Videographers are an interesting breed. They’re not quite photographers and they’re not quite directors. Hiring a videographer can sometimes be a challenge because more often than not, people know:
- Sort of what they’re looking for
- Kind of what makes a videographer produce good work
Hiring a videographer can likely make or break your project. As someone who has shot on drones, $50,000 3D cameras, and GoPros strapped to an airplane’s wing, here’s how I recommend you go about hiring a videographer…in 5 minutes.
Budgeting for a videographer
A fairly average rate for a videographer is $75 – $100 / hour, with more expensive shooters being in the $200 / hour range.
In some instances, videographers don’t own their equipment, at least not what may be needed to achieve a certain look. This is worth noting as you could pay a rate for their service and then a separate rate for the cost of them renting video equipment.
Know the look you are trying to achieve
Sending samples to your videographer is a good start. Knowing WHERE your final product is going to live is an even better one as that helps determine the audience and the type of screen it will probably be played on (e.g. a cell phone as opposed to a screen projector at a trade show).
Ergo, a good cameraman should ask you:
- Where the video is going to be published
- The experience level of the editor
A videographer should know shooting on a large format camera (i.e. something that usually shoots really large file sizes) will be challenging for an inexperienced editor to manage
- What you specifically liked about the samples (you hopefully sent) and how you believe they embody the script, concept, or event you’re trying to capture
Where to find a good videographer
Many videographers will use Instagram as a portfolio to display their work. Search the hashtags #videographer #directorofphotography #dp #cinematography #shooter.
The only drawback to Instagram is that it won’t let you search by location and hashtag at the same time.
This is sort of a more professional, video-version of Craigslist, aimed at finding professionals in the production industry.
Videographers are often referred to as Director of Photography, DP, and/or Cinematographers. Try using all of these as search terms within your area and you should find several options come up as search results.
What to look for in a videographers demo reel
Alright, so you’ve stumbled on a couple of videographers who appear to be local and have the requisite contact information, how do you decide which one to contact first (or at all)?
Check out the samples either on their site or whatever portfolio you stumbled on (every professional cameraman should have some tape to show you or in a portfolio somewhere).
Make sure that they are listed as the DP or the Cinematographer (not the Producer, Assistant Camera Operator, or Director) so you know they are directly responsible for that work.
What to look for in the actual tape:
- How much of the footage is shot in low light or at night?
It’s traditionally harder to shoot quality video in lower light, as this demonstrates the shooter has access to good equipment and understands how to properly expose a camera when there is a lack of ambient light.
- Are the locations shot inside (interior) or outside (exterior)?
Are there a lot of apartment scenes? Cheaper locations imply a smaller budget. It isn’t universal, but this could likely mean this person hasn’t worked very often and is still filming “on spec”.
- Do you notice any brands or people in the footage?
- Is the camera moving or almost always in a still position (e.g. on a tripod)?
A good videographer will understand how to move a camera—while keeping a subject in focus—to create more dynamic and active shots.
- Does any of the footage appear to be in slow motion?
Similar to shooting in low light, shooting quality video in slow motion indicates they have an understanding of shutter speed, iris, and a knowledge of how to use frame rate settings.
How much do camera rentals cost?
I’ll break this down mainly by look and capabilities:
- Large format (Arri Amira, Canon c700, Sony F55, Red Scarlett, RED Monstro)
These are anywhere from $30,000 – $100,000 for their bases (not including lenses) and are usually what most major movies are shot on. Cameras of this caliber can be rented for anywhere from $800-$1600 depending on what city you live in and the lenses rented alongside them.
- Super 35 (Canon c300mkiii, c500mk ii, Sony fx9, Sony fx7, Panasonic Varicam, Red Scarlet)
Many Netflix documentaries or reality series are shot on these types of cameras. They offer 4k, 10-bit, high dynamic range, and all that geeky video stuff at a price range of $10,000 to $20,000 for their base kits. These are about $300 – $500 / day, depending on what lens kit you rent with them.
- Prosumer cameras
YouTubers and streamers who want something more premium than their iPhones will turn to a prosumer camera. These are anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 and can shoot 4K and higher frame rates, but usually with less color information (i.e. they are 8-bit). Canon and Sony are fighting neck and neck to beef up the features in these, but there will always be a trade-off (usually in low light situations, dynamic range, or in the depth of field) or overall performance (durability and a propensity to overheat). These can be rented at $100 – $200 a day.
The difference between a videographer and a photographer
Many people go into a project wanting both stills and video, but that’s usually ill-advised as videographers and photographers have different skill sets.
- Video cameras are often much more expensive and resource-intensive than photo cameras.
- Batteries drain faster on a camera shooting hundreds of frames per second, opposed to a camera that shoots one frame at a time.
- Video can be delivered in a number of different formats and is largely dependent on how it is handled after it’s shot, much more so than photos
Both are equally skilled and none is better than the other, but if you asked a videographer to take photos and a photographer to take videos, they are separate trades that might not directly translate.
In the simplest of terms, videographers tell stories while photographers capture moments. What does your project call for?
Hopefully, this offers a broad overview and a quick guide to finding the right camerman for your project. The only other nuggets I can advise is:
- If you want drone work, make sure you ask if they are Part 107 certified by the FAA.
- If you want someone to handle all aspects of liability for the production, no matter how big or small, make sure they have some form of production insurance.
- If you need an editor, don’t assume that if they shoot video that they also can adequately put it together.
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