How to Film Your Own Promo Video with Christine Yodsukar
Back in 2012, we produced our first promo video after attending a conference and seeing that other “rock star” studios had created them. The immediate results after we released that video on our website and Facebook were astounding. We went from getting inquiries that wanted to know if we had ever shot in a dark reception to inquiries saying they knew we were the wedding photographers for them—and what could they do to book us right away? The stark contrast between inquiries before and after releasing our promo video was jaw-dropping. We were amazed that one video had the power to change our inquiry and booking rates. Since then, we’ve seen the same thing happen for other studios when they release their promo video as well. (See that first promo video at vimeo.com/40055225.)
You always have the option to hire a professional videography team to produce your promo video from end to end. A good team will create a pretty video for you, but a great team will ask you the right questions, build ideas for you and create something that builds a relationship between you and your ideal customer. Today, you are going to become your own great video team that will create a piece of marketing magic for your studio.
There are two main components to producing an effective promo video for your photography business. You’ll want to think about story and technique. Both are extremely important on their own, but together they become much more powerful.
The story of your promo video is the part that makes your prospective clients feel something when they watch it. It creates an emotional bond between you and them—before they’ve even met you.
The first thing you want to do is figure out that one thing that makes you different from the other photography studios your prospective clients are looking at. Use those differences to highlight your personality. In our first promo video, we made it clear that we were a husband and wife photo and cinema duo. At that time in our area, we were the only ones who could say that. Other studios were either photo or cinema, and most spouses involved in the business were second shooters rather than full-blown leads like Rich and myself. We knew that our clients loved this about us, but it was only after working with us at their wedding that they really got it. By highlighting that aspect of our operation in our video, couples understood it from the get-go. It helped them make the decision.
The next piece to creating the story for your promo video lies in your “why.” Figure out your why, and feature that in your video. Make your why your overall theme of the video, and you will notice that clients come to you already emotionally attached. Our relationship makes us excited about celebrating other people’s relationships. Our why was: “We love capturing love and we are passionate about people being passionate.” In the video, we talked about our relationship, how we met and what we love about one another. It drove home the fact that this is the reason our couples stories mean the world to us. Not only did it give prospective couples an intimate look at who Rich and I were at the time, but it also made them think about what was special to them about their relationship. When couples filled out the contact form on our website, they included detailed stories about their relationship and how it coincided with ours. They felt close to us because we shared our why. That inspired them to share their own why for getting married.
Imagine an avatar for your ideal client and add that avatar’s characteristics to the video to attract them. In other words, what gets your client excited? How can you include it in your video? Our promo video opens with a silly introduction of Rich and myself. We detail Rich’s mad love for Chipotle burritos, and we see that I may have an unhealthy obsession with platforms and stilettos. Aside from giving more information about who we were as people then, we wanted to call out characteristics of our ideal client so anyone watching the video would immediately know if they were our people. Our ideal couple had at least one person who was a foodie and at least one person who shared my shoe obsession. We even had one client who had a personal connection to Chipotle and kept Rich supplied with free burritos for years.
One other important characteristic of our client avatar that we included was dogs. Dog people love dog people, and we made that clear in the video. Not surprisingly, many of our inquiry forms that came in talked about dogs. Calling out those avatar characteristics works.
Now that we have the story basics down, let’s get technical. Video is a much different beast than photography. Although the transition may seem like an easy one, video has so many more moving parts. Here are the basics.
Set your camera to 24 frames per second. If you think of a movie like a flipbook, the number of pages you have in the book is equal to the number of frames you have in a second. Why 24 frames per second? It has become the industry standard to achieve that “cinematic” look. Next, set your shutter speed to 1/50th of a second. This also helps you achieve the cinematic look. If your shutter speed is faster than that, you can experience a flicker from any lights other than the sun as well as a completely different feel when watching it.
You might want to think about adding ND filters if you want your aperture to be wide open while filming. The filters darken the exposure, allowing you to use a shallow depth of field. If you want a deeper depth of field, ND filters may not be necessary.
Put your camera on a tripod. You are going to be filming yourself just like we did when we made our promo video in 2012, and you can’t be both behind the camera and in front of it at the same time. A tripod will be your best friend. One of the key tools in video production is a solid tripod with a fluid head. A fluid head gives you smooth tilt and pan movements versus a normal ball head, which locks a camera in place. To automate a tilt up/down movement in your video, keep your camera slightly off balance on your fluid head so that when you let go of it, the camera tilts smoothly up or down, depending on what you’re going for. Once you’ve got your camera set, run into frame and perform your action while your fluid head takes care of the camera movement.
Another way to add camera movement into your video if you need to film by yourself is by placing a slider unevenly so that when you let go of the camera, gravity slowly pulls your camera in the opposite direction. This adds additional production value into your video, and also keeps your audience completely oblivious to the fact that you shot it by yourself.
Camera-movement plugins offer another way to add additional movement into your scenes in post-production. After you’ve shot your scenes, if they seem too static, adding a simple camera-movement plugin to your clips will give your video a bit more life and make it look like you had a camera crew.
Plan your promo video with story and technique in mind. Don’t just jump into it without this important pre-production phase. This could mark a huge shift in your career. Make it count.