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5 Lessons I Learned As A Paid Videographer

The first lesson I learned from my boss happened on the day he offered me the opportunity to work for him. Part of our agreement was that I would purchase a better camera and laptop to put out better quality and to speed up my edit times. I remember asking him, “So that means my job is secure, right?” Knowing exactly where I was going, he took off his glasses and looked me dead in the eye, “Everything in life is risk, Jacob. I didn’t see a real return on investment for about two years when I started this company, and it might not be here tomorrow. You have to take risks!” Long story short, I did a ton of research and bought both pieces of equipment on credit. Thankfully both have paid themselves off exponentially.

The second lesson I learned was to not be a perfectionist. Truthfully, this is a lesson I struggle with on a daily basis. As a storyteller, I want to show up to a shoot and capture the essence of our message for the respective brand. That means, I put a lot of thought and soul in to extracting the core message in order to help my audience understand why we are making a video in the first place. By the time I get home, I’ve got enough footage and b-roll to edit; sometimes, three to five times what our client is paying for. I’ve learned that this is a great approach; however, how I edit through that footage is what really counts. If you have edited video before, you know it is incredibly easy to turn a two-hour project in to a 12-hour project. It took me about two to three weeks of increasing demands from my boss and our clients to realize I was falling behind and had to develop a quicker eye for storytelling and editing. In short, a lot of what I am talking about can only be learned through experience and repetition. However, I can say that I learned to save a lot of time by preparing questions and general storyboards to help me better guide the shoot and post production process. 

The third lesson I learned was to stay in my own lane. As often as people attempt to discuss their business with me and even ask for advice, I am just the videographer. My job is to capture the story and make it digestible for the target audience, not to advise clients on business practice. The bright side of staying in my own lane is that it helps me block out 100% of the jargon that goes on outside of filming and editing, which in turn helps me to get stories out more quickly. In the end, quicker stories make for happy clients.

Lesson number four was a powerful one, and can be applied to almost anyone, no matter what industry you are in. To be specific, I often have shoots where the “talent” struggles with delivery or the aesthetic isn’t quite up to standard. The list of production failures goes on and on. However, I have found that each failure can be a critical opportunity for growth. Instead of complaining about the circumstances, why not step away from the camera for a minute to lend a hand or help the talent feel more comfortable on camera. Despite what I said for lesson three, I believe we can still step “away from the camera” to in order to help achieve long term production and clientele goals. This type of approach has helped or business to grow significantly when it comes to word of mouth and I like to think this “hands on” approach has a lot to do with it. 

The fifth and final lesson I learned in the first three months working for Active 8 Marketing was the hardest. Sometimes, things just do not work out. No matter how much preparation you put into a shoot and no matter how hard you work on set things can always go wrong. Most recently, one of our clients couldn’t use a particular cut because nobody had noticed, while filming, our talent’s uniform presentation was not correct. As a result, the footage was worthless; or was it? Fortunately, we were able to work with the client to edit a shorter cut by optimizing the b-roll footage and some fancy text graphics with layered sound effects. At the end of the day, speed bumps such as these take a little more time and patience to figure out and work around. My take away, not to let trials such as these stop me from coming up with creative solutions and pushing myself forward.

About the Author

Jacob Centeno is the videographer and self-proclaimed storyteller for Active 8 Marketing. In his off time, Jake enjoys writing and producing fiction films, traveling with his fiance and playing old school games like Ultima Online and D&D. Food is also good.