The video took over a year to complete!

As my journey continues on how to shoot video with a DSLR, I feel I’m at the crossroads of stepping it up to the next level. Many of the videos that I create on a weekly basis are usually just a montage of video clips put to music. While that has been a great way for me to get proficient at using all aspects of my camera,  I want to step up my story telling.

About a year ago I contacted 3 local Boulder Colorado photographers and asking them if I could create a video about them and their photography, a “documentary promotional video” but more about what photography means to them. Something when done, they would be proud enough to use as a marketing tool for their web site.

I was looking for someone that was not only comfortable with the idea but excited to do it. After meeting with the photographers I picked Julie Afflerbaugh (her site not yet updated with video), not only is she a good photographer, I thought she had a good story to tell.

Watch the video, and after it’s done I will explain why I did it for free what inspired me to create it.

Total Creative Control

When I sent out the email (see below) I told them I would do it for free. Why free? Because that way I would get total creative control. I have done corporate videos before and while they would start off with some amazing ideas that would be very exciting but by the time you were done you ended up with a very safe video that didn’t tell a story that needed to be told in a way I think to create sales, and a CEO reading off a script.

So if I do it for free what is the point, how do I make money? First off it is to show future clients what type of videos you are capable of making, so if you show only the work that you want to do, you will get that kind of work. Secondly I make some money from my tutorials so I told them that I would do it for free if they gave me the rights to make it in to a tutorial.

Finding the Story

We meet for a couple hours figuring out her story and the visuals to support them. I started by shooting some b roll of some of her photography shoots before we did the actual interview.

I ran across Anton Lorimer’s promo videos he has done for Jasmine Star and was blown away. He created them in such as way were it was not a sale pitch but more of a story about the photographer, a “documentary promo piece” as Jasmine calls it.

I have hired photographers before and didn’t know them before the shoot, in that case you can feel vulnerable in front of the lens, so I thought it would be nice to have a photographer be somewhat venerable on the other side of the lens, that way when client books a session after seeing the promo video they would feel comfortable with the photographer as they might be after 30 minutes with them.

Julie had never really been on camera before so we actually did a practice interview. I thought in the practice interview I would get some awesome stuff that would pull her story together, but I felt a bit panicked afterwards because it was not coming together like Anton’s videos.

I went back to one of Anton’s videos and transcribed it, once I had it on paper I could clearly see how the story was put together. So then I took the best parts of the practice video and then I dug in to my notes and some of the material she had sent me and I created the story for her in the same format as Anton’s transcription.

The next day for the actual interview I presented her with the script of the story I wanted her to tell. Even though I wrote it, it was basically all her words she had used from all the meetings and notes I had taken. I was kind of expecting her to freak out and say I don’t want to use a script someone else has written, but to my surprise she seems so relived that is was all done for her.

After I finished my piece with Julie I sent it over to Anton to see what he thought of it (I made no mention to story telling), and I was so happy when he wrote back and he talked about the storytelling:

Just watched the promo, it was awesome! Julie was great, the cinematography was creative and thought provoking but the storytelling was the best part.

2:44 seconds can feel like a life time when watching a promo but yours seem to fly by and I attribute that to storytelling. I forgot I was watching your video and I was engaged in what Julie was saying (which is the whole point).

Good job man. And if I played a tiny roll in inspiration somewhere then I’m happy about that 🙂

That was cool that he liked the story telling and meant a lot coming from him.

What I Learned

I learned that shooting at f2.8 handheld was exactly the feel that I wanted for the b camera angled camera but what I screwed up on was having the far eye in focus and not the closest one, I fixed that mistake later on in the interview.

I should have done the close up with my APS-C camera and the wide shot with the 5D Mark III.

How Much Would I Charge for a Promo Like This?

Great question. The person to ask is Anton since he does a lot of them. I know it wouldn’t be cheap because I went to many shoots to get the b roll and that took a lot of time. Also crafting the story took some time as well.

Course?

So what course should I make after creating this video? My thought is it would be more of an editing course (using Premiere Pro or even Davinci Resolve) of how I cut together a piece like this. Would that be something you guys would be interested in?

Email I Sent

I am looking to tell a story about a local photographer and I found your website and thought you might be a good person for my project.

Basically what I would like to create is a 3 minute video that is kind of a promotional, but also tells a good story.

I run a website on DSLR video, and this project which I would do for free would provide good material for my site. My site gets over 100k visits a month and my videos are watched 300k a month so you would get some good exposure.

I’m looking for someone that doesn’t mind being vulnerable, and is good in front of a camera. Basically I want to find someone that can tell me what photography means to them and how it makes them feel.

I am offering this to a few others and will pick one that I feel can tell the best story. If this is something not only you would be comfortable with but excited about doing, please let me know and we can meet to see if there is a good match.

If you want to know more about me:

About Dave

And the type of video that I would like to achieve is similar to this one:

http://vimeo.com/20111051

Dave Dugdale

Royalty free music by PremiumBeat.com

Products Used In This Video – Find Prices

Help me make more of these types of videos by purchasing gear from the links posted on my site. It costs you nothing extra, and helps support me to make more videos.

5D Mark3
5D Mark III

66 comments

  • How do you feel about allowing the talent providing their proper logo/color scheme for some of the overall ‘theme’ of the video? It seems like they would be more likely to utilize the footage on their own branded website if they would be able to have control over such a thing.

    I know with independently shot news footage from folks like Jonah Kessel, he often has a different edit/branding on his own blog compared to what is used by NYT or Guardian. Not sure if this would be a service that would be performed by the creator, or by the talent.

    Thoughts?

  • Hey Dave! Awesome video as always!

    I think the idea of creating a course on editing of how you cut together a piece like this from using Premiere Pro to Davinci Resolve like a walkthrough would be HUGE 🙂
    I would be really curious on the Resolve part!

    Thanks so much for your awesome videos!
    Cheers from Portugal!
    João Moreno

  • I am with Anton, I enjoyed the story and it came a cross as she was authentic and I could relate to her as a person. Thank you for sharing this inside of thing with us.

    As far as the kind of course I would like to see, my biggest challenge is workflow and editing.

  • Great video, Dave! Always inspired by your work. This is the direction I’ve been planning to go this year, and I am encouraged by your dedication to the craft to just dive in for the sake of learning! Resolve is something that has been sitting on my computer for months, and I haven’t had a chance to really jump in and play with (I have a two year old, so learning time for me is a small chunk of night when my wife and daughter are both asleep). I’d love to see a video from your perspective on learning Resolve!

  • Hi Dave,

    Been following your work for a while as I’ve started dabbling in video. Like you I am moving from stills, to trying to improve my family videos, with the end goal of being able to do mini-docs with a story behind them. Non commercial, more as a hobby or documenting “life”.

    Unfortunately I don’t have the time or drive and dedication that you have, so being able to observe your learning process is priceless.

    I haven’t been much interested in your camera-specific courses, but I would definitely buy some that focused on how to put something together like you did for Julie.

    Pre-production, setup and shooting (working as a one-man band), editing, and grading would all be of interest.

    Really there must be a large market for this as there is not a lot of educational material out there (that I have found) that takes a video and breaks it all down telling you the how and why as well as showing behind the scenes. Being able to ask questions (forum?) would be a huge bonus.

    There is educational material showing the technical points of shooting DSLR video, or lighting, or interview techniques, or editing, or grading, but not how to put it all together like you did, as well as focusing on the story. The Stillmotion team’s stuff is probably the closest to this.

  • I think it turned out amazing and I’m glad I ran across the video because I did not know about DaVinci Resolve and think its something I’d like to try out.
    I would think a video on the things you learned, like you were talking about, such as angel or which eye to focus on during the interview portion if you haven’t done a video like it already. I would think a tutorial would be difficult because style has a great deal to do with it vs. the technical aspect but it will be nice to see what you come up with.

  • Nice, shows she is passionate about Photography on that is great, but for me will like to see some o her work , I mean prints, which at the end is what really matters.
    Also what you did in Davinci resolve can be done in Premiere, no need for that extra step.
    keep it up you learn we learn Dave

  • It’s good for pro bono work, but leaves something to be desired. What about integrating some of her best work in the video? I’d like to see you get closer to her in the field, in her element. Loved the shot at the start as she walked in front of the camera in the grass. The rest lacked depth. Titles and soundtrack could be less generic. Nothing about her really stood out for me. You may have gotten her to be somewhat vulnerable, but as a lifestyle/promo piece what makes her amazing should also come through. Don’t mean to sound harsh. Just my thoughts. It does show that you went to a great deal of effort on it.

  • Good work. The pacing in your video feels spot on. Thanks for showing us some of your other b roll, as well as those BTS shots.

    I’m tempted to take on the same sort of project. I did the same sort of thing with my favorite local coffee shop, but my subjects were not comfortable on camera and I had a tough time piecing a story together for them. You have motivated me to get crackin’ on another project.

  • Dave,
    I really enjoyed your video. In terms of training, I think there are plenty of resources available to cover the technical aspects. What I struggle with the most is editing – not how to edit, but rather where to make my cuts, where to shift among angles to best tell the story with the most impact. I end up with a rhythm and scene selection I like more out of trial and error than any understanding of what makes for effective cutting. Maybe this kind of thing can’t be taught.

  • Dave, I took your 6D course and benefited from it, but I felt it was pretty dull because it involved almost no real-life camera use. It was all theory, like “this is how this works.”
    I think there is potential for real value in a training course that overviews the entire process you went through for this video. I’m sure that’s overwhelming to consider, but a lot of still photographers are trying to make the switch to do things just like this.

  • @Tim thanks for your feedback, I did have one video at the end of the 6D course that I did, but since it is a beginner level course I had to keep most of it to the technical side without going over 4 hours, the course you speak of might be 10 hours long. Perhaps when I update the course in the future I will add more of what you suggest.

  • hi, Dave, it’s indeed a good job ! Keep it up ! Can you talk abt more on the voice recording ?

  • Hi Dave,
    I really liked the video! It has a very professional look and I think it definitely achives the goal. Great overall look, interesting story, excellent.
    One thing that I missed though was a piece of her work. Esspecially when she talked about her first picture she was really happy about, it makes me think.. well.. show it! I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get to see it. After watching the video I actually think: I now know that the guy who shot the video is really good, but I’m not convinced she is 😉 Just one top picture could change that. (On the other hand, the video leaves me curious enough the check out her website and see her pictures).

  • I´ve being watching your videos since a couple of year and I think that this is the one I like better from the beginning till the end is artistic creative sincere and demonstrates how knowing the tools you can make a really good job. Congratulations!! You´ve got the way..

    Ignacio

  • Nice promo, I learned a lot with your videos, btw I like the close up shots 🙂 Best regards from panamá

  • It’s amazing how things show up when you think about something. I mean few days ago I saw a request in FB from 60 yo woman who never cycled and now she wants to give a try and she is looking someone to teach her and I thought it might be a good doc story about how people implement their dreams and now your post with explaining of how to do that. Thanks a lot Dave. I’m not sure I’ll make it but I will definitely try. I have a question. How would you film/edit an interview with only one camera?

  • Where should I start?
    First of all Dave: great job!
    I could really follow the story without any ‘gap feeling’. When it finished, I wanted to see more (just the way it should be).
    I took your Canon 650D T4i, which I really enjoyed and would like to see how you did some of the audio and video editing, audio and video settings.

  • Awesome video Dave. Great to see also the behind the scenes shots and the setup. I typically feel most comfortable working in a documentary capacity in natural light. Can you share what type of lighting setup you went with? I currently don’t own any lights (I’ve been spending too much on lenses). Keep up the great work!

  • Hey Dave,

    Great video, love what you did here. You mentioned about some feedback on what direction the related course should be.

    I would request that the course focus on the story aspect of documentaries like this and what it took to gather the necessary material for an engaging story. The interviews you had, the practice runs, how you storyboarded, etc.

    The reason I say this is that editing is great and all, but there are tons of material on the web on how to edit videos; not so much information in regards to weaving an engaging story for documentaries that really pulls in the audience.

  • Thank you Dave, this explanation of your process is very helpful. Great idea to write her script based on her own words from a preliminary interview, and also a great suggestion on how to avoid having to use a teleprompter by filming only one or two sentences at a time. Much appreciated! I look forward to every new video of yours.

  • Thanks Dave. I heartily concur with Anton’s comments on your video. And thanks for the tips on how you went about the job. I’ve been working on a similar video for a friend who is a sound engineer, and I’ve been a bit lost… Now I’m found!

  • I would love to hear more about your entire editing workflow, storyboard or your brainstorm and how it came together also the transcode, premiere, after effect, davinci, export. But also see the process of the scripted interview, show us some of the one liners and your thoughts when merging the lines together. Maybe some good tips when working as a one-man band.

  • I’m right there with Robert Dam’s comment. She talks about this one great photo for a good :30 but the viewer never gets to see it. Technically your camera skills are right on

  • Hi Dave,

    This is my favorite tutorial of yours … so far. Why? Because it talks about how to tell a story, a rare subject. Technical how-to stuff exists in abundance.

    Workflow, color correction, sound tech … I can get that in a dozen other places. Real, nitty-gritty storytelling tips are harder to find.

    In fact, I wish you had focused the whole video on how you constructed the story and shared the details of the story structure you discovered in Lorimer’s work.

    Reading The Lean Forward Moment by Norman Hollyn, the USC professor and editor, smacked me between the eyes on storytelling and how to focus the audience’s attention.

    Larry Jordan and Norman Hollyn have a free video series that covers some of these topics at 2 Reel Guys.

    Every step in the movie making process should be informed by the story and the emotions you are trying to get the audience to feel in each moment of the movie. This affects writing the script, casting, production design, lens choices, camera movement, sound design, editing and color correction … every facet in the process.

    My goal is to stop doing things just because they “look cool” and start being conscious of what emotion each element is intended to evoke.

    You touched on this when you talked about Julie appearing vulnerable in front of the camera. When your subject appears vulnerable then I feel empathy for her and make an connection … an emotional bond. Then I feel like I know her a bit.

    As Ron Dawson on Crossing the 180 podcast says, “If the story sucks, I don’t care what you shot it on.” (I heard you on his podcast.)

    I really love your low key, honest, humble and open presentations.

    While I love 2 Reel Guys, the slick production values they have keeps me at a distance, while your style draws me in. Norman and Larry come across as too important for me to identify with. You seem like the a guy I could sit down and have a conversation with.

    I hope you make a ton more videos like this one.

    Peace, Love, Laughter,

    Rob:-]

  • p.s. Your site CSS does not seem to make embedded links (HTML anchors) visible. Since they are among the most difficult markup to insert into a comment, you might consider making it easy for your readers to realize that they are there. rs

  • Wow. Dude you did it again. Right in my wheel house. This is so helpful. Great job and way to keep it real!

    BUT if someone Forced you to give a number so they could have one like it – HOW MUCH? or let’s put it this way – under or over $10K? Please just give us a number that it would be worth to you. Thanks

  • Hi, Dave. Great video by the way! I was wondering, what you used to capture audio for this type of promo documentary? Did you just use the Rode Videomic directly connected to your DSLR or do you also use a preamp such as juicedlink?

  • I loved this. I liked the final product more that the Jasmine Star one. I liked how you showed interaction with clients.

  • oops. There were 2 Jasmine Star videos. I had only seen the one that had only her in a room. So my comment should have said “more interaction” …

  • fantastic work Dave! fyi i would most likely sign up for the course if you were to produce one.

  • Nice video! Thanks for the the detailed recap.

    Personally, I’d be interested to learn more about the actual on set interaction with your talent. The discussions during the interview, the planning with the talent, how you communicate schedules and how you choreographed everything with a minimal crew and kept it professional.

  • Excellent work, Dave…would love to get to your level someday. I would love for you to put together a tutorial that demonstrates your post-production workflow.

  • Hi dave,
    I was hugely impressed by your video and thought you captured the story very well.
    I shoot a great deal of this style of video also and in many ways your 1st attempt surpasses much of my own work.
    One thing, for me was missing though, and the gut viewer in me was really jarred by it not being there.
    The first photograph she describes taking of a little boy, when she realised she could be a photographer. I felt strongly an urge to see this piece of pivotal work. I understand that it can seem a little show and tell and on the nose to show what the interviewer is talking about but in a documentary about a photographer I felt this was a vital piece missing. The photographers work is also the subject in a documentary like this.
    If the photographer didnt wish to show this early work then a behind the scenes shot of her photographing a child and an adult in a similar setup could work, not as you used a shot of a wedding couple which de-railed the gut viewer in me even more. Some times the laws of visual storytelling can be rigid and you must show what is being described and I felt this was one such instance.
    As I said just my opinion and I hope your not offended by my observation and it can be constructive in some way. Don’t forget Dave, this was a very successful piece of work and clearly from the heart, well done mate!

  • Wonderful work Dave and it’s a great transition for you to go from tools and techniques to storytelling and the artistic decisions you made along the way. As usual your frankness and openness when sharing the challenges and things you wish you could do over as well as the successes is most appreciated and really makes your work stand out from the crowd. The new training series sounds awesome! 🙂

  • My first video I did like this I charged $350. That was 4 ears ago. Dave’s video was super good and I would charge between $1,500 – $5,000. Depending on how far the filming location was and if did not have to buy any additional props or equipment. Pricing is always hard because you have to figure in how much your client can afford and how desperate your are for work. Also depends on how much experience you have. I try to estimate how many hours a project will take.

  • Yeah, depending upon how many days for the primary interviews and b-roll the price could easily be between $3,500 and $6,500, This is premium work and should be charged accordingly. It’s time for us all to stop undervaluing what we do, I’m very guilty of this myself.

  • Thanks dave for the great video. Coincidentally, I’m doing the very similar project to the photographer, trying to buildup the portfolio and this video helps me in a great way!!

  • Hi Dave,

    In terms of your course question. I would love to get an in-depth tutorial on pre-pro (interviews, location scouting), production (shooting settings, color profiles, camera placement, audio), and editing workflow (setting up files, syncing audio, color correction).

    It would also be great to go into detail about the story telling and how you actually used it to help you edit or shoot B-roll at a later time.

    Thanks!

  • Loved it. It was awesome. Great going. Loved the fact that you have kept at it with your video.

  • Loved it. It was awesome. Great going. Loved the fact that you have kept at it with your video work.

  • Hi Dave,

    The video is awesome! Great job!
    The only thing I missed is her actual work. I wanna see her photographs while I’m watching the video.
    Why didn’t you use it?

    Thanks.

  • Amazing Dave. Love the pacing. Works very well as a complimentary piece on her website.
    Could you talk a bit about your mic, audio processing and the lighting scheme and equipment for the interview segments? I didn’t see and softboxes listed on your gear list. Thanks. Keep inspiring us.

  • Hey Dave,
    Probably have seen all your videos thus far.However I like how this video covers the non-technical side of film-making. generally I see so many montage of random shots on the net put together to showcase cameras and lens, but a video with a purpose and story is remarkably unique. I truly believe the Camera and lens are secondary to the Story , in getting the WOW factor. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

    Anyways,Would love to see your process of cutting the footage or coverage preparation(for B-roll).

  • I’ve been a photographer for 6+ years and am now studying Film Production in college and I have to say, awesome video! The one thing that bothered me, though, was the lack of any of her actual photographs. I understand that the focus was on the story and not her work, but it was really lacking, especially when she was talking about the photo that defined her as a photographer. I’m curious why you chose not to show at least that image in your video.

    Still, great job.

  • Hi Dave…I enjoyed the smooth flow of your video. I have just recently picked up the Rebel T2i and I would like to know what lens you use and how often do you change your settings when moving from in door to out door shooting?

    Thank you!

    Jackson

  • Thanks everyone for comments, I really appreciate it and I’m glad you guys liked it.

    As for the most common question, she didn’t want to include the photo of the little girl in the video. I am not sure why exactly and perhaps I can linked to it when I ask her where it is on her site.

  • After gotting the chance to watch Anton’s promos for both Jasmine S and Jasmine L on the Vimeo channel, the story of Jasmine L connected me MUCH more to her and her work than the other promo.

    Both promos stand out.

    As if your inspiration, Dave, came from the Jasmine L promo : ).

    Thank you for your inspiration, Dave!

  • Dave, you are a totally amazing and all-round great guy. Your desire to learn AND share is only surpassed by your deep humility and willingness to be vulnerable! You are a true inspiration to me. Thanks for being you. God bless you!

  • hey everybody,

    i just getting started and trying to build a portfolio, i have been trying to contact businesses in my area to get them to agree to letting me make them a free promo in exchange for letting me keep it in my portfolio. i’m feeling a little frustrated, cause it seems like its harder than it should be to get people to respond. i want so badly to go out and film and get practice and experience but no one seems to agree to be the subject of a film for me.

    how did everyone else on here get started? any tips on how to convince someone to let me film them?

  • If you are relying on email to make contact, chances are it is not being read or is being treated as spam, so your best shot is to visit these businesses in person. I’ve almost completely given up on email outreach for marketing to small businesses and professionals because of exactly what you experienced, no response, nada, silence. Email marketing may still be a tool when sending out thousands of emails at once.

    That’s what I did and it worked. I found a small business I really liked that it was need of promotion, I told them I would like to do a profile video, completely free, for their website. I explained working with small business was a new market for me and I needed samples that a local retailer could relate to. They were more than happy to let me film. Looking back, I wish I had done some things differently during the filming and editing but it was a start.

  • I should add, be prepared to show them SOMETHING you have shot even if it is not a documentary style profile video…just to give them some comfort that you will likely come up with a decent result that is useful to them.

  • Dear Dave,

    I have been watching ur vid for quiet while & in this one particularly its awesome & I think you should think deeply to cover all the shouting, doc promo as well (for those who are interesting to do so) as course ….
    Even thou how to use ur software a and davince too ?

    Looking forward for all ur courses and wishing best of luck –> keep up your tremendous good witk

    Cheers
    Amine – UK

  • I realy liked this video, may be because I want to do documentary about people that are inspiring you to change things in your life. So it is about the first sentence she uttered: “I was afraid to…”. So, my idea is to build around problems like that: and the story will be how did she copes with fear.

    Your video, its format, the way you done it might be very near of what I was looking for as a starting point. So I will be interested in learning more about how you made it: the detail of capturing video, lighting, recording during the interview, how you prepare it (modre details). How you put everything together, how you edit: images, sounds and how you use Da VInce Resolve in THAT context.
    I will definitely buy such a course: a course more about cinematography than technique.

    Great work.

  • Hi Doug,

    Loved the piece, was quite inspiring for me as I do similar work but on smaller scale, less lights and all that. I would absolutely love to see something very basic as an intro to DaVinci Resolve. Basically just going from Premier to Resolve since I use Premier anyway and am pretty comfortable with it.

    Nice to see just honesty and good stories!

  • Dave,

    I love that you are expanding past the typical “why dslr’s are awesome” videos, and moving into storytelling. Anyone who has ever hit a record button knows that it is difficult to get people interested unless there is a story behind it.

    I would love to know more about the components of storytelling. That could be a great future video. Storytelling isn’t obvious. It is certainly a skill that needs more coverage than the typical “depth of field tricks 101.”

    Keep up the awesome work!

  • Creativelive.com is a good source for ideas. One weekend they were showing how a photographer video was created.

  • Damn good video. One of the shots with kids seems to be a bit off as far as correct skin tones, other than that, I’d be proud to show a piece like that to my clients.

  • I second the request for a course on story-telling technique! I primarily do wedding videos, but want to make a documentary just for the fun of it. I have an uncle who is an artist who would make a great subject, I just don’t know where to begin with planning out the story. That would be a great course! Thanks for all the reviews and videos, Dave!

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