Month: July 2014

Day 87: How To Be Different

Over the past month I’ve been struggling with the idea of how to be different. Any freelance job is usually successfully backed by word of mouth leads. That being said, differentiating yourself from the competitor i.e. everyone else who owns a video camera, and creating original content is usually how these leads are formed. People only talk when they’ve been wowed. But how do you keep over delivering standardized product, while still adding a sense of uniqueness that will wow them in the end?

I’ve seen it over and over. Videographers (or audio engineers etc.) pass around their work with one another looking for critique. They come to a conclusion that this one piece of work wasn’t their best, they release it, and it actually resonates with a bunch of people very deeply. More then they ever thought it would. But we tend to do that because we look at things from a different perspective. A professional perspective. And so it is… the best thing to ask yourself at a shoot is…

How Would I Be Wowed?

If we can send out what we think is mediocre work, but still have people find joy, meaning, and beauty in it, then we can for the most part agree that if you can wow yourself, your audience will most likely be REALLY wowed. Just think about the first time Steve Job’s got on stage to introduce the iPhone. He said that he wanted Apple to make a product that he himself would love using. You could see it in him. He was excited. And so it was with the greater population as well.

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Day 85: When Failure Happens

It’s ironic. My last post was about being ok with failure, but this last wedding shoot I encountered just that. Failure.

The Gear

The day before filming this past wedding on Friday, I decided to rent a few things from my local music store. Mainly some audio equipment. I borrowed my friend’s H4N portable audio recorder, and rented a wireless Sennheiser G3 wireless lavaliere microphone. Little did I know what I was to expect.

On the day of the wedding I was setting up a few tripods with my second shooters for the ceremony. I finally whipped out the lav, and mic’d the pastor who was marrying the couple. As he went off to mingle for a bit before the ceremony I checked the audio on my H4N. It was all good. Nothing to worry about.

The Problem

The ceremony starts, and my minds in the game. We were shooting for the next 40 minutes, and that’s all there was to think about. The ceremony went well, until I got back to my H4N and reviewed the audio. As soon as the pastor started walking towards the alter to begin the ceremony, the mic cut out. The wire was broken. This was something I didn’t see coming. I tested the signal, but I never tested how resilient the wire was. It turns out, I’m never renting a lavalliere mic again. Now I know what my next investment will be…

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Day 82: Be Willing To Fail

Small City had it’s first production meeting yesterday, today I’m off filming another wedding, and all week I’ve been working on the non-stop editing train, all while trying to stay “social”. Life sure packs a punch when you’re trying to make lemonade.

Before the production meeting yesterday, I had a friend call me. She pitched me the idea of starting a wedding planning company; cake, food, planning, production etc. She was meeting with a friend, and realized that if we really wanted to, we could start a full force wedding company. Why? Because we knew of people who could fill each role.

I thought it over, and I told her we should meet up and have a fo-meeting. Then we hung up the phone. The conversation lasted for probably about two minutes. Tops. But afterwards I thought about it… and that’s all you really need. You need excited people with an idea, the people who can make it happen, and the intent to follow up.

Don’t Shut Off

If you have those three things, it doesn’t matter how short or long a conversation, meeting, or planning session takes. You’ve accomplished more then the average joe just by the fact that you’ll sit down and listen. How many of us are so quick to shut off when we hear about something that will take work? Or effort? Or maybe it’s just never been done before. And because it’s never been done before, you really doubt that you, of all people, could possibly be the first one to do it. These are the things that go through the minds of many people every waking second. These are the doubts that keep people from adventuring off, taking risk, and seeking growth in their lives.

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Day 80: Small City Film

The point of this project was to become self-employed within 90 days, and by the looks of it, Christmas might be coming sooner than I expected. Yesterday marked the first day of Small City Film, my newly launched wedding film production company.

Time Not Wasted

After a week and a half escapade of filming and editing, I finally finished my first wedding highlight reel for my friends Kevin & Justine Chiang. The process took an immense amount of effort, but the reverberation from social media, and the amount of leads I’ve received for filming more weddings shows that my time was not wasted.

Depending on how it all turns out, I could be up and running for the next two months with an increased amount of capital for expanding my team, gear, and overall online presence.

Booking More Time

While I was up in Kelowna, I met with the media coordinator at a camp that has deep roots within my family. My grandfather was apart of a group of German immigrants who actually founded the camp. All around, there’s a great story to be told, which is what led me to meet with media coordinator. I’m planning to film a short documentary on the camp, the people, and the overall story. That, and the month of August could potentially be loaded with more wedding shoots.

Time To Keep Learning

Today, I met with a friend to discuss the possibility of creating a full photography/videography wedding production partnership. We’ll see how this turns out in the coming month.

I’ve also been making the switch from Final Cut Pro X to Adobe Premiere, and to the overall creative cloud. Last night was mostly me raging at my computer, getting re-acquainted with new hotkeys, and experiencing an overall new workflow that at the time slowed me down a lot. It’s frustrating to know what you want, and not being able to get there as quickly as you once could. This lead me to start a whole new tutorial series on Adobe Premiere CC. I’m excited, I’ve already learned a lot, and I’m now starting to see why Adobe Premiere is a standard for video production.

The following video is Kevin & Justine Chiang’s Highlight Reel. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to email me at if you want to give me a shout.


Day 78: Take The Time

In my previous post I mentioned that while in Kelowna I was shooting some engagement photos. There was also a moment when I was about to venture off into the city limits and take some interesting landscape shots of the couple, but due to the rattle snake warnings, that never happened.

However, while on our way home, we found an isolated logging road just off the highway in between Kelowna and Merritt. You’d literally have to be going 40 kilometers an hour to see it. Which we were, as we were appreciating the stunning scenery.

Polite Private Property

One thing I noticed while in Kelowna is that most if not all the land is privately owned, so walking on forsaken land was a dream; you’d usually be deemed a trespasser. This road was different though. There was no “private property” or “trespassers will be prosecuted” signs. Instead we read a lovely little sign that said “be responsible”. And so we were. It’d be irresponsible of us not to venture down this road in search of some forsaken scenery.

About 15~20 minutes down this small one way road we found a jetted out exit in which one could walk straight into the valley, and so we did just that. It was around 8:00pm and overcast. The couple looked at me hoping I could produce the vision I had pitched for them, but none the less we were all excited. We stayed until about 10:30pm taking photos and appreciating the view.

Be Willing To Adventure

While walking back to the car, which in its self took about half an hour, we were all fairly happy with our spontaneous outing. Photos or not, witnessing the sunset and view was priceless. We were all glad that we took the time. I’m certain all of us would agree that none of us knew what was down that logging road, past the forest, and into the valley. None of us knew of the sunset that was going to take place that night. And none of us really had the same vision for what we envisioned that night. But we all had a willingness to see where the road would take us. To take the time. To experiment. To adventure.

I’m not as sad about the rattle snakes anymore. They had their place. We had ours. And I think our’s was better.


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Day 75: Shooting Engagement Photos

Being in the Okanagan, there are plenty of orchards, desert landscapes, and all around stunning scenery close by. Yesterday, I had the privilege of shooting engagement photos for two friends of mine. Taking a break from editing video on my laptop, we decided to head out on a picture taking adventure across Kelowna.

After sometime at a farm that was owned by a family friend, we ventured up past the city limits to find rolling hills of beautiful desert. We kept driving, hit private property, and turned around to scope out some of the landscape while heading back to the city. We pulled the car off to the side of the road after we found a nice landscape for the perfect panorama. But unfortunately our adventure stopped after getting out of the car. The Okanagan grass is littered with rattle snakes, and that’s all we heard, rattle snakes.

…sometime I’d like to wander Iceland. Mainly due to the lack of rattle snakes, and the abundance of beautiful scenery.

Gear Wasn’t The Highlight Today

Most of the photos I was taking were during mid day with the sun being diffused by the clouds, while using my old 50mm Super Takumar f/1.8 lens (cost me $30 on craigslist). I was hovering around ISO 100~160, and my shutter was anywhere between 1/2000~1/500. I noticed that I could be taking these on my old T3i if I had wanted too. The lighting was good, I had a wide aperture on a good lens, my ISO was never being pushed, and my shutter was at some points being maxed out.

I was reminded that I really was no different then someone shooting on a T3i. Probably on Auto too. What made it different was the decisions I made. To not settle for cliches. To check my focus. To drive a little longer than normal… the more I confirmed that the gear is only a tool, and that it’s you that makes the difference. If you’re someone who’s interested in some sort of creative art, we live in a time where the barrier of entry is extremely low, and relatively cheap, compared to 10~15 years ago. Also, hiring yourself out to your friends for engagement photos is a super low cost, low pressure way, to practice your photography, and expand your portfolio. Maybe you should think of grabbing some sort of basic tool, and start practicing on how you can make yourself a better ___________ (photographer, videographer, audio engineer etc.)

The following photo was shot in a local cherry orchard in Kelowna.



Day 73: Why Is Workflow So Important?

It’s a lovely sunny afternoon in Kelowna, BC as I edit over 10 hours of wedding footage. Sunday night I decided to head out with some friends for a spontaneous vacation up here in Kelowna Albeit, I do have some work cut out for me as I have to assess the footage from this past weekend.

However high pressure a wedding shoot might be, I must say, I do enjoy the layover that comes after. Editing is a task that can really be done anywhere as long as you have a computer, possibly a mouse, and a healthy supply of caffeinated beverages. If not for the portability, I probably wouldn’t be enjoying the Okanagan sun right now.

Workflow Helps Bring Rest

Considering I have a lot to do, this is one of the first times the idea of a healthy workflow has come to mind. Many creatives tend to just get right to it. You sit down, start cranking out some photos or videos, and call it a day. But you just can’t do that with 10 hours of footage. Getting up from an editing session, leaving it for the night, and then get back to it in the morning leaves no room for undecided decisions, or vaguely new approaches. You need a consistent system in which you can put your mind at ease once you leave your work to rest, along with being able to pick it up right where you left off, however long the break may have been.

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Day 71: Filming Two Weddings & Learning For The First Time

Last Friday I filmed my first paid wedding, and it was an amazing experience. From the groom seeing the bride for the first time, to the ceremony, and the speeches and dances, it was an all around party. Not to mention, I was also in the wedding party celebrating my best friend who was just married (I had a second shooter for the ceremony). The whole day went until around 12:00am, and then came takedown. Seeing as I was also a groomsmen, it was my responsibility to help fully end the wedding day. I stayed longer then a videographer normally would because of this. There was also a breakfast the next day for the wedding party, and along with that, I also had another wedding I was to attend for another best friend the next day. Talk about on the run.

As I went home that Friday night, I hit the preverbal hay as quickly as I could. I needed the sleep ASAP, as the next day would most likely run just as long. After attending the breakfast in the morning, I had to run a few errands and drop off a few rentals, and then I was off to another wedding. This one however, I was not planning to shoot. My close friend who was being married that Saturday asked me to not film so I could enjoy the day, but something in my wanted to still make him a great film, and I knew inwardly that I’d still enjoy the day (especially for the fact that the film would be his wedding gift).

Spontaneous Shooting

So, showing up as a normal onlooker, about 5 minutes before hand, I ran from my car with only one camera I happened to bring that day, and my lower grade tripod, and lavaliere. I found the pastor, mic’d him up, and took a place on the side to grab as many dynamic shots as I could. I only had one camera, my 6D’s battery was dead. I forgot to charge it when I got home the night before, along with the batteries in the T2i I was shooting with.

I had half a battery left for the whole ceremony, but I didn’t let that discourage me or stop me, I wasn’t being paid for this wedding, but that doesn’t mean you should cheap out on a gift. My last 16gig SD card was in the camera, with no hacked firmware on it (magic lantern; a firmware I never shoot without), and in the back of my mind I was wondering if the T2i would randomly activate it’s auto gain control while the lavaliere was being recorded. But I kept moving, and I kept filming.

Things Get Worse

It was almost over. They signed their license. They got blessed by there pastor. “I know pronounce you hu—“ and then the battery dies. I missed their first kiss as husband and wife! The worst! My friend Bryan, who was in the wedding party that day, and who was also my second shooter for the day before, saw me suddenly turn my camera down and run away. He was so confused. Why did I not film their kiss? I later told him why, and he bursted out laughing. He told me he placed a GoPro in the tree above which should entail a pretty nice overhead shot of them kissing, and I also found my friend’s dad who happened to get a nice closeup of the kiss on his Canon.

Enjoy The Day

I ended up going home in-between the ceremony and reception, charging my cameras, dumping my cards from the night before, and in essence, doing all the things I should have done when I got home last night. You really never know as a videographer when your next shoot is going to be. It could be planned, and paid for, or it could be spontaneous. Either way, you always need to be prepared, and this is something that no video, tutorial, or teaching, will ever teach you. The past two days of filming has made me that much more confident in the field of videographer, and especially wedding videography. There were problems I encountered that I never expected, and I have to say, I’m glad that I filmed my both of my friends weddings, even though they were both hesitant on me filming as they wanted me to enjoy the day. Valid argument, but I’m glad that I took the chance, and soon giving both couples the ability to relive their wedding for years to come, and that made the day extremely enjoyable.

Learn While Doing

I have another paid wedding at the end of the month. One that will be much more elaborate, and that’s exciting. But I’ve been duped into thinking that they best way to plan for a wedding, is to plan for a wedding. Wrong. The best way to plan for a wedding is to shoot a lot of weddings. The truth is you will never get better at any skill or trade if all you do is plan, and never test out your assumptions and techniques. Test them, refine them, and build some confidence in knowing that…

  1. You’re choosing to be someone who constantly learns… and…
  2. You’re choosing to be someone who takes action, even though they don’t know all the pieces yet.

If you take these two things to heart, you will exceedingly surprise yourself at what can be accomplished, because the best time to learn something is when you’re doing it for the first time.


Day 69: Finding Your Hourly Rate

If you’re reading this blog then I can assume you’re interested in entrepreneurship, whether it’d be a lot or a little. In my sphere, I know a few people who are extremely talented in a few areas, but have yet to make the change from hobbiest, to professional; a change which is actually not that hard to do. They’re either scared of risking the time for no reward, or the other, more prominent circumstance, they don’t know what to charge if they would start freelancing. What am I worth? What would my friends pay? Would this price scare people away? are all questions that venture through the mind of an aspiring entrepreneur, and I’m here to ease your soul.

Find Your Hourly Rate

Finding your hourly rate is a great step to moving forward in a freelancing career. But how do you find your rate, Sean? Well, here are a few tips to help you get started.

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Day 66: When Stress Is Ok

There’s a consistent theme that’s been running through my posts this past week; doing things for the first time. Considering the intent of this blog was to document my journey of becoming self-employed, it’s only natural to move from a phase of watching tutorials, learning, and upgrading my gear, into a new phase. A phase of action. A phase of first times.

Stressful First Times

So far I’ve been booked for two weddings, and in the mean time have acquired two more couples interested in me shooting their wedding. With all of this new unchartered territory comes a lot of first times. Planning a wedding shoot. Acquiring the needed gear. Writing up quotes and receipts. Organizing gear rentals. Communicating with sound technicians from the venues. And so on. With so many new things on my plate, there’s one thing that is inevitable. Stress. But, when is stress ok? Everything in our society tells us that stress is bad, to have as little as possible, and if we do, our life will be better off both physically and mentally. But that’s only a half truth, and it’s a half truth that’s killing the chance for people to do anything truly noteworthy.

Stress Isn’t Bad

While I was attending University, during my Organizational Behaviour class we were taught specifically that not all conflict is bad, and the same goes for stress. A certain amount of conflict is what actually helps bring an organization closer together, especially when the conflict is resolved in a group effort. So it goes with stress. The way you approach a situation changes when someone has hired you to do some sort of work for a cost, in my case, wedding videos. You suddenly go from someone who makes a really good product to… someone who’s product is worth so and so amount of dollars. The first one actually never has a cap for your potential, but it also doesn’t have a minimum. As a hobbiest, you can make something really good… or really bad. It’s all up to you, and no one is going to call you out on it. When you do something for a price you’ve actually set a minimum for what it is that you need to achieve, and it changes the way you look at everything; from production, to gear, to deciding that you need to rent gear, or needing more people to film, etc. These are things you don’t naturally examine when you do things for free.

Stress Has Made Me Better

All of these decisions, pressures, and responsibilities each add a little bit of corresponding stress, but I believe it’s a good thing and something to be sought after, because I know for a personal fact that it has made me a better videographer (even though I haven’t even hit the record button yet). Everything through my planning, my gear, training those to shoot with me, and my overall professionalism with clients has dramatically increased, because of the one fact that my product has to be worth the value it’s being sold for. Why? Otherwise no one will buy it for that set price. And why does that matter? Because I need to work, and eat. In an interview with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, an audience member asks Warren Buffet what he does for daily work. Warren Buffet answers saying his job is trying to get his co-workers up at 6am to work the same way they did when they had no money. How do you get someone to work just as hard when they have all the money in the world? There’s truth to this statement. The truth that stress, pressure, and friction are inherently some of the key factors to accomplishing anything bigger then yourself. To be pulled and stretched into something you once weren’t.

Are You Ready?

If you believe that a stress free life is something to be sought after, you might find it, but you certainly won’t do anything great with your life, and I guess that’s the real question. Do you want to do something that’s bigger then yourself a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? It’s the perseverance through stress that makes you into something that you once were not. Are you ready to be stressed?

You can check out the Q&A with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates below.