’s got.

    • Hey Pranav,

      Contact me, maybe I can help you get wedding clients in Europe.

      Thanks Vasili

    • Hey Pranav,
      Contact me, maybe I can help you get wedding clients in Europe.
      Thanks Vasili

  • Bryan says:

    Thanks for posting this! My biggest struggle is marketing and networking. It’s difficult with the overwhelming options to know where to direct my budget , effort and time.

    Thanks!
    Bryan

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Bryan,

      You should try and gauge where you are work wise. Do you consider your work to be among the very best or does it still need some improvement. Everything is relative to the work you’re producing. When I was starting out, my primary focus was to get the work at a level where I could compete with the best of the best. Once I did that, everything else seemed to fall into place without a lot of effort (marketing). This also leads to higher demand for your services, which naturally leads to higher prices. Good luck with everything!

      -Ray

  • Matt says:

    This is a great article! Hit the nail on the head for me in terms of pricing and packages. I have put into practace a lot of advice Stillmotion has given about story telling for weddings i film with my team. We now come up with keywords, go through detailed questionairs with the couple asking “why”, and we are refining our skills to have a clear begining, middle, and end. Its no longer just a montage of shots. Not only are our couples happy but we have many others talking about the emotion they feel when watching.

    I would say my biggest struggle in the business, is getting bigger paying weddings so we don’t have ot stretch ourselves thin with taking on a lot of mid ranged weddings. I struggle with discovering how to stand out from other companies so we get noticed, I feel our work is great. I struggle with understanding how to get the proper exposure so we are seen by the right people. I have been avoiding wedding trade shows becuase I feel the people there are not specifically searching us out, they just stumble upon us in passing. We want to work with couples who truly love our style and desire us to tell their story.

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Matt,

      It sounds like you’re on the right track with your story-telling. Getting exposure and creating buzz will depend on a few critical areas. Your brand, the quality of your work and most importantly, your contacts. The reality is if you don’t have the type of contacts that can bring you the types of contacts that can spend 10k, 15k or 20k on a wedding film, you will probably never experience those types of paydays. The key is not rushing the process. When you truly feel your work is ready to compete with the best of the best and your branding screams high end, then (and only then) should you make your splash into the high end market. Best of luck!

      -Ray

  • D. AN B says:

    i think one of the barriers can be ethnicity….in my personal experience certain ethnic groups seemingly outside of my own are willing to pay higher prices for weddings….my culture are not used to paying high prices for weddings even if they are wealthy or make a great income….and trying to get weddings from the dominant culture as a minority is extremely hard….they could love our work but skip over us because they may feel more comfortable having someone who looks similar to them to tell their story and be around on their special day….it has been a reality unfortunately for us

    how can we break outside this barrier to get a substantial amount of work to be full time (myself and 1 other) and make at least $150k a year?

    • Jb says:

      Odd he didn’t answer this. I’m black and I’ll tell you my experience. I have only felt like my color was an issue 2x. My face isn’t anywhere until they meet me in person. I want them to love my work. Hear my voice over the phone and when they meet me already be committed. I’ve had to work hard though. Buy really nice clothes and a really nice car. Most importantly come into a meeting dominant. My clients don’t care at the end of the day. I’m one of the best in my area and highly recommended.

  • Alex Widmer says:

    I took a leap of faith to leave my job and emerge myself in the wedding videography industry not too long ago. Since then, I’ve already become complacent in my pricing, strategy, and creativity, because I’m too afraid to take the risk to differentiate myself among the rest with confidence. It’s as if I have an arrow pulled way back, ready to fire, but then I second guess my target or wonder if I’m even using the right arrow… Success stories don’t happen by magic, they happen because you believe in yourself enough to compete and rise up amongst the rest and not settling for “Good, but Great.”
    I’ve already made all 5 of these mistakes, and I’m sure I can think of more I’ve made. To not know the rules and break them is one thing, but now knowing the rules (mistakes) and breaking them is another. All I can do is learn from them, alter my aim, and fire away with confidence that I can be not just better..but the best.

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hey Alex,

      You’re just like me. I took a leap of faith and left my career a few years back. The road to the top is risky and full of challenges, but if you truly believe you can do it, anything is possible. The key (as you mentioned) is differentiating yourself from the norm. In this industry (for the most part), everyone is pretty much doing the same thing. We all have the same type cameras, sliders, drones, gimbals, editing styles and delivery format. The problem with being similar to the rest is that brides will generally book you because you had the best price, not necessarily the best work (and this just means you were the cheapest). Have faith my friend..everything is possible (you have to believe in yourself first). Best of luck on your journey!

      -Ray

  • Nathanhail says:

    Hi there,

    My biggest challenge that I have today in the business of wedding filmmaking is having a dedicated crew. I come from a small market and I compete with a small list of people who have their partners. I have worked with many of them in the past and having someone that enjoys their time and knows what they are doing makes the day so much more relaxed. The list of individuals with experience is very limited in the area. My experience with having a new shooter has not been the best for many reasons. Without having another shooter with me on a regular basis I work solo, which can be a wee bit stress full. I would love to be part of a steady team that is trust worthy and loves being there as much as me.

    I know there are plenty of fish in the sea and the Leafs will win another game sometime this year.

    Thank you.

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hi Nathanhail,

      I feel your pain. I tried for years to find a 2nd and 3rd shooter. Definitely not an easy task (I eventually gave up). I’m fortunate enough to work with my wife and she kicks butt. If you have someone in mind that you would like to use, but they still need some training, you should consider sending them to my bootcamp style Master Class Series that’s going on right now. I’m traveling to over 35 cities, so I’m sure I’ll be nearby. Good luck with your search for a shooter!

      -Ray

  • Martin Walsh says:

    I wonder if it’s a bit misleading to make the claim that 80 percent of brides hang out in a market of $1,500 to $6,000 so close to Ray’s new definition of a high-range market ($30,000 with a plane ride and Oscar de la Renta on loan). Might people confuse a large percentage of the other 20% as being part of this elite market, rather than the reality which is poverty which affords no camera?

    • Ray Roman says:

      Hey Martin,

      Thank you for the comment. If you study any wedding market, about 80% (or most of brides) are in the low to mid range market. I actually never mentioned prices because every market is different depending on various factors. If your goal or business model is focused on this market, that’s fine. I’m not here to judge or dictate how anyone should run their business. My point was that you can easily get stuck in that low to mid range market because that money generally comes easy. If you want to eventually move on to the higher end market and earn top dollar, you just have to be careful not to get too comfortable in the low to mid range market (and lose sight of your goal). I can tell you that there are millionaires in just about every city in America and believe it or not, they actually have weddings (and trust me, they can afford to pay you what you’re worth). I started out earning $150 for wedding work and I too never believed a wedding videographer could earn more than $5000 or $6000. I proved myself wrong. Thanks again!

  • Hi Ray,

    love the article. Two questions:

    – would you say having no packages is a must in every market? I feel like having packages in the lower end market might make sense to not make things confusing since Brides want a straight forward answer when they are asking for prices. Also, I find it hard to create an a la carte list since editing time has to be included somewhere. Do you have a price for film-per-minute?
    – I would love to participate in the workshop. Coming from Germany this isnt possible though. Are there plans for a digital version?

    Thanks so much!

  • Steve says:

    I’m currently struggling with moving outside of the market we started in. It’s beginning to get to the point where I/we need to market to clients outside of our region and while destination weddings appeal to many I’ve done enough to know they’re challenging and often time sinks. Focusing where to market and doing it wisely is causing a lot of anxiety. Love Ray’s theories on not giving work away for free!

  • Larry Marshall says:

    Ray I have been following you since the creative live workshop. With a background in feature films and short films (narrative work with large crews), my job is the 1st AC or “focus puller” and I run the camera department. I don’t really have a question here as I’ll see you in Chicago (still motion don’t choose me, just give it to someone else) but I wanted to say that many times, crew may be unwilling to teach new people how to do their jobs when newbies come on set. I think it’s BS and I have always opened up what I have learned. The idea of course, is job security, but this falls flat bc why would someone be worried about a newbie replacing your years of experience? I will personally shake your hand to thank you for being so open with us because it continues to inspire me.

  • Mary says:

    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to share your comments with us. We’re definitely taking note of the issues you’re facing and are going to tackle those topics in the near future.

    Congratulations to Daniel Latimer! You’ve won a seat at one of Ray Roman’s in-depth seminars. Tell Ray we said hello!

  • Shelly says:

    My biggest challenge is editing. I love to shoot, but hate to edit. I tried contracting it out to stay on schedule, but I can either find someone that’s competent, or someone that’s cost-effective. Not both. How did you come up with a schedule to stay on track? Huge fan and I’d love to see you in NY!

  • Dani Croitor says:

    You made me change the way I present my business to my clients. Thanks!

    One question: From what you are telling I understand that you still have a basic package: coverage 9h, feature film, the team.
    Do you think is better to have this basic package than none and saying to our clients: my value is €€€ and starting from here you can choose whatever you want from our services list? Wouldn’t that sound arrogant to them?

  • Hello Ray,

    I totally agree with your a la carte charging system and the way of thinking about branding and going to high end market, but it’s almost impossible in my country (Croatia). We tried that for a long time but everybody wants the cheapest version. I don’t know if this is due to the mentality or something else, but we always tried to educate them what is behind the final product. It seems that having high quality work and latest equipment including one of the worlds top X8 multicopter also doesn’t matter. We never praise ourselves but others have done so, even the professionals on Vimeo. They say we inspire them with our films. Potential clients have the best opinion but the price is in most cases a problem. The irony is your lowest to middle market price is in our country too much, even though the work is for high end market. If you have time pls take a look some of my work if I’m wrong: https://vimeo.com/116684971 or https://vimeo.com/105981748.
    Yes, you can ask us why we didn’t go internationally to find high end market and I can say we did, we were in Switzerland and some other places but it’s not enough for the business.
    Also we contacted many agencies all over the world but it seems the already have their partner for this kind of service.
    I think the hardest thing is to become popular internationally and make a brand, which for I admire to you Ray. No doubt the quality of work is important, but through the years it become clear that quality is not necessarily the main factor of success on the high end market, but rather strong connections. Even Philip Bloom previously mentioned a similar thing.
    Ray, your work is awesome and I really think you are one of the best in the business of course, but I never found information about the way you entered the high end market for the first time?
    All the best to you and your future work.

    Slaven

  • Bez says:

    Great wealth of knowledge, i will use these pointers. I shot 40 weddings last year and i have been struggling with time.

  • Jamie Honce says:

    Hi Ray,

    Really good stuff. I have a question on Mistake #4, and specifically shooting on the event day. If we are hired to film the event for 9 hours, shouldn’t everything that happens during the time be filmed regardless? It sounds like you are suggesting to charge more for shooting elements that are above and beyond the norm, even if they happen during the hours of paid coverage. Any additional editing as a result should of course be charged for.

    Thanks, and I hope my team can make it to one of your seminars.

    Jamie Honce

  • Tom Lenham says:

    Hi Ray,
    I set up a wedding films company here in the UK two years ago as as sideline to my usual (broadcast) work. Last year I decided to focus more on it to see if I could make it pay, and ran into my first major problem – actually finding the clients! What’s your favourite way to find your clients beyond word or mouth / quality of your work? I showed at a few wedding fairs, which were dreadful, a total waste of money and obviously did a lot of online promotion, but the phone just wouldn’t ring. I know my work is decent (I’m a shooting producer / director with 20 years experience) so without sounding arrogant, I know that’s not the issue. I suspect the UK market is very different to the US.

  • Tom Lenham says:

    Also… Like you, I began with a bespoke list and was very evasive about giving a fixed package cost, but found very quickly that almost everyone wanted a ‘one price for everything’ package. Of course, that doesn’t happen in higher end, bespoke weddings that you shot (and I have shot a few), as they have much more budget to play with and a wider set of options – but for most UK weddings, they’re hard pushed to justify more than $5k (and most have $2-3k max). I now give a base price for the wedding and offer ‘bolt-ons’ for extra material as an upsell.

  • alitvfilm says:

    You should also not be underestimated, our place. Where there is no similarity to other places. It is interesting to make a movie here. Why not check here: http://alitvfilm.blogspot.com

  • Completamente de acuerdo!!!

  • Thank you to Stillmotion for bringing in Ray Roman. And thank you Ray Roman, for sharing this knowledge with us! My biggest worry when shooting a wedding is actually worrying about the photographer(s) positioning and being in the shots. I do my best to not get in the way at all times and on the other side sometimes they have no regard for us videographers. sometimes feel like saying forget them and get my shot but i am just not like that. How did or do you handle that situation at every wedding. Especially with those higher end photographers!

  • Thank you Ray Roman by these great tips, it seems that I’m slowly getting the road, before it was also doing 40 weddings, we are now making about 25 weddings a year to so we can make quality weddings, and that the customer is happy, not to have long waiting lists in the deliveries of weddings, there is part of the success, You can devote more time to keep learning, to serve your customers, to make good contacts, etc, if you have 40 weddings in the year or have a very large team of people or it will be impossible to reach all over the world.
    I have a doubt speak of a list of additional services to offer to the customers, so to win more total reason you have, I’d like to know what offer this list of additional services to see if we can improve on something else and follow these guidelines.
    I also have another serious doubt, that I would like to I know, says that when contacting with you a girlfriend you do a small questionnaire, then I’d like to know what usually ask in this questionnaire, you think that they would be the questions that we should know as an entrepreneur every bride for every possible to hire wedding videographer?
    Normally when you talk of good contacts I imagine you speak that you work with weddings planner of great worldwide recognition, and that takes you to your large customers or how to reach those contacts? Do you usually work in commissions with your potential contacts?
    Ray from Spain I send you a hug and I appreciate all your words delighted to greet you.

  • Gary Rush says:

    Great read, after ten years filming weddings I’ve started to apply some of these principles & have already seen results.

  • Chinces says:

    Incredible work!

  • Andrew Thomas says:

    My biggest challenge is getting people to pay a decent rate… I haven’t filmed and edited a wedding for over 1,000.00 yet.

  • I’ve read this article a few times now, and find it very insightful. For someone that is currently growing their wedding film company at a decent rate it’s still great to always sharpen the mind on good business practice’s! Thanks for sharing the knowledge!

  • Hey Miroslav,

    Apologies if the question wasn’t answered. Ray did his best to check in and be as responsive as possible (all while on tour). Thanks for the comment and the heads up and sorry the reply didn’t go far enough.

    P.

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