Top Tips for Freelance Videographer in Dubai
It’s 2020 and everyone is striving for a job where you’re not stuck behind a desk. A livelihood where anywhere can be your office and any time of the day/week your ‘office’ hours. A life where you can be your own boss, manage your own work schedule, take charge of your daily routine and, somehow magically, still be raking in the big bucks.
If you’re a freelance videographer in Dubai, or want to become one, it’s your lucky day because you are about to get some tips (that I wish I had got way back when I set out on this journey) that are hopefully going to get you that little bit closer to your dream job!
SHOOT LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT!
If you want to become a successful videographer then, before you even get clients, go out and shoot anything and everything! Get out there and start observing things like a videographer rather than just a passive viewer, capturing whatever you can wherever you can. Create and edit and make mistakes; this is how you learn. Trial & error. Use your contacts and friends at first, ask them if you can make video edits for their businesses, to promote any products or brands they are affiliated with, or children’s birthday parties or cousins weddings, even if its free at first – just get yourself out there and start learning how to use, hold & make the most out of your camera! You need to get yourself & your work out there, to gain exposure, and to start thinking of yourself as a videographer living in Dubai. Because, once you start to believe it then everyone else will too! You will start to be thought of, and remembered as, that videographer guy/girl who people can get in touch with if they ever need such services. So, pick up the camera, get out the house, and go film whatever you can, expanding your contacts & network as you go.
Top Tip – Go Local!
Any aspiring videographer in Dubai needs to be aware of the best places to shoot (which are also free), as this can add context, culture, and a unique sense of texture to your video content. You can make your video stand out even to your local audience by capturing the local tourist hot spots & popular sights in new, cinematic ways, offering a fresh perspective through your footage. Filming famous sights can add production value to your content and simultaneously reaffirms to your local client base that you are based in Dubai. Also, if you are going to be filming for clients in & around Dubai then it would help that you feel comfortable & knowledgeable about filming in the local tourist spots, such the Burj al Arab, the Burj khalifa, the Dubai Souq, the various beaches, etc. When you’re at these famous spots, however, just remember they are always likely to have security, so have an excuse handy and a quick pair of trainers on incase you have to make a fast exit! In these tourist hotspots and particularly downtown Dubai videographers are often not welcome unless they have a commercial filming permit!
KIT KIT KIT
If you want to be a freelance videographer you will need to have your own quality camera kit. You’ll want to have a camera that will allow you to be doing the most common and predictable shoots, such as lifestyle, event or corporate videography. There are plenty of affordable videographers in Dubai that are competing for these jobs so you would do well to get a camera that is as good quality or better than your competition. Luckily we live in a time where you can now get good quality footage with smaller, and less expensive cameras. If you are on a budget, look at the incredible Sony a6500 that captures 1080HD in up to 120fps (with autofocus) or the Panasonic Lumix GH5 which shoots 4K up to 60fps & 1080HD up to 180fps and also has 5-axis internal image stabilisation. If you buy native lenses for the GH5, so, either Lumix or Lumix G
lenses then you will also have double internal stabilisation, coming from both the camera body & the native lens. The Panasonic GH5 is an extremely versatile camera that works great for both video and photos. Click here for a more complete review.
Invest in Good Lenses
A word to the wise… invest in good lenses, they’re timeless. Camera bodies evolve pretty fast but lenses really don’t. That’s because the properties of light haven’t changed (thankfully, that would be weird on a cosmic scale) and glass lenses are the best way we know to focus the stuff. So it’s very possible that the fast zoom lens you buy today will be just as good 10 years, given you regularly service it and don’t have clumsy hands like mine. You can also buy your lenses second hand, but make sure to test the autofocus and check for dust or the particles inside the lens before purchasing. My top 3 lenses to have when starting out as a freelance videographer would be…
12-35mm /2.8 f stop Leica G lens
(for run & gun everyday shooting)
35-70mm /2.8 f stop Leica G lens
(for zoom shoots and depth of field)
42.5mm /1.2 f stop Leica G ‘Nocticron’ lens
(for clarity, bokeh, & depth of field)
Any freelance videographer in Dubai worth his salt knows that a good quality camera cleaning kit is a must-have. After all, what’s the point of shelling out on a pricey lens if you’re going to clean it with your dirty shirt or some close-by loo roll! Trust me, look after your kit and your kit will look after you. After a long day of filming the last thing you are going to want to do is clean your gear, but get it done. Otherwise you are going to waste a whole lot of money replacing gear when, if you had just regularly cleaned your kit, you could have spent that hard earned cash on a brand new lens (or on that filming trip you have always dreamt of).
A gimbal is basically a stabiliser for your camera. It will stabilise your moving shots in which directions you’re heading into giving you cinematic, super smooth shots. No bumps. No shakes. A gimbal is particularly helpful when filming real estate videos, wedding & event videography, and really anything else where you need to provide the viewer with a sense of calm, luxury, or smooth motion. I myself get the most use out of my DJI Ronin SC Gimbal when I am doing real estate shoots around Dubai as it adds a sense of luxury and production value to the edit.
A tripod will allow you to get more out of your camera, particularly if you are an action-sports videographer or filming any fast-moving objects with a zoom lens. The most obvious use of a tripod is to provide a more stable picture or video, but putting your camera on a tripod will also allow you to get long exposure shots, time lapses, cityscapes, star trails etc. Dubai is a city full of opportunities to take time lapses of the infamous skyline or long exposure shots out in the desert. Tripods are multi-faceted and can be doubled up as light stands, microphone stands or stands for reflectors or flash units. Be sure to get a tripod that suits your type of shooting. I like to shoot a lot of action sports and so I use a sturdy (and heavy) Manfrotto tripod with a ball mount.
To make good video, you need good audio. If seeing is believing, then hearing is feeling, and as a professional videographer you want people to feel your videos. Sound gives the viewer an emotional connection to the video, placing them inside the edit rather than just being passive viewers of it. A good sound mix or quality audio recording not only adds a level of professionalism to your edits but it makes your video content much more memorable. You can find affordable video mics that plug straight into your camera, or transmitter/receiver set ups with clip on lava mics. These lava mics are used for interviews or spoken audio, whereas mics such as the Rode Video Mic Pro are used for capturing ambient sounds and recording the entire environment. Your choice of microphone will depend on what you will use it for most and there are plenty of great options out there.
Another great addition to your kit is an action cam, and what better than the king of action cams, the GoPro! For those shots where you either just don’t want to risk getting your expensive camera in the way, or perhaps it is too heavy or clunky and won’t fit, or maybe you need a POV shot or have to attach your camera to a fast moving object like a surfboard or whatever, the Gopro is an unbelievably versatile piece of kit. The unique perspectives that action cams allow you to get are amazing, and they just show how you are really only limited by your own creativity. Some of the best action cams available now are the GoPro8 & the GoPro Max, a 360 camera that gives whole new meaning to the phrase ‘motion sickness’. Top tip – don’t edit 360 footage with a hangover! With a few add-ons you can now attach these action cams pretty much anywhere, and just like that you now have time-lapse capability, amazing slo-mo and the best part, a so you can shoot underwater. The GoPro is also a fantastic camera to use if flying FPV drones.
Underwater Camera Housing
Speaking of water, if you don’t want to invest in a GoPro, you can opt for a solid underwater camera housing unit that will keep your DLSR or mirrorless four thirds camera safe from the elements. Opting for the underwater housing as opposed to the GoPro, for example, bring a few extra benefits. First of all, your camera will always film in better quality than a GoPro, simply because it has a larger, more expensive lens, with more glass and more optical engineering. Second, you will likely to be able to film slow motion shots in greater clarity. However, it must be said that the latest GoPro action cams are able to film in up to and over 240 fps in 1080HD. This is pretty damn crazy and is difficult to be found elsewhere, even on up to date DLSR’s. In any case, an underwater camera housing will turn your camera into a weather-proof machine, upping your game as a professional videographer and allowing you to offer services other videographers cant. Just keep in mind that the seawater in Dubai is particularly salty, so make sure to clean your underwater housing when you are finished filming. Lastly, keep in mind that the camera housing is not solely for use under the water but can also be used for filming in diverse weather conditions. Whether you want to film in the desert on a windy day or even just down at the Dubai spice souq, the camera housing can provide added security to both your body & lens, simply to keep it safe whilst maintaining image quality.
Clarifii Lens Solution
Whenever I am filming with my Real Outex camera housing an absolutely essential piece of gear I carry with me is the Clarifii lens solution. By covering the exterior glass in this anti-fog & water repellant solution you can ensure you don’t miss the shot by getting a big water droplet on the lens, etc.
Several freelance videographers in Dubai simply either don’t own a drone or don’t want to provide professional drone videography services, preferring to focus on their camera work or outsource this work to others. However, we would suggest you do your best to offer drone services in Dubai, as this adds a massive amount of production value and brings a whole new perspective to your video content. If you do fly a drone in Dubai though, you need to remember that this is an extremely bright environment where, during the day, the ocean & desert both reflect a lot of light. This can make it a difficult environment to get a good quality image from your drone footage, particularly when filming during the middle of the day when the sun as it its brightest. So, buy yourself a set of ND filters for your drone, essentially a set of sunglasses for the camera. The ND filter you will use will depend on what time of day it is, but I rarely take these filters off my drone and wouldn’t even think of filming for a client without having them. I use the Polar Pro cinematic ND filters, probably the best (and most expensive) on the market.
The videographer community often argues about which editing platform is the best, and the individuals of this community typically fall into two camps… Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. I myself use FCPX, simply because this is what I started out with on my MacBook and now have quickened up my workflow & honed my colour grading skills to an extent where I am unwilling to switch. I also have bought and downloaded (for free) a bunch of LUTs & visual FX which I enjoy using but are only compatible within FCPX. It is not for me to say which is best, however, I can say that both have different pricing models and for anyone who is just starting out they are unlikely to be able to tell the difference between these two options. Both are fantastic & extremely powerful, so just go for whichever one feels best suited to your editing style and you are able to afford.
SOCIAL MEDIA, PORTFOLIO, CLIENTS
Use Social Media
Social media is a powerful marketing tool and if you want to stand out from the other freelance videographers in Dubai then you are going to have to learn how to make the most out of this platform. Millions of people use social media daily, & it has become a platform that can thrust your brand into your clients consciousness. Using social media to market yourself as a freelance videographer will massively boost your exposure and, in doing so, increase your chances of picking up clients. Post quality content consistently. Again, consistently. This is the key word here. BE CONSISTENT! Whether you took a nice shot in your backyard, or you’re posting a drone clip from your last project. Keep posting, keep people engaged, ask questions, create tutorials if possible and always #HASHTAG wherever you can to get as many eyes as possible on your content. You want to be on potential clients’s radar? Then start using social media.
Create a Jaw-dropping Portflio / Showreel
Your online portfolio serves to “sell” you as a freelance videographer, showing what you’re capable of and your specific style and experience. Make sure that you include a variety of your best work, adding kick ass effects and epic audio. Focus on the type of work you’re hoping to attract so, if you love making actions videos, for example, then go out and shoot actions videos and add them to your portfolio! After building a portfolio, upload them to your social media pages. This will afford more people the chance to see your work. With the exposure social media will give your work, your client base will also likely increase. One of the most professional platforms by which to showcase your work is Vimeo. Click here to view Resonate Media House’s online portfolio.
Hit Deadlines – be on time
One of the keys to being successful as a freelance videographer is delivering your projects on time. It doesn’t matter if you have to stay up all night before a deadline to get it done, that’s just what you have to do. This will also set you apart from the other videographers in Dubai & is a fantastic way to get clients to spread the good word about your services. Keep your clients happy, end of discussion.
Look for monthly retainer work
That may be a bit boring and repetitive, but pays it the bills. Lets face it, Dubai is hardly a cheap place to live! As a freelancer you probably won’t always know when the next gig is… I mean, as I write this article, myself (including you) are in quarantine and self-isolation so… make hay whilst the sun shines! Having a monthly retainer gig will give you some financial comfort and freedom, hopefully leaving enough time for you to pursue your passion projects on the side.
No matter how good you are, or how many years of experience you’ve got under your belt, you will always get feedback and there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you have made. These tough times and memorable moments may test your patience and self esteem; the trick is to spin it to your advantage. Taking feedback well is a key to success in this industry. Being able to listen to your client, understand their vision and bring it to life is what it’s all about!
Keep your batteries charged
One of the most embarrassing moments (and yes it has happened to me) is when you turn up to a client shoot, thinking everything is going your way, only to turn on the camera and find your batteries are dead. How did this happen?! Sometimes I literally charged my batteries all night, only to turn on the camera and find there was no juice in any of them. This is not only embarrassing but can end up in you losing a client and getting a bad reputation as a rookie videographer so, check everything the night before and then you can go to bed in sound mind that you are ready to rock the next day.
Clear your SD cards
Once you have finished a day of shooting, or even just a short session, as soon as you get back to the editing cave make sure you upload your footage and clear your SD cards. Its one of those things that you will say “ehhhh… its fine I’ll do it later”, only to discover the next day on your client shoot that you have no space on your memory card but also don’t want to delete the footage that you captured yesterday. This is just a nightmare and it’s as bad as having dead batteries in my opinion. At the very least, check your SD cards are not only clear but actually inside the cameras before heading to any client shoot. Top tip – if your drone has internal memory storage capabilities then keep this clear, as in the event that you do forget put the SD card in the drone then you will at least have a back up plan. This has saved my ass more than once, so thank you DJI!
We hope this article serves as a useful checklist for any aspiring videographers in Dubai, helping to get them started on their journey to making a livelihood our of their passion for film. We are still learning every day and, as a team, continuously try our best to provide constructive criticism and positive feedback to one another in order to learn from one another’s successes & failures. If you want to join us on a shoot one day or have any cool ideas that you want to bring to life then don’t hesitate to get in touch!