Thursday, March 05, 2009

Business Day Thursday: Making Money With Video DSLR's - Some People Love Them, Some People Hate Them

Good Morning Everybody,
Today, let's touch on a subject near - but not so dear - to many digital photographers. Since Canon released the 5D MarkII and Nikon released the D90 there has been an uproar over the video capabilities of these cameras. And, the uproar necessarily hasn't always been positive. Photographers are aghast that they are going to have to learn brand new software to capitalize on the capabilities of these cameras. Most already feel overloaded. Hit the "Read More..." button below for the rest of the debate.

The point of today's post is to talk a little bit about the possibilities these cameras offer us in the way of new products and services we might provide for our clients. At the same time, what we can do to ameliorate the learning curve for the software involved to create these new products.
It seems to me that we can make the road along the video/still image process as simple and easy or as difficult and treacherous as we desire.

There are programs as simple and as inexpensive as ArcSoft DVD (PC) that will let you combine video and still images with music and produce a playable DVD for your client's personal DVD player. This would be the most basic and least expensive video/still image solution. It gives a result - but unfortunately it's not as polished and professional as one might like. On the positive side, ArcSoft DVD does at least give you an intro into how you might combine digital images and music with video images quickly and easily without a huge financial investment.

The most elegant solution would probably be Final Cut Pro (MAC) but who wants to spend that kind of money and learn the program if the process is completely new to you. A simpler solution would be Apple's I-Movie09 (MAC) which was just recently released. You'll need to upgrade to Mac OS X Leopard to allow the program to function. I just acquired the software and am in the process of giving it a try. It seems I-Movie07 did a pretty good job. When Apple introduced I-Movie08, they seem to neutered a lot of the advanced features that were present in I-Movie07. I-Movie 09 brought back a lot of the advanced features and added more to make the software a compelling solution for the still/video solution. Lots of tutorials on line too. But, it is a MAC only solution.

On the PC side there's a couple possible solutions as well. One would be ProShow Gold - Producer which cost $249. But many people on the PC side are quite happy with how it works. ProShow Gold have a whole slew of video tutorials on line which should get you up and running on the software fairly quickly.

Anyway, once we've crossed the learning curve hurdle and have created our video combined with the still images and added some royalty free music what do we do with it? What can we sell it for? Is the effort/time worth the financial result? These are all questions you will need to resolve for yourselves. Unfortunately, taking the time and the effort to produce these videos could be quite an intensive process.

I would think that one solution would be to outline exactly how much video you want to combine with your stills and come up with a formula that you can use repeatably from job to job. Once you've got your formula calculated, then you'll know which video to shoot when combined with those accompanying images, when repeated from job to job, the process should simplify itself substantially.

The bottom line is this. We need to determine how complicated or how simple we want our project to be. We need to determine how much time or how little time we want to invest in the project. Obviously the more time and effort we put into the project the more we're going to need to charge for that end project.

So just how much can we charge for this product? I was recently talking with Steve Bebb . The Bebb's have pioneered the video/still image media combination - they call it Fusion and they're able to sell their video products for about $1000. They produce videos from the engagement session and the wedding. Steve reports that their clients are loving it!

I wonder how many event clients will be willing to pay upwards of $1000 for a five minute video clips that combines both the video and still images. It seems to me that it might be a "tough nut to crack." But maybe there's a other creative ways that we can sell this new product. I think that if we spend about two hours getting a project together we should be able to sell the product for minimally $200 - $400. If there's more time involved then obviously the price needs to be higher so we can recoup our expenses and make a fair profit.

I have a few additional ideas on how we can crack the tough nut. The way to do this is to add more value to our efforts and deliver more than one media format to our clients. Those different forms could include a high def DVD that the client can play on their home DVD player; it can include a version for their FaceBook page; it could include a version for their I-Pod - the combination of all three looking much more palatable to their pocketbook.

Another way to recoup the expense of our time and effort in producing our new video product(s) would be to bundle it with additional products that we currently have available in our studio to offer. That way even though we're getting a bigger price for the video product the "value-add" from the other products that we bundle with the video adds value to the overall product combination.

Another solution is to increase the length of the video altogether. The client will clearly see a greater value in a longer video. We have been delivering a Wedding DVD of the still images with music for many years to our clients at a fair price of between $300-$400. Our shows typically ran about an hour or longer since they included several hundred images from their wedding day. By editing some video and sound into the video certainly would make it a more exciting product. It would increase the sense of intimacy between the viewer and the viewing experience and significantly enhance the emotional connect with the show thus justifing the addtitional cost.

So in recapping it comes down to this. The more effort and the more polish you bring to your finished video fusion product, the greater the price you need to charge for it. But now the next question - will the highly polished product sell at the significantly higher price? Will theless expensive product sell? For me, the best solution is to deliver a more polished, quality product, delivered in many different media formats, and/or bundled with another products certainly validates the higher price.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. Give me your feedback on how you plan to utilize the new video capabilities of the Canon or Nikon cameras. Post your suggestions in the "Comments section" below. Share your ideas with the rest of our Digital ProTalk readers. It will be good to share how you plan to add to your bottom line.

On that note I'm saying "Adios." See everybody tomorrow, -- David


  1. I've used the new iMovie '09 to produce several short videos, shot with the 5D2, for my daughters high school swim team. The iMovie software has a wonderful "share" feature that exports the movie directly for viewing on an iPod or iPhone. The girls say they watch the movies over and over and are able to show it to friends on their iPhones. Showing your wedding video on an iPhone would be a big seller.

    If you need more power than iMovie, then another software choice for the Mac is Final Cut Express, which is harder to learn than iMovie, but at $200 is much more economical than Final Cut Pro.

  2. Hey David,

    We've been offering video (Nikon D90) to our clients since October and there has definitely been an interest by clients to purchase both photography and videography through the same vendor. They seem relieved, in fact, to know they won't have to go elsewhere and hear another sales pitch. Of course, we're offering to produce a 10-12 minute wedding video for $800 if they allow us to do the photography, as well. That, I know, is cheaper than hiring a straight videographer that might charge (at least here in Southern California) a minimum of $2,000 for a wedding video.
    The problem is, as you said, the amount of time and effort put into these productions. They take the same amount of time, if not longer, to process as the pictures. In fact, we often talk about raising the video prices because they do require a different mind set and new set of skills (currently, I'm using Final Cut Express and had to learn how to use it by taking classes on
    I think a polished video product truly impresses a client. Hell, I don't even know if what I do is highly polished, but as soon as you show a client their video and they see the first smooth transition from one scene to another, they love it. It's then and there when you offer to provide them with two more DVDs for their parents for $100. They'll do it. I think the Facebook and iPod ideas are great.

    On another note you brought up, why are so many photographers opposed to having video in their cameras? There seems to be some deep-seeded distaste for this trend.

    Germein Linares

  3. I for one have a distaste for this trend. Why are we allowing the camera manufacturers to determine our
    shooting style and workflow anyway? In today's economy I think it's going to be a rough sell to the clients anyway. And for myself being a weekend shooter (I have a real job) I certainly don't have the time to edit and produce videos along with all the stills. Just my two pennies worth.

  4. PC and Mac can use Adobe® Premiere® and PC can use Adobe® Premiere® Elements 7. Adobe® Premiere® Elements 7 cost around $100.

  5. Sanyo group has launch of its evolutionary new Xacti Dual Camera and Camcorder range.

  6. I think it's wonderful that the new cameras have added video. The thought of being able to use my lenses with their wide apertures and shallow depth of field for video really excites me! Besides selling a video product to my clients, this opens up a world of opportunities to use these for promotion. Website, YouTube, bridal shows, etc...

  7. I don't see how this trend can replace a traditional wedding video. By "traditional", I'm referring to a video record of the day, not just a couple seconds of video, here and there. Unless you dedicate a second shooter to just doing video, you are just supplementing your still photos, not replacing the videographer. Granted, some brides don't require lots of video of their ceremony and reception, but some will. There will be a market for both. I think that when autofocus is working good with DSLR video, then the market will change quickly

  8. I agree with Jack and Brenda. I have a D90, and it's just not advanced enough to offer video as anything but a supplement to the stills. The lack of autofocus and limited sound capabilities are killers.

    However, I think as David as pointed out, it's just foolish to ignore the possibilities completely. If you are going to offer a DVD slideshow as part of your wedding package, why not include some video? Hey, for some clients it might be a deal clincher. The software is not that hard to learn. I do some video work and Adobe Premiere Elements is very powerful and very eary to use. Shooters who don't at least explore this avenue are being shortsighted.

  9. I though you said you were reviewing "Fusion" whatever that is? What happened to that?

  10. If a wedding videographer could interject: Might I suggest for editing video and photos on the PC that NewTek's SpeedEDIT which retails below $500 is the best NLE that is a breeze to manipulate photos with. Also with it's storyboard interface you will be able to work like I see many photographer assemble albums in Photoshop, by arranging the pics in the order they want to appear.

    As for what to do with this new found video capability, the more sophisticated consumer I am finding isn't locked into having the long 2 or 3 hour videos. Short forms which can run between 15 to 45 minutes are very viable options. Several videographers are offering same day edit videos as the only video delivered. These for those who don't know are 10 to 15 minute videos of the prep, ceremony and sometimes a little of the reception which are edited during the day and then shown sometime during the reception. The couple then leave with their wedding video on their honeymoon. And yes this is the only video they get. The videographer goes home with no additional post to do.

    The scenario I have kicked around on is the addition of a shooter, so if yo normally go ot as one, you are now two; two, now three. The "video" person is assigned the ob of shooting stills and capturing the 'major' moments as video. (Hence for those wondering where the FUSION name comes from.)

    Pricing, charge a professional and worth while price. Video is NOT easy but it is no harder than photography. If you don't feel you are making the money to compensate for your hard work then doing FUSION is going to burn you out quickly. $1500 is considered the break even point for professional videography, short form or long form.

    If you are serious about video then I'd suggest check out the association

    Brian Peterson
    Allure Films