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There was a time when the only way you could work in videography was to work with big production companies with access to all the expensive gear needed to create high quality videos. Luckily, as technology has advanced videography has become increasingly accessible. You can even use your smartphone to create professional videos to showcase on your video portfolio website, and you don't need extensive schooling or any specific degree either.
However, just because there's no one right path to becoming a videographer doesn't mean you have to figure it all out for yourself. Whether you're already working as a professional photographer or you're considering what to study in school, this guide to videography for beginners will introduce you to the industry and teach you how to start your videography career and build your online portfolio.
Put simply, video refers to moving images. Videography can encompass everything from short clips to full feature-length films. Between our collective attention spans getting shorter and facing hundreds of attempts to capture our attention every time we go online, videography has become more important than ever.
Just like photographers, professional videographers can focus on creating video for commercial purposes, art, documentary, storytelling, and just about any other context.
Video cuts through the noise and captures attention in a way that is difficult to do with photography alone. Younger generations, especially gen Z, are increasingly accustomed to video formats and expect video content from their favorite creators and brands. The increasing relevance of video can be seen in the rise of Tik Tok over photo-based social platforms, and through the way other platforms have created more resources for sharing video on their platforms.
As an aspiring videographer, all of this is great news for you. Sure, it may be the case that a lot of the content being shared on Tik Tok and other platforms is user generated, but this has only led to brands and content creators needing to step up their video game to keep up with their customers' content preferences. Any business that shows up online today (that’s most businesses) needs to consider incorporating video into their marketing efforts.
If you’re less interested in working with businesses and brands, and lean more towards creative or documentary videography, the increasing dominance of video is still good news for you. There are more opportunities to share your work with a wider audience and build a name for yourself, and the tools available to create truly stunning video work are more accessible than ever. Anywhere that moving images can be shared and viewed, there’s an opportunity for a videographer.
While both videography and photography capture moments in a visual form, photographers tend to focus solely on still images. However, some photographers choose to introduce new potential income streams by expanding into video as well.
There's not necessarily a huge difference between these two terms, but filmmaking usually refers to storytelling through video, whereas videography is sometimes considered to be more about documentation.
Cinematography is similar to filmmaking in the sense that both emphasize storytelling through video. However, cinematography differs slightly in the sense that a cinematographer is usually part of a larger crew, and is probably not doing hands on work like handling camera settings on set.
There is a lot of technical knowledge that you need to be successful in the film industry, and it can take time to learn all of the terms like frame rate and shutter speed as they apply to making videos. That said, if you're interested in getting into shooting videos, then it's worth pursuing.
Working in video can take many different forms, and looking at the portfolios of professional videographers is a great way to get inspired and get a sense of the scope of possibilities available in the world of video. From distinct styles to different professional paths, let these awesome video portfolios get you excited about picking up your camera:
Laurent Laughlin is a videographer and director based in Athens, Greece. He produces both short and long-form documentaries and works primarily with Vice News, although he has also collaborated with The New York Times, Time, The Economist, CNN, and other outlets. Through his powerful storytelling, Laughlin’s videos have earned him the Human Rights Press Award among other honors. Often traveling to dangerous locations to tell stories that need to be told, Laughlin’s portfolio is a testament to the power of video to transport us and help us empathize with others.
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Giselle Keena is a photographer and director based in Brooklyn, New York. She has created video content for commercial brands such as Haagen Dazs and Crown Affair, bringing a uniquely youthful, playful, and ethereal quality to her commercial content. Her work shows that there are vast creative possibilities within commercial videography. Gone are the days of commercial videos all having a crisp, highly polished look. Today's audiences crave authenticity, and Keena’s portfolio oozes it.
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Amsterdam-based Luuk Walschot is a videographer, photographer, and all around creative. His style is commercial yet authentic and aims to create a deeper understanding of the human spirit. Exploring the videos in his portfolio reveals an approach that draws the viewer into the world depicted in the content. With intimate, closeup shots and moody color palettes, Walschot has developed a style that is immediately identifiable.
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Videography can be quite technical, and a bit more challenging than photography to learn on your own. This is true both of operating a film camera and of the pre and post-production processes. Having said that, taking the time to master videography can pay off because of the increasing importance of professional video.
To get started shooting video professionally, it goes without saying that you need to start by learning the basics of planning a shoot, shooting, and editing your video. If you have the time and resources, film school is one option for learning these skills. The benefit of film school is that you’ll have access to skilled instructors, a range of equipment, and dedicated time to practice your craft.
However, film school programs can be expensive, not everyone has the time or desire to spend four years in an art school program. If you still want to learn the basics of videography, the best way to learn is by doing. Accessing one-off courses or online courses can provide you with enough know-how to understand your camera and the fundamentals of the videography process. After that, creating as many opportunities as you can to shoot is the best way to get started.
Whether you choose to go to film school or to learn videography yourself, shooting in real-world situations is the best way to get your skills to a level where you can charge for your professional services.
A good way to start is by offering free or low-cost videography that’s similar to the type of work you hope to do professionally. For example, if your dream is to be a professional nature documentarian, you might consider connecting with local animal conservation organizations to see if you can create a short video for them highlighting some aspects of the local habitat.
Only by shooting the type of content you want to capture professionally will you encounter the real-life challenges that come up on a real shoot, so that you can know how to handle them when on a paid job. Things like unexpected changes in lighting or noise pollution can hurt a production, so having the experience to know how to deal with these things will make you a better videographer.
When you have enough content to put together into an online portfolio, finding a website builder that makes the portfolio creation process easy will enable you to get a professional website quickly.
Having an online portfolio is essential for any professional working in video, no matter what kind of video you create. Your potential clients will want to see samples of your work, and a video portfolio website makes it easy to direct them to one place where they can see it.
The best portfolio building websites will also have a suite of features that make it easier to run your videography business, such as client proofing galleries and simple invoicing. These kinds of features may not be at the top of your mind when you’re first creating your portfolio, but you’ll be very grateful to have them as you start booking clients.
While your portfolio may feature all of the work you’ve done that you want to showcase, a demo reel pulls together pieces of your best work into one video. It can be time consuming to go through a videographer's whole portfolio, so a demo reel makes it easy for visitors to see the important highlights.
Since demo reels are standard in the world of video, clients and anyone else you may potentially work with will expect you to have one. Your reel is your chance to showcase the absolute best of your portfolio in a tightly edited, engaging, and short video. Aim to keep your demo reel around a minute to 90 seconds long.
There are a number of technical skills a videographer needs, whether they work alone or with a team. For example, in addition to setting up a shot and operating your equipment, you need to be familiar with cleaning, assembling, and maintaining your equipment, as well as all pre and post-production including special effects, closed captioning, and on screen text. If you're not a one person operation, you'll probably also need some skills like the ability to collaborate on ideas with a creative director or team.
You may think that videography skills only come in handy if you're working on a television or movie set, but in reality, there are a ton of different industries that require video content. You could get work with a large production company or you could work freelance, focusing on marketing your online video portfolio using social media and paid advertising.
Businesses and individuals alike hire people to create videos, whether it's for corporate training, small business ads, real estate, or weddings. The more specific you can get about which niche you're interested in shooting film for, the better you will be able to target your ideal customer and get hired to do what you love.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for camera operators as of May 2019 was $55,160. The highest earning 10 percent earned upwards of $110,790, and the lowest earning 10 percent made less than $26,560.
When you're new to the industry, it can be challenging to know how much you should charge for your video work. Keep in mind that however you learned the craft, videography is a specialized skill that you've invested time and money into learning, so your wage needs to reflect that. Start with a day rate of $150, which will cover shooting and editing the footage, equally out to $18.75 per hour for an 8 hour day. As you become more experienced and gain confidence in your videography skills, you can increase your day rate to $200 for shooting only, with an additional $100 charge for editing.
If you're working with a production company you probably won't have to worry about getting hired, but chances are you'll start out working freelance, and that means you're in charge of everything, including marketing your business. Start by creating an online video portfolio where you can showcase your best work and turn your hobby making home videos into a viable career.
One of the many benefits to creating an online portfolio is that you'll be able to set up search engine optimization, meaning that potential clients can find you when they search for your services. Here are some tips on how to create a videography portfolio in five simple steps.
When choosing which work to include, remember: quality over quantity. Adding less impressive work because you don't have a ton of examples to show will only end up weakening the overall impact of your portfolio. You should also make sure the work that you're showcasing is the type of work you would like to be hired for.
You don't need to waste valuable time learning to create an online portfolio from scratch. Instead, go with an intuitive website builder that allows you to create a professional website in a matter of minutes, no matter what your level of experience is.
Choose a template that can handle large file sizes without sacrificing the quality of your video or slowing down page load times. Then you can simply upload your content and add a basic about page and contact form.
Communicate your design aesthetic to potential clients by customizing your fonts and colors and uploading your logo and brand photos.
Now that your portfolio is ready to go, just follow the steps to make sure you're all set up with Search Engine Optimization. Then it's time to tell your friends and family about your new business and start marketing yourself!
Before you invest a bunch of your hard earned money into gear you may not end up needing, consider what type of video you're planning to make. For example, real estate drone videos will require a different set of gear than if you're shooting a personal vlog.
Here's some basic video gear that you'll need to start out with, no matter what niche you end up pursuing.
There are a number of different options for cameras depending on how much you want to spend. Here are some commonly used cameras in the video industry.
If you're brand new to photography or videography, it's definitely a good idea to start out with the camera you probably already own: your smartphone. This is a great way to learn about framing your shots and editing video without having to invest a huge amount of money. Many video editing software even offer free smartphone apps so you can do everything on the go. Ideally, your smartphone should be able to shoot video in 1080p for high definition content that looks amazing online.
Back in the days before smartphones existed, we all had a small digital camera for taking photos on vacations or nights out with friends. These point and shoots are actually a great option for shooting high quality videos, and they tend to be small and light for easy transportation.
A DSLR is the favorite camera of many photographers, but they're also great for shooting videos. One benefit is the ability to easily change lenses to completely change the effect of your films. There are also mirrorless cameras, which has an advanced autofocus which allows you to be more hands off when filming.
An action or sports camera, like a GoPro, is generally small with a wide angle lens and built in image stabilization. They're great for shooting fast action, but they are lacking in other features like a viewfinder and high quality audio recording.
As a beginner, there's no need to blow all your savings on camera gear, especially when you have limited experience in the field. Start with these basics.
A tripod is an absolute necessity for both video and still photography. It will help keep your camera steady so that you can capture professional quality content no matter what your level of experience is.
Even when conditions are perfect, you should always have a basic lighting kit on hand.
If you're planning on using audio that you capture in the field as opposed to voiceovers in the studio, you'll need a higher quality microphone than what your camera includes.
The last thing you want is to go out on a video shoot with big plans for the day, only to realize once you get there that your battery has run out and your memory card is full. Make sure you always have at least one fully charged backup battery and one extra empty memory card.
Creating great video content is about so much more than the work you do in the field. Editing is a huge part of the process, and you need video editing software that is intuitive and easy to learn. Here are a few popular programs for video editing.
This editing software comes pre installed on all Mac computers, and there's also a mobile app. It supports 4K video for cinema quality films, and it's designed with beginners in mind.
With its simple, intuitive user interface, library of tutorials and an active online community, Lightworks offers a free version that only restricts output formats. It also includes over 100 special effects and royalty free music and stock video to take your content to the next level.
While there is no free version of this software, it uses artificial intelligence technology to provide a number of guided edits, facial recognition, and automatic backup for easy recovery.
If you're not ready to spend a bunch of money on your new hobby, don't worry! As long as you have a basic camera, you can start learning and practicing (and filling out your video website template) and invest as you continue to improve.
Advertising provides lots of opportunities for working videographers since commercials and ads are created far more frequently than, say, feature films. The types of video ads created by brands can vary widely depending not only on the product or service that is being advertised but also on the intended place where the ad will be shown.
For example, TV viewers don’t have an option to skip through an ad, so those videos can tend to be a little bit longer and have some sort of micro-narrative that plays out in the commercial.
Youtube ads can sometimes play for their full duration, but videographers need to be aware that they are often skipped past after three seconds. This means the first three seconds are extremely important for capturing the viewer's attention, making this ad format a little different from TV ads.
Finally, video ads destined for social media are all about being punchy, attention-grabbing, and typically much more simple than other ad videos.
Videographers working in the TV and Film industry can work on a single project for a long time, sometimes over a year. This is unique in the world of video, where work is often taken in the form of shorter gigs. With the advent of streaming services, there are more TV shows being created than ever before. It used to be the case that to work in TV or film, you had to move to a city with a significant film industry—usually Los Angeles—and compete for one of the handful of new shows being launched on each network, or new movies being created by the large studios.
Today, there are many streaming services creating dozens of new shows all year round. The production of these shows is less concentrated in one or two major cities than it used to be, creating opportunities for videographers living in different areas. In the streaming era, there are more opportunities for videographers than ever before.
Businesses hire videographers to create a wide variety of video content. They may want to create behind-the-scenes videos to show their potential customers or business partners what they do, showcase their facilities, or introduce their leadership or key employees. They may also want internal video professionally created, such as training videos.
Documentary makers tell true stories but often with a creative or artistic approach. They take the true raw material of a story and use their skills to tie facts together in a way that weaves a compelling, interesting, and cohesive narrative.
Documentary video can serve as interesting documentation of an interesting subject, but it can also serve to garner support for important causes. For example, nature documentary filmmaking, by showcasing the beauty of the planet, fosters support for taking initiatives to protect it.
Aerial video used to be quite difficult to produce, since it generally required the use of helicopters. With the advent of affordable drone technology, high quality drone video can now be created much more easily. Drone video is popular for capturing events such as weddings, nature, sports, and any other video where getting the birds-eye-view is interesting or important.
The world of education has been transformed by e-learning, which is mostly made possible through video. High quality educational content can now be created and easily shared with large numbers of people. As e-learning becomes more widely accessible, the sophistication of educational videos is also evolving. These videos are best when they’re relatively concise and easy to see and understand.
From corporate events to weddings to concerts, videographers are often enlisted to capture events. Depending on the scope of the event, the video content may be cut into something like a documentary of the event or left as individual clips.
The glory days of MTV may be over, but music videos are still used by artists big and small to promote their songs. The music video format is often creative, conceptual, and fun, making it a favorite for videographers.
We’re shopping online more than ever, so brands that give as much information about their products as possible are more likely to capture the attention and trust of their customers.
Real estate video has made it possible to give an authentic sense of what a property for sale looks and feels like. While photos can give a distorted sense of the size of a home, video offers a more realistic perspective that potential buyers value.
Travel videos can include documentaries about a place, travel guides with recommended destinations to visit, or even little vignettes that provide a sense of the vibe of a given destination.
Time lapse video can be used to capture all kinds of subject matter, but the use of time lapse can create very interesting and powerful shots. This type of videography is often used in nature documentaries, because it allows for the depiction of natural phenomena that would otherwise be impossible to see, such as the movement of plants to follow the direction of the sun.
This isn’t really a category on its own, since any of the types of video we’ve discussed can be mobile-first. However, it’s worth mentioning, because so much of our media consumption takes place on mobile devices rather than desktops. This means that videos are consumed vertically rather than horizontally. For a videographer, this completely changes the composition of a video, and it’s important to consider when creating videos that are destined for mobile.
In the United States, the average videographer earns nearly $70,000, with the top 10% earning over $90,000 and the bottom 10% earning under $45,000. This will vary depending on geographic location and other factors, but it does give you an idea of what a realistic income range is for someone working in video. Because of the technical skill involved in creating high-quality video, and the time that goes into producing it, it’s a generally well-compensated craft these days. And with the increased importance of video in business, there are new opportunities for videographers to make their mark.
When coming up with a strategy for pricing your video, there are a few key factors to take into account:
Where you are located. Just like most other professions, earning potential is impacted by where you are working. Generally, earnings should be roughly in line with the cost of living, so in a more expensive city, you can get away with charging more for video than in an affordable one for a similar video shoot.
The type of video you shoot. There are more high-paying potential clients if you are aiming to work with corporate clients than, say, if you want to shoot nature documentary videos. You can always supplement one kind of video with another, more lucrative type in your downtime. To do this, consider creating two different video portfolios and two separate reels, essentially operating your different types of video as separate businesses. For example, you may be working on establishing yourself as a videographer who shoots music videos, but you may find that shooting real estate videos is very lucrative and pays well in your area. Since the potential clients for these are completely different, you would be best off operating these as distinct businesses.
Your experience level. There are always clients who try to lowball the creatives they hire, but it’s worth sticking to your guns and establishing the value of your work. As you gain more experience and establish your career, you can also typically raise your rates a little more.
The scope of the shoot. It’s not as simple as establishing your day rate and charging that to every customer. Some shoots involve a lot more planning, design, equipment, and editing than others. The more you shoot, the more you’ll be able to accurately predict how much time will go into a given project so that you can give a realistic estimate to your clients. It’s also a good idea to leave some flexibility in the quote in case the project ends up taking a lot more work. For example, if the client makes a bunch of additional requests when you’re editing, you have an agreed upon hourly rate that you can charge them on top of the quoted price.
The client. A large corporation will have deeper pockets than a small business, and it’s expected that they’ll be charged higher rates. One way to do this is by charging variable amounts for the licensed use of the videos you create. You may have the same hourly or daily rate regardless of client, but a large client may pay a much larger fee to use the videos you create, especially if it’s for commercial purposes.
It’s safe to say that we’re in the midst of a new era for video, with the format being used in innovative ways to entertain, sell, persuade people. Working in video right now presents you with opportunities that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, and there is lots of room for innovation, creativity, and making a solid living.
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