Thursday, March 10, 2011

Adding Video to your Bag of Tricks

Yesterday I had a real estate shoot, a high-end home (selling for $1.4M). I really enjoy this kind of work -- usually I get plenty of time in the empty home to spend making really attractive pictures of it, and the clients (real estate brokers) don't mind spending money for good, professional photographs. Outstanding photos of a home really help attract buyers to come and see it in person.

 Now, however, I have a new option to offer my clients:  high-def video, from the same camera I used to take the still photos.  Is adding video as a product you can offer worth it for you?

It was for me -- but it's usually not as simple as just putting your DSLR in video mode and knocking off a few frames. Here are a few tips to get you started offering video to your clients...
First, take a look at the still photo above, of a large ranch-style kitchen of a high-end home. I spent a lot of time lighting this kitchen, using a combination of existing in-place lights, and strategically placed flashes (mostly fitted with CTO gels to warm them up, matching the existing tungsten lighting). While all of the in-place lights can be used for video work, the flashes are worthless -- you need continuous lighting, not popping flashes. If you're going to do video as well as stills, you're going to need to seriously consider modifying the way you light many of your setups, and ditch the flashes. Getting enough (and powerful enough) lights to light your setups for video could turn out to be a very large additional expense (think movie set lighting...), one you'll need to recoup with your video pricing. Crunch the numbers before you get into this to insure it will pay off.
Second, have a very good idea of just what video can offer clients beyond your usual high-quality still images. With real estate work, there are a number of companies that take still images and turn them into a Ken Burns style "zoom and pan movie" -- and charge quite a bit for doing so. Being able to offer your clients actual video (and not just panned stills) that better shows the features of a home, at a price similar to what those other companies charge, is a real benefit to your clients. Some other kinds of video just for the sake of video may not be worth doing.

Finally, you are likely going to have to invest in some new hardware (larger flash cards for the camera, a better tripod, etc.) and software (video editing primarily) to do this right -- which is an additional expense to consider. What little software comes with most DSLRs really isn't capable enough to produce professional looking video. And don't forget that all that new hardware and software means time learning and training on your part, just so you can use it -- and that it's probably going to take a while before you're really proficient at both shooting it and editing/presenting it.

For me, with a history in video editing and production, taking advantage of my DSLR's hi-def video option was a no-brainer. Once I got some practice lighting for video instead of for stills, I had a new product I could offer clients that both brings in more money for a job, and offers real value to my clients. If your new DSLR has hi-def video capability, it might just be time to consider training yourself up to take advantage of it.

Here are a few resources for learning more about DSLR and HD video if you're brand new at it:
ReelSEO Guide to HD-DSLR Video
Software for Editing DSLR Video
"The Full HDV Book" - Fully Focused on High Definition, by D.S Eagle & Mark Dileo

If you've already started adding video to your still photo offerings, chime in with comments and let us know how it's working out!

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