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It seems nowadays everyone is a photographer and everyone can shoot and edit video.  That doesn’t mean that the end result will look just like the cover of your favorite magazine or movie you saw on tv last night.  Even with the low cost and ease of getting a semi-professional camera and lights, for most people they just have not put in the time to learn what needs to be done to make a professional looking picture or video.  Even for people who have been filming for a couple years and come up with the money to buy the most expensive camera and lights, they still don’t make the mark to repeatedly create a compelling and professional scene for filming. 

Time spent learning the tools of the trade, light and color theory and also just doing it thousands of times is the determining factor in this equation as I will show you now.  It doesn’t matter how “nice” your equipment is.  A video professional can use the absolute worst equipment and still get superior results, which is what you are paying for when you hire a video professional.  You are paying for the years of training and not just their fancy new camera. Let me show you what I mean…

Last week I went on vacation to see my friend Dave in Indiana far far away from all my camera gear and lights. While I was there he asked me if I could help him set up a professional photo studio so he could take pictures of his old typewriters he was collecting.  Without hesitation I said, “Yes! And I can do it for under $100 dollars”.  Dave laughed because he thought I was joking.  He assumed he would be a couple thousand dollars in before he could get anything worthy of a nice photo.  That of course was not the case at all.

We went to Home Depot and a hobby shop and bought:

4 clamp lights

4 300 watt cfl bulbs

1 small roll of white paper

300 watt cfl from Home Depot

4 lights and some white paper

Seems so simple right? Anyone can hang 4 lights up! The difference, as a video pro, I have tested every single light in Home Depot so I knew exactly which light to get to achieve this specific goal and how many I needed to have the correct amount of light. I also knew where to place the lights to make sure there was not an awkward shadow or overexposure. 

Final Picture on White Background

I know what you are thinking, “What about the camera? You probably used some amazing camera and lens right?”.  Wrong. I did not have my gear with me.  We were using an old $200 camera they bought years ago.  A Canon T1i. This is a great example of how knowledge trumped any 4k camera or any other camera buzz word that happens to be floating around the industry at the moment. And we did this without a single piece of professional equipment that I use on a daily basis.

Cheap $200 camera

Although the typewriter on the white background looks great, I wanted to take one more picture that was a bit more stylized.  So I turned off all the lights but one and cut the bottom off of a plastic beef jerky container that I just happened to buy from a gas station a few days earlier. The beef jerky container focused the light in to a spotlight and created an amazing picture that is completely different from the first picture on the white background.  It didn’t take long to do and I just knew it would work. I didn’t have to play with the lights a bunch and take up a bunch of time testing ideas, like someone with less experience would have to do (aka the guy that is a ton cheaper than all the other video companies you called). 

Beef Jerky Container from Love’s Gas Station

Covering light with container to make spotlight

Final Picture Using Beef Jerky Spotlight

Now take this in to a real world scenario. If you called in a video professional to shoot some interviews or a short commercial wouldn’t you rather them just ‘get to work’?  Or is it more important that you hire the cheapest person you can find even if it means they take forever to set up and spend time tweaking and adjusting the entire time because it doesn’t look quite right.  AND THEN at the end, it still just doesn’t look good!

We battle this a lot in the video production industry. People call our office and want the nice looking videos we have on our homepage, but then they ask us to take off all the things on the invoice that they don’t believe is important (because they don’t want to spend the money).  I can’t tell you how many times people have literally asked for us to replicate a video we made, but then asked us to NOT bring our lights or some other piece of equipment so they could save money.  Well…. how am I supposed to work without my gear? Doesn’t seem quite right does it?

In the end the choice is up to you whether you are willing to pay a professional to get you guaranteed results OR if price is the most important factor and you decide to just go with the cheapest person you can find (even if that means your video may turn out with some very undesirable results).  I really do understand either way. Sometimes you ‘just need a video guy’ and other times you need a video pro.  Not everything needs to be a super high end video production, but when you do want something that looks great we would love to have the opportunity to make something special for you.

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