“Hey, you absolutely have to check out this video!”
How many times a day do you get a message like that in a text, an email, or from a friend holding their smartphone up in front of your face?
And it’s not just that one particular video that’s becoming popular or going viral. It’s videos in general. According to a 2018 report, a whopping 85% of internet users in the U.S. watched video content on any of their devices.
People love watching videos, and it’s not surprising. Videos make up the stories of our lives. And videographers are the ones who tell us those stories. So, do you have some stories you want to tell?
Then you may want to know how to become a videographer.
This is a pretty good time to learn how to become a videographer. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the market for videographers is projected to grow 18% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The range of that work can be wide, including work for television, films, or the internet.
Many videographers, and especially those new to the craft, usually work on smaller projects, such as wedding videos, commercials, product how-to videos, and corporate communications and training videos.
For this article, we’ll keep the focus on some of what you’ll need to know if you’re new to videography or just learning how to become a videographer.
Even if you’re just starting out, it’s probably safe to say that there's a lot of work available for videographers. It’s also safe to say it’s a lot of work being a videographer.
The name “videographer” may convey that you’re the person who shoots or captures images with a video camera. That’s not an incorrect perception — it’s just not a complete one.
Many times, the videographer will also need to plan a shoot, set up the lighting, capture the video, record the audio, and edit it all together into a finished piece.
That may seem like quite a list of responsibilities, but the upside is that you get to control nearly all aspects of your production and the story you’re telling.
It also can mean you’ll need a good amount of equipment to get all those jobs done.
As you progress as a videographer, you will likely own more and more equipment. Much of it will be for specialized work, such as aerial drone footage or capturing POV (point of view) video for sports and demonstration work.
As you look at how to get into videography, let’s start with a look at what gear you’ll need.
Even with a limited budget, experts believe you shouldn’t skimp on your camera. Fortunately, you don’t have to drop thousands of dollars on the big shoulder-mounted rigs you may see being used in live newscasts.
A DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera is a good place to start. Most DSLRs can capture video as well as still images, so you’ll have added capability and something you can use as a basic camera.
These cameras can come with a wide variety of features and a wide range of prices. Some key features you should consider are:
Manual and autofocus — Being able to focus manually enables more creativity. Being able to switch to autofocus gives you one less thing to worry about.
Stabilization — Shaky video footage is nearly impossible to fix in the edit. A camera with built-in stabilization can nip it in the bud when you’re shooting and save you a lot of frustration later.
Resolution — Video formats continue to advance to produce sharper images. Currently, 4K leads the pack. Typically, a DSLR with 4K resolution also will let you shoot at lower resolutions, such as 1080.
Size and weight — These can be important considerations not only when it comes to transporting your gear to and from a shoot, but during the shoot itself. A few hours of handheld shooting can take a toll on your hands and arms.
Battery life — One of your worst nightmares could be running out of power in the middle of a shoot. Features, such as autofocus, can drain a lot of power from a camera’s battery, so the longer the battery life the better. Investing in additional batteries can be a good idea as well.
Ports — Look for Input/Output (I/O) ports to connect a microphone and headphones. Also, an HDMI output is very useful for connecting to monitors and your computer.
Lens mount — To get started, you’ll need a basic assortment of lenses (more on that in a bit). Often your brand of camera will work only with lenses of the same brand unless you also have the right adapter. So, it can be a good idea to look at buying a camera and lenses together.
If videography is telling a story with moving pictures, then you can think of lenses as ways to create different moods and perspectives.
You can go crazy accumulating lenses (much as you can for a lot of video gear), but picking up three basic lenses can get you off to a good start.
Wide-angle lens — As the name implies, this is used to capture a wide shot, such as a wedding party or a scenic vista.
Mid-range lens — Look for a 50 mm lens (sometimes called a “nifty fifty” because it’s used in so many situations).
Long-range lens — This will come in handy when you want to get close to what you’re shooting, but you can’t. For instance, capturing close-ups of the bride and groom’s vows without interfering with the ceremony.
This is a key piece of equipment that can help ensure you capture steady, flowing footage. It also can save you from hand-holding your camera for long periods of time, especially if you’re adding a microphone or light to it.
A tripod is indispensable in almost any setting, but especially if you’re shooting interviews or product demos.
Light can help create depth and mood, and reveal or hide details. Next to the camera, the lights you use can make the difference between amateur-quality video and professional footage.
Consider LED lights. They’re generally lightweight and easy to carry but can give you enough power for professional results. Some can even use both AC and battery power for greater flexibility.
You also can find a number of lighting packages designed and priced for people who are just starting out.
In many instances, you’ll need to record sound as well as capture the video. While many cameras include a built-in microphone, they’re generally not designed to pick up and register a broad spectrum of sounds. That’s why you should look into adding an external mic.
An external mic can be critical if you’re shooting interviews or how-to videos. They’ll also provide better all-around sound for just about everything else you shoot.
If you work on larger shoots, there may be a dedicated sound person who will handle all the audio recording. For a new videographer who may be working solo on smaller projects, an on-camera microphone or wireless lavalier microphone can be a good, and often affordable, choice.
You’ve captured stunning video. You’ve recorded pristine sound. Now you have to put it all together into a finished piece, so you’ll need the right computer and editing program.
First, the hardware. The high-resolution video files you’ll be shooting can be a lot for a typical laptop or desktop machine. Three features to look for are a discrete graphics card, speedy memory (RAM), and a multi-core processor.
The better the specs in these areas, the less waiting and frustration you’ll likely have when editing your video.
Editing is where your software comes in. There are a variety of popular editing applications to choose from, including some for free. Just about all of them can handle basic editing needs. As you progress to editing more complex projects, you’ll likely want to look at the features in some of the higher-priced software products.
Check out online videos for any software you’re interested in getting. Along with helpful tutorials, you also can get a sense of what it’s like to use.
If you’ve been keeping a list while reading, you’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of equipment that comes with videography. So, If you’re looking at how to get into videography, this is a good time to mention videographer insurance.
Not only can some types protect the investment you’ve made in your gear, others can also provide protection from other risks you may run into.
Consider these three types of coverage that can be your best friend on a shoot:
General liability coverage is like your camera. You shouldn’t show up at a shoot without it. It covers costs related to third-party accidents, property damage, and bodily injury. In fact, general liability (GL) coverage may be required by your client or the facility where you’re shooting.
Let me set the scene for you. You’re shooting a wedding in a chapel. One of the guests trips over one of your light cables. They have a bad fall and are rushed to the ER. The scene ends with a full recovery, but in the epilogue, the guest sues you for their medical costs.
If you have general liability insurance for videographers, this story can have a happy ending. You could be covered for the medical bills or legal fees — up to your policy limits.
Without GL insurance, you would have to pay out of your pocket.
Along with GL insurance, it’s a good idea to look into insurance for your gear, often called contents coverage. This type of policy is added to your general liability insurance and can help cover costs if your equipment is damaged, lost, or stolen.
If this feels like a complex plot, we can simplify it. We can find GL coverage for videographers from leading insurers, often as low as $22.50/mo.* And it usually takes just 10 minutes.
Another coverage that could save the day for you is professional liability insurance. This can help cover you or your employees in the case of negligence or just honest mistakes.
Scene 2. You’ve finished eight hours of shooting for a corporate video. You sit down to go through the footage and realize the camera’s memory card is defective, and some of your footage is missing. There’s no time to reshoot, so the video won’t be ready for the client’s quarterly earnings meeting.
A professional liability policy can cover the cost of damages, as well as the legal fees if your client sues you. While this may be a hit to your reputation, it won’t be a hit to your wallet.
As your business grows and you bring on either full- or part-time employees, you should consider workers compensation insurance. It covers your employees if they get sick or injured while working for you. And it’s often required in many states.
Now that we’ve got insurance covered, let’s move on to a few of the basics of how to become a videographer.
You’ve got the lights, you’ve got the camera, but before you spring into action, you’ll need something else: a plan. This is commonly referred to as pre-production or “prepro.”
Solid prepro can help eliminate mistakes and unwanted surprises that can derail your shoot and cost you valuable time and money.
All good videos have a beginning, middle, and end — even a simple unboxing video. They tell a story. It could be the Story of Deirdre and Derek’s Beach Wedding in Cabo. Or it could be the Story of the Quarterly Earnings from Acme International.
Once you know the story, you can plan the shoot. This is where you determine the scenes you want to capture (e.g., Diedre and Derek’s first kiss, or footage of the Acme production line).
From here, you can create an outline, a list of shots you’ll need, interview questions for the Acme CEO, and map out the beginning, middle, and end of your video.
As you’re planning your shots, think about how you might edit them together. Along with that close-up of the bride and groom’s first kiss, you may want to add some reaction shots from the guests (a weepy aunt, a proud father of the bride).
You may find that as you think about how the shots will come together, you’ll want to go back and add or delete shots from your outline or shot list.
OK, now that you’ve successfully planned and captured all your footage and sound, it’s on to the computer to put it all together. Referring back to the original story should be a great guide to assembling all your shots.
However, you also may want to give yourself some leeway for inspirational changes and happy accidents. Sometimes you’ll find shots that work better than you had planned, or that work better in different places.
Before you can get your first paying job, you’ll need to show what you can do and how well you can do it. A critical part in how to become a videographer is to create a demo reel. Think of this as a “greatest hits” collection.
A demo reel is a few minutes of well-chosen and well-edited footage that demonstrates the types of videos you create (e.g., product demos, weddings, corporate, travel), and the style and magic you bring to them.
But what if you haven’t done any projects for other clients? Easy. Start some of your own.
Offer to shoot a friend’s wedding, or maybe just the engagement party. Create a product demo for an item you use and really love. Conduct a video interview with some friends about anything you like. Take that trip you’ve always wanted to take — and capture it all on camera.
Once you have something to show, get it in front of other eyeballs. Create a portfolio website and use social media, friends and family, and word-of-mouth to help promote it.
Consider business cards with your website URL That way, you can easily have something to hand to a potential client when an opportunity pops up.
There’s a quote attributed to bank robber Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, supposedly replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” If you’re looking at how to get into videography, look for where videos are being made.
If you want to shoot weddings, think about groups you can join or events you can attend that cater to wedding planners. If you’re looking to do corporate videos, check out some companies whose work interests you, and contact the corporate communications or marketing department.
As a videographer, you’re not just documenting an event, an occasion, a technique, or something else. You’re telling a story, and you’re doing it through the lens of your own creativity (apologies for the pun).
Videography can be a rewarding way to both tap your creative talent and generate some income. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, people love watching videos, and good video creators are in demand.
So, if becoming a videographer has been your dream, this could be a great time to say, “Action.”
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
As a 9-year-old at summer camp, I hated it — especially after being pulled screaming from the pool during the swimming competition. While this left me without an aquatic achievement patch, it also inspired the letter to my parents that got me an early release from Camp Willard. That showed me the power of writing. I’ve done my best to use it only for good ever since, such as writing helpful articles for small business owners.
Ed writes on a number of topics such as liability insurance, small business funding, and employee management.
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*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.