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How I Made My First $100K with a $750 Camera

January 23, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • Gear doesn’t matter that much

  • As long as your gear fits your needs, you’re all set.

  • What actually matters?

    • Delivering the types of films your clients want.

    • Capturing the important moments, and doing it well.

    • Delivering a specific style that your clients love

    • Make your clients feel valued.

Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 6 of the Level Up Your Wedding Film Business Podcast, and today we are going to be talking about how I made my first $100,000 using a $750 camera as my main camera. And why I still use that camera today.

I’m your host, Taylor Petrinovich, and at the core of this show I want you to feel inspired to take your business to the next level, and I want to give you tools and practical advice to help you along the way. Let’s Level-Up together.

So, you might be looking at the title of this episode and thinking to yourself, “is this girl for real.” (giggle) let me assure you, that yes, I am 100% for real.

The very first wedding I ever shot back in 2017 was with my Canon 80D, and that’s the very same camera I’m using in 2020. That camera is my trusty side kick. I know that camera like the back of my hand. I know where all the buttons and settings are without even looking – most of the time. At this point, it just feels like an extension of myself. 

Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but you know what I mean. I really love that camera.

I also want to just mention: that’s not the only camera I use on a wedding day. During the ceremony, I use 4 cameras. And during the toasts, I run 3 cameras. My 80D is just what I shoot with most – and it’s the main camera I use throughout the day.

In this episode, I’m going to be talking about why I still use that camera, and why the gear that you use doesn’t really matter that much.

Basically, it’s all about the idea of what our clients find valuable. 

Let’s use an example that everyone can relate to. Let’s talk about buying a house.

When you are buying a house, there are several things you are looking for when you make a decision.

You might start off with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the total square footage. Those are just basic requirements. Then, beyond that, you are going to want it to be located in a specific city or area. Third, you are gong to want to make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing, so you think it looks nice. And finally, you want to make sure it meets your needs. Whether that’s having a 3-car garage, a washer and dryer, or a pool. We just want to make sure that the house we buy meets our needs.

On the other hand, here are a few things about a house that you probably don’t care about when you’re making your decision: 1) that the paint used on the exterior Behr premium vs. KILZ, or 2) that the wood used to frame the house was pine vs. cedar. 

You can see from that example that when we make purchases, we focus a lot more on whether something meets our needs or not, and the way it makes us feel. We don’t really care too much about the features and the little details.

You can translate this whole idea into wedding films. What brides and grooms care the most about are these things: 

The first is that you offer the deliverables they are looking for. Whether that’s a highlight film, full ceremony, or a doc edit. They are looking for a specific type of film, and you either check that box or you don’t. If you want to relate that back to the real estate example, that can be compared to the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms in the house. 

Next, they are looking for a specific style. That’s not achieved by which camera you use, that’s achieved through your own artistic abilities and choices. It has very little to do with the camera.

Finally, they are looking to align themself with a specific type of brand and person. Chances are, they want to connect with you and feel comfortable with you. They want to feel like you are a good match for them, and vise versa. And they want to feel valued. Like they matter to you.

You can see how it really doesn’t matter to a client which camera you use, which lenses or lights you use, or what editing software you use. All that matters to them is the actual film they receive, the style of it, and that you’re a good match for them. 

So really, all that matters is that the gear that you use allows you to serve your clients.

Now, with that being said, I will say that there are some minimum standards that are expected by clients at this point. It’s 2020. You definitely aren’t going to get away with shooting in 720p. 1080p is definitely the industry standard at this point as far as weddings go, but that will probably change to 4k within the next couple years. But for now, 1080p is fine.

I also believe that we have entered the fully digital age. Clients expect to receive a digital file of their film. Whether you decide to deliver it to them on a flash drive or have them download their film from a hosting site, they want it delivered digitally. They don’t really want a DVD or BluRay.

That’s pretty much it.

And lucky for me, my trusty old Canon 80D meets those needs. It shoots 1080p at 60 frames per second. And it’s got those amazing Canon colors and dual-pixel autofocus. That’s all I need.

Sure, it’s a crop sensor. But you know what? That 100% doesn’t matter. That’s not one of the things my clients book me for. I’ve never been asked: “so, do you use a full-frame camera?”

Here’s what does matter:

  1. I deliver the types of films that my clients want. I work with them to decide what’s best for them. Whether that’s just a highlight film, or a highlight and a doc. Edit. I deliver what they want.

  2. I capture the moments that matter to them the most, and I do it well. The subject is in focus, and it’s framed well. I know where to be and when.

  3. My clients like my style. When my clients reach out to me the first time, they usually tell me that it was my style that drew them in the most. My style is unique to me, and nobody in my area shoots and edits the way I do. It’s unique, and a certain type of couple is drawn to me. And I’m sure the same could be said about you as well.

  4. I make my couples feel like kings and queens. I make sure to answer their emails really quickly. I buy them coffee when we meet in person before their wedding day. I send them a welcome gift. And on the day of the wedding, I greet them with a huge smile and try my very best to be a calming presence to them on the wedding day. I make them feel confident in choosing me.

Those are the things I care about most. And they are the things my clients care about the most, too. I think that we tend to get way too caught up in the features of our gear: are we using a mirrorless or full-frame camera? Is your lens a F1.2 or F2.8?

I think that we get so wrapped up in the tiny little details that, in the end, don’t matter as much as providing our clients those 4 main things I mentioned: 1) delivering the type of film they want, capturing their moments well, having a style that our clients like, and making your couples feel happy and special. In the end, that’s what’s going to make or break your business.

If you’re looking for ways to provide more value to your clients, or to improve as a filmmaker, buying new gear might seem like the easy solution. But I’m here to tell you that that is not always the case. Your time and money can be better spent in other areas: like investing in education. Investing time in learning and practicing new methods and skills. There are other ways that will actually move the needle in your business.

I’ll admit, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of gear many times. In late 2018 I actually bought a GH5, and really only because that’s the camera that White in Revery uses. I thought that that would be the thing I needed to change the game. That would be what took me to the next level.

Spoiler alert…it didn’t. I used that camera for 1 wedding and hated the way it turned out. It didn’t help me serve my clients better, and it actually sort of changed my style. I didn’t like the results. The camera that I thought would be the end-all be-all ended up being a huge bust. So I reverted back to my Canon 80D, and had an amazing wedding season.

I see sooo many filmmakers on Instagram and Facebook groups going in circles about their gear. What gear to buy, whether they should switch camera systems, wanting to always upgrade to the latest and greatest.

And honestly, if that’s your jam, and if that’s what makes you feel happy, then by all means, go for it. But if you feel like you need to be using a specific camera or a certain ANYTHING just because you see other people doing it too, I want to save you some money and some heartache. 

Because I’m telling you right now, that it isn’t necessary. If your gear is serving you, and it’s allowing you to serve your clients, you don’t need to keep switching around, just because you see other people doing it.

And I’m living proof. I’m charging $5000+ for weddings and I shoot with a camera I bought for $750 on ebay.

And I absolutely love it.

I hope you guys enjoyed this episode! I’d love to connect with you and keep the conversation about gear going. I created a brand new instagram page dedicated to this podcast, and I’d love to connect with you on there, you can find me @thelevelupco

Please subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode. Going forward, I’m going to be posting new episodes every Monday + Thursday.

Please rate and review this podcast wherever you’re listening. My goal is to help as many filmmakers as possible, and leaving a review helps other wedding filmmakers find the podcast.

Thanks for listening.

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I'm Taylor — business coach for creative go-getters. I'm here to help you make your business ROCK.

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