The Argument Against Photographers Offering Video Services: Part 2

The Argument Against Photographers Offering Video Services: Part 2

In the first article in this series, I discussed themes that would affect freelance photographers most: mixed-message branding, teaming up for video, and the opportunity cost. This second piece focuses on some of the issues that hit us photographers where it hurts most: profitability of video services, client satisfaction, and the sheer embarrassment of moving to the dark side!

The context? I ran a photography and video studio for many years in Auckland. My experiences of seeing both services from a business point of view allow me to share some practical insights. While writing this article, I’m assuming that you are a practicing photographer yourself. If you’d like a recap of the first article in this series, you can find it here.

Client Satisfaction

We creatives can be a fickle lot, a species that is particularly proud of its artistic perceptions. In matters of creative taste, what does the general population even know? Mere mortals can only blurt a few cringe-inducing questions such as “what filter do you apply for your photos,” while we, the gods, create art and magical composites! 

Let’s descend back to earth. Clients are, some would argue, unfortunately, part of the equation for most creatives. Let us consider a classic photography client. You’ve delivered the photos after carefully curating and then transforming the photos into the end product. They view the photos, send you an email telling you how happy they are with the photos, ask you politely if there's another version of photo number 43 and also if there are more images beyond the 13,000 odd photos that you’ve already delivered. You respond saying something to the tune of: “thank you for the compliment! No, unfortunately, that’s the only version of that photo. You might as well ask for my kidneys while you’re at it!” At this point, it’s the end of the story for most clients: they accept your response and go away singing your tall praises on Instagram. Mostly. 

Now, let me gently move your attention to video clients. Firstly, there are literally a million things that can go wrong with video: the recording quality of the sound, Final Cut pro crashing, again and again, a vast difference in footage from different cameras and no drone footage because your drone decided to fly away into the Pacific ocean! I can, very easily, go on. And then comes the kicker. Even a single shot that the client does not like in the final video/highlight/ad, can determine how they feel about the entire final product. With photos, if there are a few photos in the bunch that the client does not particularly like, they will simply not use those photos or discard them. Not with video. 

You will have to change the edit to remove the shots that the client does not like, potentially completely changing the edit and creating a mountain of re-work. Even worse, if the client thinks that the music you selected or they themselves selected for the video doesn’t “go with the feel of the video”, you start again from scratch. Of course, you can employ checkpoints and processes to minimize such incidents. However, it’s easy to see that the process for achieving “client satisfaction” is different and arguably, more difficult for video compared to photography (for a photographer). 

Predictable Profitability

Videography can be a very profitable service, “can” being the key operative word there. Why am I casting a shadow of suspicion? Let’s have a look. If you are providing video to businesses where you can charge by the hour or you can charge by the project with a regularly updated buffer (in case of re-work), then you’re on good land with predictable profits from your services. However, if your model is such where you need to provide a fixed quote based on an estimation of work before the project begins, then videography can become very slippery very quickly. Prime examples are videos created for small businesses and wedding clients. 

As discussed in the preceding point, if clients are not satisfied with the end result, often, it can result in a lot of re-editing and even re-shooting in some cases. And in such cases, the re-work can eat into your profits very quickly. Now, you may argue that this can happen in photography as well. Yes, it can and does happen. However, for our studio and a few more colleagues that I spoke to, it happened more often with video compared to photography, and that meant that predictable profitability of video remained lower than photography projects. 

Moreover, if you’re in the business of shooting wedding photos, there are various ways in which you can increase your profit from a single client, namely, prints, frames, albums, etc. On the other hand, as wedding videos have increasingly moved into the digital space, there aren’t that many product-based add-ons available. In summary, if you’re keen on driving that proverbial Lamborghini sometime in the future, you may want to think twice about wedding videography.  

The Dark Side

I must concede to the videographers one point: they do have it bigger in life. You know, they require bigger hard drives, a bigger stash of cards, bigger lights, bigger batteries, and not to mention the bigger boot space for their bigger tripods, all of this leading to bigger bills, I’m sure. Or at least that’s how I like to imagine. 

If you’re a videographer, please don’t get too offended. Save some for the next time! I still have a lot of respect for the job you do, so much so that I'm warning photographers that they can't just "make the jump" to video and expect instant success.

Have you tried offering video? What has been your experience in the context of profitability and customer satisfaction? Is it harder, easier, or no different? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and save your beleaguered colleagues from going to the dark side!

Lead image by Jon Flobrant via Unsplash

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8 Comments

Julian Ray's picture

In this day and age of "I specialize in everything" your article is welcome look at some of the realities of doing it all. Both this one and the first on are a must read for anyone looking at expanding into video. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Nesh.

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

I found easier for a camera operator to move to the picture world than the opposite, especially about camera technical knowledge.

But in any case, providing both services with only one camera body, is quite a challenge as so many technical parameters differ from both assignment.

user-165452's picture

It seems like most people think they can do everything so easily these days. Time, patience and the process of learning the craft, is what is needed in the long run. Learn the history, why things are done they way they are, maybe through learning about cinematography you may improve your photography.

I did paid video twice. Once as an experiment, second - as a last minute courtesy to my client who did not prepare well and understood that they need video, but can't accredit anyone to the event as registration was closed.

I enjoyed the shooting process, flying around with gimbal is always fun :) Audio was major issue as I had no dedicated microphone, but I needed it for 3 seconds only. The rest was video with background music.

I hated clip editing, but, well... I'm neither a big fan of photo editing... :)

They all needed just 1 minute clip, so it was easy to get enough footage for cohesive and dynamic story.

Alexander Gurman's picture

the more services you offer the better you are on the scale, we offer also makeup and hair style and photobooth in addition to photo and video and it helps as a bulk deal, knowledge from one space can be apply in the other, like pictures from photo camera we also use in video production like many others. expenses should not dictate the price. clients wants you for the value provided and expences are secondary

Rick Foy's picture

When I meet some people in this profession and I look at their work; I always see the talent of many but master of none. I am first a videographer & 2nd a photographer and I've worked in television all my life. Even though technology has improved so much so fast. I think the art of is slowly dying. It seems all you have to do is have your frame in focus (usually auto focus at that) I shoot manual. I will always use the best person with the best skill set to get the best final results because it will be my reputation at stake.

There will always be more photos than videos on Unsplash, so video is definitely something every pro photographer should try. Just for the fact that it requires more « everything », so maybe less people will be tempted to offer for free.

Michael Tree's picture

I have only just started to offer video as a separate package to my photography packages, and I'm getting extra bookings now - although I don't shoot video myself I found a freelancer who worked for a major video company. - For some reason out there brides have a perception that you must offer it under one brand because its cheaper and that the photographer and video photographers will work well together - i don't always agree with that, because we are both professionals and want to offer a professional product and I always consider the videographer - I have seen a rapid decline in wedding work in the last two years albeit due to the poor economy in SA, the saturated market of wedding photographers etc - I often receive request from brides asking if I also offer video and now that I do, I'm getting more bookings - I also sent out a general email to all my existing clients letting them know I know offer video - most came back to me and said if they had known that they would have rather booked video with me than another company - About 30% of my clients who hadn't considered video also booked video with me - It seems the way to go.