When it comes to choosing a videographer today, there are no shortage of options out there. In fact, how you got to my site over someone else's has much less to do with skill than it has to do with luck and chance. There are some good videographers out there, many of which simply have the resources to make things look beautiful without even trying, so when it comes down to it the factors normally come down to price, availability, and - somewhere down the line - whether you like their style.
Style is the most important component to any videographer. It's what sets us apart from the competition. Yet, how does one describe their style? It's not easy. This is a subjective medium. I could tell you that I'm like a fly on the wall. That I enjoy shooting candidly, unobtrusively, while discovering the video in the moment, based on capturing what makes you...well...you. The best way to describe my style, however, is simply to show you:
Now that you've gotten an idea of what I do and what makes me unique, the best thing I can do now is describe to you how I go about achieving said style. This is best known as my philosophy - beliefs in which I hold true in order to capture things authentically. It's my hope that this helps you in narrowing down your choice, by putting the art first above anything else. More importantly, I want you to know what you're getting should you choose to hire me as your videographer.
The Roadmap Investment
I'm not a huge fan of taking on a jobs for the money. Yes: this is a career that fuels my life, but it is also a career that exists in a very specific time and moment within human existence. Videography is only worth the value which people place in it, and - at this point - this can be a lot; yet I'm also aware we live in a very unique space for this to be possible.
For me, the value of a single video is more than the monetary symbols I can place on my services. It's new friendships made, ongoing creative fulfillment, and the ability to make hearts flutter. Whether I'm making tears come to your eyes, tapping into your excitement, or helping inspiration soar - it's my hope that every job gives me these opportunities.
This is my branding.
Other videographers have formulas - blueprints which they have to follow - when it comes to making videos. They offer templates for their services, often making their job easier, so they can make sure you get exactly what you're paying for. No more. No less. While this results in consistency in style and a very specific product - one that can be itemized or presented on a spreadsheet - it does little to make any individual stand out from what came before.
I'm a believer in approaching each video as something new. Even if I've done similar videos in the past, my approach is one of uniqueness. How can I challenge myself on this video? What is something I can do that I haven't done before? What makes this particular story different? I want to make sure that I'm not repeating myself, because at the end of my life I want to be proud of each individual video I've made.
Now...I could be cliché and use the "blank canvas" metaphor, but I like to think of this as more of a roadmap. We know where we're starting. We know where we need to end up. Now: How do we get there? This keeps the idea of the formula and template alive, so you get an idea of what you're getting based on what's come before, but it also means the direction can be completely different and between us.
This puts me on the journey with you. I'm making this product - this adventure - as much for me as I am for you. This means I will ask tough questions in our consultations. I will make bold decisions in the planning stages. I will figure out what makes you unique and I will use that to drive us to the end result. Whether I'm hired for a short trip to the grocery store or an expedition between timezones, I'm putting myself on the journey with you. As a videographer, the worth of the videos is in my investment; to you, to the project, and to my ongoing progress.
Because when it comes to handing you a final product, I don't want it to be simply what you paid for. I want it to defy expectations. I want it to touch you in ways you never thought you could be touched (with consent - of course). I want you to come out having thought that we created something special - together.
Manual vs. Automatic
I drive a stick shift.
If that doesn't already say a lot - to you - about me as a person, in this world of self-driving cars and heated seats, then I'm not sure you're in the right spot. If you're sure that I'm the droid your looking for, then read on.
In the last section I mentioned how a lot of videographers rely on formulas and blueprints. This doesn't extend simply to the result of their final products, but to their equipment as well. Whereas I cannot deny the sheer amount of technological advances that have happened with photography equipment over the last century - which has resulted in new innovations happening almost yearly, if not monthly - I can make claims on how I choose to use said equipment.
We are dealing with an industry that is quickly automating everything. I'm serious, there are new inventions that allow focus, exposure, framing, and even clip run time to be chosen AFTER you've stopped recording. Whereas some of those things haven't been implemented into professional cameras, yet, they are slowly-but-surely coming. Because of this, almost anyone can pick up a camera today and take photos/videos that look amazing, and you can finally hire your cousin to do wedding videos without fear of him screwing things up. Despite my sarcastic attitude, don't get me wrong, these innovations are exciting. It's allowed me the security of knowing - should my professional equipment fail - I can still have a creative outlet with my phone; a camera which is already far better than the one I acquired with my Pizza Hut savings at 17 years old.
That said - this begs the question: How does a videographer stand out?
I choose to take control of the car.
I've invested in a set of Cinema style, prime lenses, which not only give my videos an amazing, film-like quality, but also grant me the option to have complete control over my iris and focus. They possess NO AUTOMATIC FUNCTIONS whatsoever. This means I have to be very specific when it comes to composition, lighting, and lens choice. I am non allowed the ability to float around, pointing the camera wherever is needed, and know that everything will come out "OK" in regards to what's needed for the final edit. My shot choices are intentional, and my awareness is constantly in check. Most videographers are able to tune out, turn on the camera, and let it fly, but I have to be conscious about where I'm at and what I'm doing. This makes me a better videographer, a better cinematographer, and a better creative.
Unless time permits, I also shoot without sliders, dollies, gimbals, steadycams, or any other rig that could slow the process down. Handheld shooting saves me time and keeps me moving so that I never miss an important shot.
I want you to know that when you hire me, I'm not putting the process on autopilot, but I'm intentional with how I do things. My goal with driving in Manual is to have complete control; because when things hit the fan, I want to know that I can adjust accordingly, quickly, and accurately. This mindset is what makes me stand apart.
The Whole Hog
They say a film is written three times. The first, obviously, is with the screenplay. The second, is during production, as you shoot the film. The third time comes during the edit.
For me, the edit is where you find the story. I'll often shoot everything I can, unsure of what's necessary and what's superfluous, because I'll never know what the final product is until I get into the edit. There - the story speaks to me. As mentioned, there's no formula, there's no blueprint, and there's no template. I simply have the footage that's in front of me, and somewhere within that lies the story, the video, and the final product. I simply have to listen to what it wants to say, how it wants to present itself, and help piece it together from there.
Henceforth, when it comes to working on the next video, nothing goes to waste. Every piece of footage serves a purpose. In this way, it's sort of like dealing with a hog, in which every piece of the pig is used, in some form or another, and nothing is excess. With this in mind, we know that the final video is the best it can possibly be, based on what's been given to us. Everything is chosen, cut, and prepared in an effort to serve the final product.
Like any good chef, I'm presented with a piece of pork, or beef, and I'm made to determine how to create a delicate, 4 course meal out of it. The footage, already specifically shot, and especially prepared for the process, acts as the meat in this scenario. The edit becomes my kitchen, in which I use everything available to me to create something uniquely satisfying and one-of-a-kind. More importantly, you know that I'm not saving something, or leaving anything out, that is not worth including in the final dish (product), as I've made sure that every piece of the hog (footage) gets used.
I know this is a weird metaphor, but I need you to understand the process, and part of that is knowing that when the first two sections of this philosophy get implemented, this last one means that I've given as much as I can give, and at the end of the day you know that nothing is left for the dogs.
In Conclusion: The Process
Let's talk about the creative process.
When a sculptor looks at a large block of marble, they say that their statue is already trapped inside, and it's their job to get them out. Poets and songwriters have talked about their stanzas and lines coming to them "on the wind", so that, should they fail to have a pen and paper on hand, it could pass them by and move on to the next person. You have to be quick enough to capture it. Artists don't claim much to create something out of nothing, but they tend to believe that their art already exists in the universe, and they are simply trying to find it, represent it, or show it.
Many people tend to look at videography as - for lack of a better term - a technical process. Something that could be manufactured, or even reproduced on a mass scale. Throw enough money at it, as the hollywood industry has learned, and to a certain extent this becomes true, but a single videographer can never serve as an assembly line. We're not able to build a Ford Model T over-and-over again.
Yet I'm a firm believer that each videographer is an artist. I am an artist.
With each new video I feel just as much like the painter or the sculptor. The final product exists already. It's there - speaking to me - and my job is to bring it out. This can be a scary thought to some people, when hiring a videographer, because they imagine it's my job to deliver an exact product - like amazon to it's customers. You click a button, a box shows up, and everything works just as you expected. Unfortunately, that's the thing about art, is that it's sometimes anything but exact. It's messy. Mistakes can be made. Moments missed. Trial and error is part of the process.
Yet that's also what makes art so exciting. Because within that process one can also capture unexpected moments. Discipline kicks in to deliver some truly magical elements that no one could have planned for. When people talk about art, it's never just about the final product, and they talk about the process as well. I think that's why, whenever I'm on a job, I have people come up to me, whom I've never met, in awe of the process, and not simply to admire the camera. They can see something at work. They can witness my creative mind spinning. They know that I'm not just there to point and shoot, but that I'm there to find something. They will tell me "I can tell you're good at what you do" without having seen a single bit of footage. Why? Because they are watching an artist.
I think that's also why the biggest comment I get, when I finally deliver a video to a client, is that it's better than they expected.
There is no such thing as a perfect video. There is simply, as most artists can tell you, what exists. So when you are deciding about who to hire for your next video, I want you to imagine it's less about paying for a product, and more about commissioning a piece of art.