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Wedding Videography in the Digital AgeA task best left to the professionals?
What's the state of the wedding videography industry today? To find out, we talked with working wedding videographers, found industry statistics and fleshed out what is undoubtedly a flourishing business in a growing market. Although some might wonder if amateurs are moving in on the pros because of lower-cost gear and easier-to-use software, our consensus of wedding shooters and editors say that isn't so. We also took a look at the tools wedding videographers are using, and found out how the best wedding videographers are using the Web to open up new avenues of business for their bustling enterprises.
To get an idea of the size of the wedding videography market, first let's take a look at statistics that reveal the enormous amount of money spent on weddings in the United States. According to the American Wedding Study by Conde Nast's Bridal Infobank, in the last ten years spending on an average wedding has exploded by 50%, to an average of $22,360 per wedding this year, up from $15,208 in 1994. And, according to Richard Markel, President of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, of the $65 billion spent on weddings each year, "6% of the budget would be for video." Markel added, "But using the 6% of the estimated $65 billion spent will equate out to $390 million." This signals a wide-open market for wedding videography professionals. Markel continued, "We just had a show here in Sacramento and several of our videographers booked business with an average ticket price of $2,500."
Looking at those stats, wedding videography appears to be a growth industry. Let's do the math for a moment. Consider an experienced videographer, charging $2500 for an average wedding, shooting one wedding per week. In a year, that person has earned $130,000. But that would be a very hard-working videographer -- most of the videographers we talked to said they spent up to 40 hours editing each wedding video, meaning a weekly shoot would constitute nearly-constant travail with hardly any time off.
One great success story would be that of high-end videographer Kris Malandruccolo, whose company Elegant Videos by Kris has been operating in the Chicago area for the past 16 years. Her business can command as much as $5000 for a wedding video package, and regularly signs contracts for $3000 weddings. But the mother of three doesn't want to work all the time, so she limits herself. "Someone else could shoot four or five per month. But I average two or three weddings a month," she told Digital Media Net.
According to Luisa Winters, an award-winning videographer and editor who has her own wedding videography business, Unforgettable Events, most wedding videographers charge under $2000 for their services -- with higher-end wedding video companies charging as much as $15,000-$20,000. "I do not consider anyone a true professional unless they are able to make enough money to support themselves with this business," Winters told Digital Media Net. "Anything else is a side business. Supporting a family means different things depending on what part of the country you are located. If you are in a less expensive location, then less income will suffice -- and you are still professional," Winters added.
At prices of $2000-$5000 and up, it seems like amateurs would be interested in shooting their own wedding videos, or getting a friend or relative to take the controls of the family camcorder. But Internet message boards for wedding videographers are rife with stories of first-time videographers shooting an entire wedding ceremony with the camcorder on pause, only to find they began rolling after all was said and done, ending up with lots of artistic shots of the floor and nothing else. According to videographer/editor Luisa Winters, "The amateurs are taking a bite out of the wedding videographer business, but that is true only for the lower-end videographers." She thinks the lower-end shooters make things better for the higher end, increasing the quality gap between the two. "More-educated brides will expect to pay a lot more for a video that looks professional than they were willing to pay before the advent of such inexpensive equipment. The difference between an amateur wedding video and a professional one is huge, and people are willing to pay Top Dollar for the latter." Sometimes quality considerations can be quite basic, such as, can you hear what the bride and groom are saying? "You really have to worry about the audio part of it, you know. There's a lot involved," said Kris Malandruccolo, who in addition to being a successful wedding videographer is president of the Illinois Videographers Association.
Is the playing field being leveled by the profusion of low-cost, high quality equipment? According to Winters, "The quality of image and editing capabilities has become less important to the fact that now you have to be a better storyteller, you have to be a better artist... after all, we all have access to pen and paper, but we cannot all write the great American novel, right? Shakespeare and Mozart only had pen and paper to work with, and yet they gave us masterpieces that transcend time. Not all is determined by equipment."
Then there's the editing, which is a process many newlyweds aren't equipped to handle. "As you know, anyone in the business who edits knows it's a time-consuming process," said Malandruccolo. "I take tons of family videos but none of my personal stuff is edited, because there's no time. So if I wasn't getting paid, then I would not be editing, because it's so time-consuming, especially if you don't do it all the time. I think a lot of people, especially if they have the money, just want to say 'do it for me.'" Malandruccolo added that it's not just the time element that is a barrier to entry, but it's the professionalism required to create a polished production. "The end result is that you have a better quality video. Like I emphasize to my clients, this is a family heirloom. You only get one shot to do it right, and you can't do it over, so being that this is a family heirloom, if you look at it that way, then they're willing to invest the money into it. And I've never had a client say that they're sorry that they spent the money on video. Clients just don't say that," added Malandruccolo.
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