Commercial Shoots on a Budget – Save Money Without Compromising on Quality

KitStudio Team
July 15, 2021

    You’ve been hired to shoot a project for a new corporate client. If you’re a lone freelancer or part of a small team, you’re bound to have your eye on the budget. After all, whatever you don’t spend – on equipment, locations, props and so on – is money in your bank account.

    But you also want to do the very best job you can – for the client and for yourself. And we all know that you can’t have good and cheap in the same project, right? Actually, that’s not entirely true. Not if you’re clever about it.

    Here are a few tips and tricks to bear in mind – plus things to watch out for so that keeping your eye on the budget doesn’t backfire on you.

    Go for the free option if you can

    They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that really is the case when the budget is limited. Be innovative about where you can use what you have – and what you can get hold of with no cost involved.

    Rather than renting an expensive location, for example, can you find somewhere that will let you film free of charge, or perhaps in return for a PR plug? Maybe you know a friend who has a fancy apartment or a family member who works in a swanky office.

    Outdoor spaces come with their own challenges, from weather concerns to harsh shadows, but they can be a winner on the budget front. You’re unlikely to need to pay anyone to use a public park, for example, though you might need permission. And you’ll spend less on lighting kit too.

    And then there’s people. Obviously you don’t want to compromise on filming talent. But if you need help for the more mundane aspects of your shoot, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a willing volunteer looking for an opportunity to gain experience.

    Choose the appropriate level of kit

    As part of a small team, you’re unlikely to have a warehouse full of kit at your disposal. Perhaps your A cam will be enough, with your trusty B cam on hand for secondary angles. But you might decide you need to supplement what you already have in order to do the best job you can.

    The temptation here is to go for the most expensive thing you can afford, in the hope that it will impact the quality of the work you produce – and impress the client, especially if you’re trying to look that bit bigger than you actually are.

    But spending money on kit gives diminishing returns. A £40k camera won’t be four times as good as a £10k camera. In fact, you’d have to be a pretty experienced cinematographer to notice much difference at all.

    Likewise don’t add flash for the sake of it. Do you really have to get that fancy gimbal shot? Not only will you need to spend money on buying or hiring it, but chances are that it will chew up a huge amount of time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere. Like getting a series of other shots that would be more useful in the edits, or nailing your storyboard pre shoot.

    Buy where it makes sense, rent where it doesn’t

    If you really do need to supplement your existing kit, be clever about where you spend your money.

    Camera technology moves fast. If you buy something today, chances are you’ll be hankering for a new model within a year or two. Lenses, on the other hand, have a much longer lifespan. So if you do want to invest in your own kit, consider spending on lenses and rent any extra camera equipment you might need.

    There are further savings to be had within the rental scene too. Peer to peer renting is likely to be 40-50% cheaper than getting your kit from a rental house. Plus there are lots of other advantages, like the opportunity to meet creatives in your area and build up your network..

    Understand your audience

    If you don’t have a good sense of who your client is – what their needs are, or what they understand about filmmaking – you’re likely to mispitch your kit.

    For example, if they are relatively inexperienced at commissioning video and wouldn’t know their Canon X from their Arri Ultra Prime, there’s no point in spending money on a load of kit they’ll never appreciate.

    On the other hand, your client might feel reassured by seeing a set full of fancy looking equipment and brand names they know, in which case you might decide that the outlay is worthwhile.

    This is especially true if the job is likely to lead to more work. You might ultimately choose to spend money now, in order to make a lot more later. Just be careful about making expensive assumptions that leave you out of pocket when that elusive next job never materialises.

    Plan, plan, plan and plan some more

    Ultimately one of the best things you can do to save money on a commercial shoot without compromising on quality is to plan like crazy. Planning means you’ll have time to line up that awesome free venue, for example, or find the most cost effective kit rental options.

    It also means you can get your skills up to speed if you’re doing something a bit outside of your comfort zone. That might be filming with a new, more sophisticated piece of kit or lighting an auditorium when you’re used to small offices.

    Being prepared means that on the day, you won’t waste precious time (and therefore money). You’re less likely to feel stressed and see your quality drop off as a result. And you won’t risk coming across as amateur – something that could cost you money down the line.

    There’s no getting away from the fact that a commercial shoot is always going to carry costs. But those costs don’t have to be prohibitive if you’re clever. And saving money definitely doesn’t have to have a negative impact on the quality of your work.

    Looking to grow your network and get more freelance work? We’ve got a blog post you need to read.