When couples plan their Colorado wedding, videography seems to be one of the last things people add on to their day. Because of that, people seem to be shocked at why wedding videography is so expensive. Over the last few years, we’ve seen wedding videography explode in popularity among couples. Videography is no longer just static tripods in the back of a church. What we create is dynamic and beautiful. Something really worth investing in!
Because video is typically a “last-minute” add-on, people get sticker shock at the cost of good wedding videography. I get it! Videography often costs as much if not more than your photographer. It breaks my heart a little though when people set out looking for a videographer expecting to pay less than $1k for a full day of coverage. It also breaks my heart that there are videographers out there that think they aren’t worth more for their time and accept that kind of pay.
I don’t want to sit here and justify my pricing or tell you that you have to spend a certain amount in order to get good videography. There’s no magic number and every state’s industries are different. The biggest thing is that I want is for couples to do their research and understand why. We don’t charge “an arm and a leg” to take advantage of people in the industry. It is just math and numbers, cost of living, and operating costs.
So here’s a bit about why we charge what we charge for filmmaking.
We’re going to go ahead and start with the obvious. Gear.
I lean on the excessive side because I’d rather have too many angles and backups than not enough because I have had gear fail on me, so to ensure that I don’t miss a single moment of your wedding day, this is my gear list
– 2x Sony a7iii
– Sony a7ii
– 2x Sony ax700
– 24-70mm 2.8
– 35mm 1.4
– 55mm 1.4
– 85mm 1.8
– 135mm 1.8
– 4 tripods
– On camera shotgun mic
– Smallrig camera cage
– Handheld light panels
– 4 video lights
– 4 light stands
– 2 tascam DR-L10 lav mics
– Zoom H6 audio recorder
– Backup Zoom 1 for emergencies
– Cables and cords for varying connections to DJ setups
– My big wagon to carry it all
– 50 SD cards used throughout the year
– 5TB hard drives to keep multiple backups
– A beefy computer setup to handle video editing
– Editing Software subscriptions
– Song licensing subscriptions
– Video hosting subscriptions
– Sound effects and visual effects subscriptions
– Liability Insurance
All in all? Approximately $20k in equipment for one wedding day. For reference, my photography setup is about half of that. Yet wedding videographers are expected to charge less.
Not every wedding videographer has this kind of a setup. Others are more minimalist and only use one or two cameras, but they are not delivering a full, multi-camera (or documentary edit) of your ceremony or toasts. So you will see videographers that charge less because of that, but for full setup videographers, we charge more because we deliver more than just a highlight. So keep that in mind
Key takeaway; If you have a lower budget for videography, and things like seeing your ceremony from start to finish is important to you, make sure to ask them how many cameras they use to film your ceremony. If they say 1, they will likely only be creating a highlight film, or your video risks guests or the photographer walking in front of the one camera. Ask them what their audio setup is so you know that your vows are being recorded and that they have a backup. Also ask what their backup process is. A good videographer will keep the footage on the SD cards they filmed on, and they’ll make 2 hard backup copies of your footage, and a cloud backup.
During the day
After shooting both photo and video, I feel like I can say that photography feels easy. (Photographers, don’t hate me!) There is definitely more pressure to run the show as the photographer, but as a photographer, you think in in moments, not minutes
When I first started videography, I had hundreds of short, nearly unusable clips because I was going at it with a photographer’s mindset. It made editing really difficult and I was missing progressions of emotions and moments that I should have captured as a videographer. But I didn’t because I was thinking like a photographer. As I’ve developed my skills as a professional, I’ve found my groove and learned how to be highly effective as I shoot.
You have to move quickly to keep up with a photographer who is thinking in milliseconds while thinking and shooting for minutes. It’s a mindset shift that takes time and skill to develop, not to mention a steady hand, and stabilization equipment in order to hold shots for long periods of time
Key takeaway; If longer moments matter to you, choose a videographer with more of a documentary approach or offers longer edits. Quick highlights are beautiful and fun, but if you want to see your dad sob during your first look, and you want that moment to last more than 2 seconds, pick a videographer that shows that kind of work in their portfolio!
The Dreaded Editing Cave
The part that not a lot of people get a glimpse at is the post-production side of video. The time spent in editing is a big part of why wedding videography should cost more than your photography.
To give a little perspective on editing time, the Lord of the Rings, (my favorite book series and film series of all time), used almost 6 million feet of film which is roughly 1 thousand hours of footage. That was then cut down to the final 686 minutes of final product over the course of 3 years. Granted, this also includes multiple takes of scenes and it is a 12 hour series, but only 1% of the footage shot made it into the final cut.
The way I’ve always calculated it for my films is that every minute of completed film is anywhere from 5-10 hours in editing. So a 4 minute film could take me 20-40 hours. To give a point of reference, I can edit a 1400 image gallery (an 8 hour wedding day culled down) in a couple hours, or I can just outsource it for a few hundred bucks to a reputable editor. Video editors are double to triple the cost of photo editors, and they don’t always get it exactly right, so the majority of videographers keep their editing in house, which limits how many weddings we can take on.
Everything is meticulous. It all has to be well thought out to tell the story of your day, otherwise it’s just a hodgepodge. And I have to ensure I’m including everything and everyone that is important to my couples. I’m also listening through all pieces of audio, watching every minute of footage, multiple times over and over again. We don’t get the luxury of putting on “The Office” in the background while we work. We get to listen to your vows 50x back to back.
And then there comes sound design. This is something that I started doing much more recently, and this is using atmospheres and sound effects to fill the gaps where audio wasn’t captured perfectly, but it needs those sounds to create depth. In Hollywood, they create most of the sounds in post production. We have a lot of resources available to us to download pre-recorded sound effects which works perfectly, but I have had several cases where I had to create and record my own sounds. Here’s a video to show what that looks like behind the scenes
Like I said though, most of us don’t go this far, but we do add atmospheres – birds, wind, trees, breaths, rain, snow, etc.
Then there’s other sound effects like risers, hits, and whooshes, and using those intentionally and artfully so they add, and not distract from your film.
Color correction is usually the last step, and again, coherence between shots is absolutely crucial. A photographer can get away with colors being slightly different, it’s a different photo, a different angle, but if our shots are not consistent, it breaks you out of the experience, it’s a massive distraction. I spend a lot of time to ensure that my colors are correct.
Our turnaround times are also much longer than your photographers, and this is why. Some photographers can get their galleries out in 2-4 weeks, where it can take us 2-4 months on the short end, 6-8 months on the long end.
The takeaway; Video editing takes a long time, there are multiple steps, including drafting a story, culling footage, culling audio, song selection (which we will get to next!), laying footage, adding sound design, color correction, and artsy visual effects. If you see a videographer that has longer turnarounds, don’t be scared off. Look at their portfolio. Does their work seem intentional? Does it seem like it was rushed and just slapped to a song?
I had no idea how expensive song licensing could get until I dove into the world of video. There are some sites that have subscriptions that make the cost of song licensing a little less brutal. However, for weddings, a typical single-use license is $50. For a single song. Most videographers also spend hours searching these sites for the perfect song to use.
I’m also going to deviate for a second here and say that as much as we want to be able to license that pop song that you love, it probably won’t happen. Recording studios won’t answer calls, and if they do offer licensing, it’s insanely expensive (a minimum of $1200 for a single use). The music industry wants to be compensated for their work, and we’re just here to play their game.
Last year alone, I spent over $1k in song licensing and subscription services for music for my clients. Higher volume videographers pay more. It adds up to stay legal.
The takeaway; If you interview a videographer who says they can do any song, or their portfolio has popular songs all over it, they are stealing music, and not working legally. This is not a reputable business that I would trust with my wedding day.
Cost of Living & Taxes
In Colorado, we have a high cost of living. In order to live comfortably in this state, you need to earn over $100k annually. Even W2 jobs can’t keep up with these income needs. Being self employed, I do have more options for setting my rates, giving myself raises, and turning away work when I feel overbooked. But with that comes a lot of downsides, like having to pay out both parts of taxes and covering my own health insurance. There’s nothing like watching your tax holding account grow faster than your profits account.
But let’s do some math. If I only wanted to make $60k per year, and I was only charging $1300 for full weddings, I would have to take on 45 weddings. First off, that’s a ton of weddings and there’s definitely going to be a drop in quality. Second, when you factor in that you spend approximately 80 hours on a single wedding, after expenses and taxes, that videographer’s take-home is only about $600, which comes out to about $7.50 per hour. That videographer is making less than minimum wage. And while you are not that videographer’s employer, people deserve, and should be paid better than $7.50 per hour and I’m constantly trying to encourage videographers to charge more because of this.
So what do we do? It sounds like a minefield!
It is. The wedding industry is full of vendors ranging from brand new, to highly experienced. This is why it is so important to check reviews, look at portfolios, and get on phone calls with your potential vendors so you know that you connect with them and that you can trust them to handle your wedding day.
I understand that everyone has a budget, but it is so important to look at more than just the price sheet.
The Dangers of Cheap Wedding Videography
I get it, you don’t want to add on a surprise $3-5k right before your wedding. It’s frustrating, but there are real consequences to hiring a cheap wedding videographer.
I’ve heard of way too many people trying to find a videographer last minute because their original videographer disappeared after the final payment was made. This happens with photographers, caterers, florists, etc. You need to do your research, check reviews, and make sure that the person you’re hiring is who they say they are.
Like this videographer from Wisconsin who scammed several brides out of their money. Or this story from 2017. Or even more recently in Colorado, a massive photography scam was uncovered, where the photographer was not only scamming couples, but also the associate photographers that worked for her.
Unfortunately, even if a scammer videographer does make it to shoot your wedding, they might take ages in editing, pushing back delivery, until you have no idea if you’ll ever see your footage from your wedding.
And remember, if it seems like too good to be true, it probably is.
Lack of experience
You might find a new videographer that has a creative eye and just doesn’t know what to charge. There are some hidden talents out there for sure! You could get really lucky and get someone incredible at a very low cost. That won’t be everyone you come across.
You accept a risk when hiring someone new to the industry. They may not have proper backup equipment, they might lack professionalism, or your wedding might be their very first. I’m thankful for all the couples that took a chance on me in the beginning, but I definitely made some mistakes on their weddings that I have ironed out over the years.
It’s a risk, but sometimes, it’s worth the risk.
Be mindful of “associate” videographers
Associate coverage has become more popular over the years as photographer and videography businesses grow.
What is an associate? An associate is a 3rd party photographer or videographer that can cover your wedding if the main business is already booked.
A reputable associate program names the associate you will get and you may have communication with them leading up to the wedding. They usually have a feature on the main website along with a bio, and specific galleries that person worked on. Associates may also be used if the lead experiences an injury, pregnancy, family tragedy, or other emergency. These businesses will do an amazing job of communicating those changes with you, and often will give an option to cancel and rebook a new vendor if something major happens.
With the wedding boom of the last year and leading into the future, many creatives are finding themselves getting inquires for dates they are already booked, so instead of saying they are unavailable, they offer an “associate” package which is usually a little less than their standard rates.
But that doesn’t sound so bad, right? You get a little savings in the process, what could go wrong? Here’s where it gets sketchy. If that creative does not have a well established associate program, they are most likely picking a random person to go and cover the event. You may not have any communication with the person that will be there on the day, and they may not use the same setup as the main videographer. I’ve also heard of associates just not showing up, or cancelling a couple months in advance because they got their own booking, leaving you with the bottom of the barrel talent.
In a reverse way, associates can also make a videographer look better than they actually are. I’ve had new videographers ask me to associate shoot a wedding for them because they’re already booked for the date and got another inquiry. There are two problems with this. 1. This videographer is then advertising my skills at a fraction of the cost of what I do, and 2. They usually don’t pay appropriately.
So again, do your research, if they have an associate program, make sure that those associates are named, and that you get to communicate with them in advance.
Most importantly, Don’t blow up your budget
You do not have to annihilate your budget in order to have a videographer. You don’t even have to have a videographer if it’s not important to you. I don’t want to convince potential clients that they need to hire me over someone that costs $1,000 less. I’m a firm believer of sticking to budgets and doing what’s best for you. When we were planning our wedding, my dream photo/video team was 3x what we realistically had a budget for, so I had to change my priorities to meet our budget needs.
You know what’s best for you and your partner, the most important thing is that you do your research, meet your vendors in person or on a zoom call, and if it seems like too good of a deal, it probably is.