From “Kellie & Jesse” by Samantha Milner
The market for wedding videos has undergone a substantial transformation in the past 10 years since the introduction of DSLRs that could record video. Coupled with this media industry change, the technological innovations that have made it possible to stream video content for easy internet viewing and sharing on social networks has been an added game changer, particularly in a market segment heavily devoted to a youth demographic.
“We’re all familiar with statistics, such as YouTube is the world’s second-biggest search engine,” says Rachel Jo Silver, founder and CEO of the media company Love Stories TV. “Four out of five millennials search for a video on a product before they purchase it,” she explains.
“And that product could be a wedding dress, a wedding venue, a wedding florist or a wedding videographer. That’s how millennials and Gen X consumers think: They think [of] video first.” Silver says when it comes to weddings, they’re going to continue to consider videos not just as something that’s nice to have, “but as an essential part of their wedding.”
Cornering The Market For Wedding Films
Silver founded Love Stories TV in 2016 with a mission to build the first and only library of real wedding videos. She happened upon the idea after declining to hire a wedding videographer for her own wedding, and subsequently being surprised with a flash mob dance performance by the guests at her reception, an event that was only recorded by snippets of amateur cell phone video.
“That moment and the rest of the wedding were totally perfect and unforgettable. At least, that’s what I initially thought,” Silver recounts on the Love Stories TV website. “Immediately after, I began to regret not having hired a videographer. Not only because of the flash mob, but because I couldn’t remember the speeches, or our vows, or what the officiant said, or how Justin and I looked when we walked down the aisle. Photos can’t capture these things; only video can.”
Since its founding, Love Stories TV has amassed a collection of tens of thousands of professionally produced films, telling authentic stories of individual couples and their unique wedding days, which as a whole cover every wedding type, destination and demographic imaginable.
The lovestoriestv.com website functions as an aggregator of sorts, offering up a searchable database of these short films, freely available to the general public. Content is submitted primarily by filmmakers, who benefit from the visibility in marketing their services.
“Filmmakers are the foundation of our business,” says Silver. “If filmmakers don’t feel that they’re booking more weddings, getting more leads, getting value out of the site, then we can’t provide for our couples and our brand sponsors. So, it’s extremely important that they’re happy.”
The Evolution Of The Wedding Video
To truly understand the current market for wedding videos, it’s helpful to look back at the evolution of style and substance within this realm of the marketplace.
According to Silver, weddings of a certain budget always included a video in the wedding package, but it wasn’t something that was watched much. This type of video was generally a chronological recording, shot from a single vantage point, which is totally distinct from the emotion-filled, narrative style of wedding filmmaking produced now.
In contrast, “Couples seeking to book a wedding video today want it to tell a story, they want it to be cinematic,” Silver notes. “They want the most emotional moments captured first and highlighted. That’s something quite different than just documenting.”
Contemporary wedding films have more in common with cinematography than video capture, which led Silver to use the former term for her contributor base when launching her company. Yet she quickly realized that, in addition to the title cinematographer being lost on consumers, it was not beneficial for SEO in online searches, a crucial part of Love Story TV’s mission to help people book more weddings. “Brides and grooms tend to use the term videographers,” notes Silver, “which I don’t find to be the best description. I think it unintentionally decreases the equity in their work.”
This terminology divide resulted in Silver coming to a compromise of sorts. “When we’re talking to filmmakers, we use that term, because I think it makes our contributors feel more respected. But when we’re talking to couples, we just say videographers because that’s the term they commonly understand,” she says.
Partnerships Within The Wedding Niche
While videography has greatly evolved as an art form and continues to surge in popularity within the wedding marketplace, Silver finds that it’s rare for filmmakers in this niche to have started out shooting stills. “Most current wedding videographers were filmmakers first,” she notes.
A common scenario she’s observed is the trajectory of someone who started out shooting motion but didn’t initially plan to shoot weddings. “Maybe they couldn’t get commercial work at first,” Silver explains, “so they started shooting weddings and then found that they loved the industry. Or they wanted to shoot corporate, but they needed real work first, and weddings were easier to get. Then they realized, ‘Oh, I actually really like doing this,’” she points out. “That’s something we hear a lot.”
When it comes to still photography, however, Silver has noticed two recent trends. “Increasingly, photographers either want to learn to shoot video, or, more likely, they’re interested to partner with a videographer they work well with.”
She encourages this type of proactive business arrangement when speaking with filmmakers, suggesting a referral system among colleagues who have a good rapport. “It doesn’t have to be a sneaky, kickback type thing, it can be a totally reasonable, healthy arrangement,” she says, recommending that both parties refer each other to book more business.
For filmmakers just getting started, she proposes offering a small commission for referrals, noting, “A photographer won’t agree to a commission if they think it will have a negative impact; they’ll only refer you if they believe you do good work.”
Additional advice she gives anyone who’s booked to shoot a wedding with someone they’ve never met is to ask the wedding couple for the email contacts of the full vendor list. “If you can’t get that information from the couple, go look it up,” she advises, suggesting, “Call the photographer, introduce yourself, and say, ‘We’ve never worked together before, so I just want to get a sense of your working style and your schedule and the shots you want to get.’”
By neglecting this type of advance communication, you risk not being fully prepared on the day of the shoot.
Equitable Relationships And Shifting Trends
The topic of photographer/filmmaker partnerships sheds light on the fact that relationships between these two types of wedding vendors haven’t always been the smoothest. “On site, at the wedding, things can get really tricky,” Silver admits.
Although a wedding planner might run the show at a big-budget wedding, she points out that, “At most weddings, the photographer ends up owning the timeline. They need to capture everything, from early preparations through the reception. So things start to revolve around them, and they’ve gotten used to that.”
Another challenge to filmmaker/photographer relationships is that, “Historically speaking, a wedding photographer earns more than a filmmaker and is booked earlier in the planning process.” According to Silver, on average, filmmakers earn about two-thirds of a photographer’s rate. She points out, “While the shooting time is the same, the editing time is longer, so they make less money overall, and the hourly rate comes out to be much lower.”
Over the past few years, she has leveraged her company’s broad reach and data-mining capabilities to help bring awareness to these inequities, gathering real-world statistics through close communication with her filmmaker base. And recently, Love Stories TV launched a filmmaker survey that has reinforced anecdotal evidence to show these historical trends are slowly changing.
While only preliminary data was available at press time, 50 percent of respondents to this new survey reported being hired before the photographer for five or more weddings, and 39 percent were hired first for two to five weddings, a positive finding for videographers that Silver had previously underestimated.
This recent data is backed up by statistics from the wedding registry vendor Zola. “They published a big survey of wedding couples in 2018,” says Silver, “finding that the biggest regret couples had about their wedding was not hiring a videographer. This is an extremely powerful statistic,” she adds. “And it reveals two things: One, there’s still room for wedding films to grow in the industry. Two, although not everybody is hiring a filmmaker today, it’s the No. 1 regret of the people who don’t.”
It’s All About Social Networks
In the past few years, Silver has become a popular industry speaker, focusing on the importance of social media within the wedding market.
She’s constantly urging filmmakers to post their videos to social media and to tag all the people and locations involved. “Then make them aware of it by email or Instagram DM because you’ve just made a commercial they’ll want to share,” Silver explains. “Weddings are a very unique category where the sharing is built in.”
This facility for tagging venues and vendors who worked on a wedding, and the widespread sharing of such artfully showcased products among both industry professionals and prospective brides and grooms, is the very premise of Love Stories TV’s business model. “That’s how you get discovered on our platform,” Silver explains.
Yet, when it comes to understanding all the nuances involved in this type of marketing effort, Silver notes, “Filmmakers and other types of wedding vendors get into their chosen work because they’re artists, not because they’re a marketer. So, tasks like social networking have to be learned.”
For example, horizontal videos don’t perform as well on social media, notes Silver. “So, shooting for a vertical crop is important.” Another thing to consider is the fact that you need to grab people’s attention in the first second. The little teaser that’s destined for social sites needs to be tailored to that.
Given the success of Love Stories TV’s basic mission to help filmmakers and other wedding vendors freely market their services, in 2018 the company boosted its marketing muscle by rolling out a dual-level subscription program called the Love Club: Members receive increased visibility for a monthly fee ($75 or $125) through top placement on the site’s navigation bar and regular promotions or feature placements on the website and social channels.
As the interest in wedding films grows, Silver asserts, “We think what we’re doing really helps wedding videographers and other vendors to create social content to market their businesses, and this gives them a leg up in a competitive marketplace.”
How long have you been in business?
How long have you been shooting weddings?
I’ve been shooting weddings for five years; however, I didn’t go full-time until three years ago.
Where are you based and what percentage of your business is local/regional vs. destination-oriented?
I’m based out of San Diego. Around 90 percent of my business is local or regional.
Have you always worked with video and film, or did you ever shoot still images?
I started out with an interest in photography when I took a few classes in college, and from there I gravitated towards video. I love the ability to capture motion in real time. In my eyes, it’s more powerful than photography.
What three words best describe your shooting style?
Playful, dreamy, candid.
What gear do you use?
Camera/Lenses: Panasonic GH5, Sony 18-35mm, Panasonic 12-35mm, Panasonic 42.5mm, Panasonic 35-100mm.
Lens Adapter: Metabones Speed Booster.
Lighting: Genaray LED-6500T on-camera light.
Stabilization: Manfrotto tripod for one angle during the ceremony and occasionally a Manfrotto monopod, otherwise, handheld.
Audio: Tascam DR-40X, Tascam DR-10L.
Nick & Jenn Miller, Wild Oak Films
How long have you been in business? We’ve been in business and shooting weddings as a husband-and-wife team since 2012 and our full-time job since the summer of 2017.
Where are you based and how much of your business is local/regional vs. destination-oriented?
We’re based in Wichita, Kansas, with 75 percent of our weddings being local (Kansas). We travel out of state for five to seven weddings a year.
Have you always worked with video and film, or did/do you also shoot still images?
I’ve always done video. Previously, Jenn did photography, but after she got pregnant with our second child, she decided to step away from photo and join me in the video world full time.
What three words best describe your shooting style?
Raw, emotional, authentic.
What gear do you use?
Camera/Lenses: Canon EOS C100 Mark II and 35L, 50L and two 70-200L lenses (one is a version ii, one is a version iii).
Lighting: Kinotehnik Practilite 602s (they’re the best for reception lighting).
Stabilization: DJI Ronin-S, Manfrotto tripods, monopods and light stands.
Audio: Tascam DR-10Ls lav mics and Countryman B3 Omni Lavalier mics for our grooms and brides.