8 Money-Making Filmmaking Add-Ons and Upsells

by Jessica Gordon and Libby Peterson

May 13, 2014

1. The Stop-Motion Video
Sophie Bayly and Simon Moore began their photography business Bayly & Moore in 2009 and shot their first stop-motion video with Canon 5Ds at a friend’s wedding that year; the duo decided at the time that rather than upgrading their gear to make films, they would opt for photo-based stop-motion videos. These days, around 60 percent of Bayly & Moore’s clientele asks for stop-motion videos, which take around 40 hours to make (excluding finding the right soundtrack) and for which they charge about $2,000. 

© Bayly & Moore

Having shot around 130 stop-motion videos thus far, Bayly & Moore are now marketing them as engagement shoots-only, which could possibly be used for save-the-dates and wedding invitations. “We never wanted to just be ‘going through the motions’ of making a film, because it’s such an involved process,” Moore says, adding that the wedding day stop-motions are particularly demanding. “Having said that, we’re suckers for wonderful weddings, and we’re constantly being talked into making stop-motion films by couples who’ll tell us what they’re planning for their wedding day and then say, ‘Is there any chance we could convince you to possibly consider doing one more stop-mo—,’ and we’re always like, ‘Yes! Let’s do it!’ ”

2. Surprise Wedding Proposals On Film
Last month, we highlighted a still photographer documenting surprise marriage proposals, but the service is equally viable for film. James Ambler, creative director and owner of Paparazzi Proposals has been capturing down-on-one-knee surprises since 2012, and while his company’s bread and butter is in still photography, he does offer video as an option. While still photography goes for $495-575 for a standard package, video packages start at $1,400 because of the extra manpower and time spent editing (Paparazzi Proposals has contracted photographers in every major city in the U.S.). But that’s not to say it can’t be done. 

© Paparazzi Proposals

“When I first started out, I’d stick a camera body on a tripod and just let it run while I was shooting stills,” Ambler says. “That’s a good and easy way to start incorporating video into [proposal photography], just putting some movement into it and dropping in some pictures [in the final edit]. It takes about half a day to put it together nicely.”

3. The Save-the-Date Video
Whether filmed to announce an engagement to loved ones or serve as an eco-friendly alternative to wedding invitations, save-the-date videos are catching fire. NST Pictures began offering these films as soon as the wedding videography company expanded its business from Japan to the U.S. in 2011. Save-the-date films may be a package add-on, but they also act as unique time-capsules, says Lindsay Quinn of NST Pictures. “Save-the-dates end up being fun little keepsakes that preserve the excitement of young love and engagement,” she says. 


© NST Pictures

Aside from the innate purposes of save-the-date videos, Quinn says they’re a useful way to let the bride- and groom-to-be get comfortable in front of the camera before the big day. “It’s a great way to test out our service without a huge commitment,” she says. “A pre-wedding shoot cancels out any doubt they may have about our services or products. These little films are a cinch to share; Quinn says couples can easily upload their save-the-dates to their websites and social media channels—plus, she finds that it’s best to “advertise them heavily during engagement season and the few months after. The virality brings us new clients all the time.”

4. The Wedding Music Video
Forget the highlights reel of cliché toasts and hard-to-hear audio on a couple’s big day. Films like “Louis + Jeanna” by Switzerfilm (the 2014 WPPI Grand Filmmaking Winner) is set to a fun, catchy song (“Count on Me” by Mat Kearney), and each poignant moment corresponds to a different beat of the music. It’s much more effective and watchable than an hours-long, traditional wedding video, and as Switzerfilm’s Joe Switzer says, the song choice is paramount. “Use a song that fits the couple,” he says. “You have different cultures, venues and events, so match it up. We use Song Freedom for all our music because you don’t want to be limited on just using indie music. Artists we like right now are Mat Kearney, OneRepublic, Zerbin and The Afters.” 

© Switzerfilm

The other attractive quality about music videos? They’re 4 minutes or less. “The average play on YouTube is about 3 minutes, 30 seconds,” Switzer says. “You can still film all the wedding events, but by keeping the video short and sweet, your clients will actually be likely to share it on social media and other people might even watch it. Don’t overthink it; keep it simple.”

5. The Cinemagraph
Hybrid photography walks an intriguing tightrope between still photography and motion, and its proponents argue that incorporating this medium into a photo or video business is practically necessary to keep up with the times (see “Staying Animated,” Rangefinder, April 2014). A “cinemagraph” can present motion in a constantly looping image or highlight a focal point of a photo by setting it in motion. Since its launch this year, the popularity of Flixel’s Cinemagraph Pro for Mac has skyrocketed, with photographers discovering how efficiently hybrid images can be made. “Photographers can now create cinemagraph imagery in a simple, elegant fashion and in a short amount of time, providing a new product to offer their clients with a low cost and a high margin profit,” says Flixel co-founder and CMO Mark Homza. 

© Tracy Lee

Exploring this genre is Las Vegas-based photographer Tracy Lee, who finds cinemagraphs a little more eye-catching than still photos. “While on average, people may just glance over a photo and move on, when they see a cinemagraph, they stop, look at the entire image and want to see more,” she says. Lee’s been showing her cinemagraphs to clients so they can see what’s possible in marketing their businesses, “and the response is always positive,” she says. “It often causes them to think of reasons to try and use a cinemagraph in their marketing, especially when you can insert the cinemagraphs into your social media and websites so easily.”

6. The Slow-Motion Video
We covered Slow-Motion Photo Booths in our January 2014 issue, and five months later, we’re happy to report the trend is still hot; delivering a danceable slow-motion video is the quickest way to a happy client. Minneapolis-based The Studio MPLS Photo Booth rents booths to about 450 events per year and began incorporating slow motion in September 2013. “In the past six months we have done over 30 [slow-motion] gigs in 18 different cities,” says MPLS director of sales and marketing Chris Meyer. “We get requests daily for our services for weddings and corporate events all over the U.S.” 

© The Studio MPLS

With a team of editors that completes the studio’s videos within four to five business days after the event, its slow-motion packages range from $1,499 to $4,899. “We typically find our wedding clients to be in the $2,200-$2,800 range,” says Meyer. While an outside photo booth company like The Studio MPLS is certainly a consideration, Meyer’s suggestion for photographers who want to DIY their slow-mo offerings is to “partner with a videographer (someone who may have the equipment already and know the editing) and to work together to provide the service to brides.”

7. The Same-Day Edit Video
For photographers and videographers looking to be kept on their toes, the challenge of a same-day edit video might be the answer. As the name suggests, this video is shot and edited the day of the wedding and then shown at the reception later that afternoon or evening. Kevin Shahinian’s videography company Pacific Pictures provides this option for clients, as well as the Philippines-based company redsheep Cinema, which has about 90 percent of its clients opting for a same-day edit. The key, says Shahinian, is bringing on an editor who can put the video together as footage is being shot; Shahinian hires someone who can post up near the wedding venue while he shoots footage and runs it over periodically. 

© redsheep Cinema

Redsheep’s founder and creative director, Guj Tungpalan, says same-day edit videos have a special wow factor that serves as a great marketing tool online as well as a way to bring everything together for the couple. “I mean, just imagine everything unfold again at the end of your wedding,” Tungpalan says, “all those moments, big and small, that made up the day.” Shahinian admits that same-day edits are “definitely a creative challenge, but there’s a demand for them. Plus, it’s a great way to wow the bride and groom immediately, instead of having to wait weeks or months to see their video.”

8. Behind-The-Scenes Family and Baby Sessions
As long as couples keep procreating, children and baby photographers will always have business. But what about upping the portrait ante with great memories of how kids move, yawn and even cry? Ana Brandt began offering behind-the-scenes films of her newborns portrait sessions as teaching tools for other photographers. But after posting them on her YouTube channel, clients began inquiring about how to add a session video to their portrait packages. “Right now, I’m marketing these videos to my high-end and celebrity clients as a complimentary add-on,” explains Brandt, who recently shot just such a family session with Real Housewives of Orange County’s Heather Dubrow. “If a client is requesting it, it’s about a $300 charge added to my portrait fee. Like any new product, right now it’s not a money-maker. It’s a break-even, complimentary offer. The money comes in the advertising and promotion and drawing in new clients.” As for process, Brandt brings a videographer along, whom she pays by the hour; he does a rough cut of the video (typically two hours for every hour of footage), and sends it to Brandt for review. Videos are uploaded on social media unless privacy is requested, as well as delivered on a logo’d USB with photo cover (“We spend the $50 for a nice USB case”). 

© Aaron Finkle

In response to the unexpected demand, Brandt launched a new YouTube channel showing more tightly edited videos aimed specifically at her clients. “Some of my older clients are saying ‘Gosh, I wish you would have done this a couple years ago!’ ” she says. “So I’m building a new product catalogue now, and video add-ons will definitely be a part of it. Within six months, it should really make a positive impact on our revenue.” Brandt is passionate about photographers taking the risk and adding video to their offerings. “You can’t say ‘I can’t afford a videographer,’ ” she says. “My first videographers were interns four years ago. Over the years, I was able to fine-tune [my video offerings], and take a portion of my salary and pay my videographer. That money is going to come back tenfold.”

See this story in the digital edition.

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