Today we have the pleasure of getting to know a brilliant photographer and cinematographer, Vladimir Chaloupka. Though Vlad has been a photographer twice as long as he’s been a cinematographer, don’t let that fool you! He has over 10 years experience as a cinematographer and over 20 years experience as a photographer. His work takes him all over the world and still sustains him in a very personal and positive way.
Come with us as we delve into the world of cinematography for a bit with our expert guide, Vlad.
“First of all, Thank you for having me on the blog, honored to be here!
I literally, jumped at the chance to interview you so, I think I have to say thank you for taking the time to answer all of my questions and thanks for sharing. Tell us, How did you begin your career ?
Many people don’t know that I actually began my career as a still photographer and to this day most of my work is in photography. My start came as a photographer and then photo editor for the University of Washington yearbook in Seattle, followed by several years of traveling and freelancing in Europe, including a stint as photo editor of the Prague Post in the Czech Republic (it was wonderful to be back in Prague, the city where I was born!)”
Have you always been a videographer?
Actually, I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years and a videographer for almost 10, filming my first wedding video about 7 years ago.
Going from photo to video really was a natural progression as I really do approach both in a very similar way, with an emphasis on light, composition and capturing the moment – [but] not necessarily in that order!
Did being established as a photographer help with launching your videographer services and making connections in the industry? What did you do to make & maintain your connections in the industry when you started out?
Yes, I think since I was already established as a photographer it made it easier to start doing video rather than just starting out from scratch. [However] Making connections is something that takes time and you have to be patient. It’s important to get to know the wedding coordinators at the various venues and keep in touch. I’m actually more comfortable either shooting, or editing at the computer, so networking isn’t really easy for me but I’m trying to get better! I know that some people may disagree with this, but if a coordinator asks for photos from a recent wedding I have no problems giving them some images–hopefully they’ll refer me more often and if they don’t it’s not a big deal to email them a few shots. [I’ve since found] one of the best ways to make connections with industry friends is to attend workshops and conferences such as the Canada Photo Convention. Even if people are familiar with your work and website there’s nothing that can beat face to face contact!I’m also a strong believer in sharing what you know and I consider fellow videographers as colleagues instead of competitors. I’m an open book, ask me anything–it can only make all of us better!
What did you struggle with most in the beginning after launching this new service?
In terms of struggling with a certain aspect of the business, I have to be honest and say that working with audio is one of the most challenging parts of being a videographer, but I have learned much in recent years–lav mics, wireless setups, sound mixing and having backup up recordings are all things you have to think about on the wedding day.
You know, you hear about experts not being born experts….thanks for sharing a couple of your struggles with networking and some aspects of audio being a challenge.
So, now you’ve began offering an amazing service for couples looking to capture their wedding memories in more than one medium. Tell us about your favourite parts of the job and where (location-wise) has your business taken you?
One of my favourite parts about my business is being to travel to places I normally wouldn’t have a chance to visit. In the past few years I’ve shot weddings in Madrid, Mexico, Croatia, Tel Aviv, Jamaica, Antigua and all over the United States. I have a wedding in Iceland this summer but it’s kind of top secret so I can’t really talk about that one! :)
Amazing that you get to travel to some of the most amazing places on earth! How do you incorporate the environment in your videos to build a connection between the emotion of the day and where it happened? Do you focus on anything in particular when trying to build this connection in your videos?
Incorporating the environment is very important in building on the story of the day. Especially on destination weddings, I like to arrive a day or two early to shoot some “B” roll and I find that having a few days to shoot really helps round out the video and capture the mood of the event. I mean, they chose their destination for their wedding very carefully and I’m there to capture that, so I try to find what’s unique about each place and often get up early to do a morning time lapse, or if the wedding party is hanging out at the pool I’ll grab the waterproof GoPro cam and dive in. The environment is important, but if you join that with capturing a moment, even if it’s shuttle bus driver in Jamaica congratulating the bride and groom, then you have a winning combination!
Tell us about other highlights in your career.
The most memorable highlight of my still photography career was when I was shooting prostitutes on the Czech/German border and two carload of gypsy pimps chased me down before I lost them in a dense forest and then hitch hiked back to Prague.
The most amazing moment of my video career was when I was shooting Ben and Erin Chrisman’s wedding in Mexico and I gave Erin’s mom Sidonie a shot of tequila on the dance floor during the most incredible dance party I’ve ever filmed! I now often shoot with Ben and Erin and can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without them–thank you.
The photography highlight sounds like the backstory of a fantastic new netflix series and your video career highlight sounds like it was a blast! So I have to ask, on the flip side, have you ever had to make any tough decisions regarding which client(s) to work with if they aren’t you’re “ideal” match?
Yes, sometimes I have to make decisions regarding which client to work with and I think it’s the same as with still photography [like any profession]: maybe the pay is not great but the location is, or the couple is annoying but the photographers you’re working with are people you respect, so you make it work.
Preach…on!!!! From this though, I’m sensing the lesson would be to do your best to attract your ideal client! Any tips on doing that while educating and not lecturing potential clients on your services?
I think the best way to educate your couple is to show them video examples. Show them the shot your 2nd shooter got of bride’s reaction during the toast, or show them a cool time lapse that your assistant setup–when they see that they get excited!
Top 3 ways I market my work:
Use social media for exposure, network with other videographers, and try to take video that does not suck!
Seriously, I think [it’s] the best thing when the brother or sister of a bride or groom hires you for their wedding. Then you know you’re doing something right!
Networking in itself can provide an amazing education. Do you continually educate yourself on your craft? If so, what’s the most recent thing you’ve learned?
Yes, continuing eduction is crucial, and going to events like CPC and the Fearless Conference is a big part of that. In terms of video, I would really like to attend something by Philip Bloom or Vincent Laforet, or a MediaStorm multi-media workshop. Love the online stuff too, including of course CreativeLive, and my favourite site for software tutorials, Lynda.com.
The most recent thing I learned was from the amazing Fer Juaristi during his talk at Mystic Seminars last month. He said “sometimes I’m an artist and sometimes I’m a prostitute,” and it’s such a simple yet profound thing. Not all weddings will be with the most awesome clients at a dream location, sometimes it’s just a job, and that’s ok.
So when you find yourself working at or on a wedding that feels more like a job, do you look to other artistic genres for inspiration (music, art, drawing, photography etc) when needed if so What have you found to be most helpful when feeling uninspired?
I absolutely get inspired from other genres of art and media. I love movies that are shot as if through the eyes of a photographer, where often the movie camera is holding still on a perfectly composed scene and the action plays within that frame. The Jack Black movie Lucha Libre, while a silly comedy, is actually beautifully shot in terms of photographic composition… I don’t think my taste in film is very sophisticated.
I actually can’t say a thing re: your taste as I’ve most definitely seen this movie! Let’s talk what you would suggest as inspiration for shooting weddings that perhaps more still photographers should consider?
People often ask me what films inspire me and they expect me to say something like Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, but if I was heading off to a deserted island I’d probably reach for Mission Impossible and Groundhog Day.
I think TV commercials are often of course quite horrible but sometimes are works of genius [and should be considered as inspiring in some cases]. The Guinness beer commercial (the one with the horses and surfers–look it up on YouTube) is 60 seconds of pure inspiration![Look to other established peers as well.] I’m also excited to hear Matt and Katie Ebenezer’s talks at CPC. They are videographers as well as photographers and I just love their style!
Any tips for still photographers that they may not have been considered ?[For me], neutral density filters [which are already] built into [my] CanonC100. It just makes my life easier every time I use [them] especially in bright light!
[oh and] three things I wish someone had told me before I started my business:
- “Lord loves a working man;
- don’t trust whitey;
- see a doctor and get rid of it.”
No wait, sorry, that’s a line from another favourite movie of mine, The Jerk.
Finally, what 3 things support you in business and your sanity?[My] wife Rachel, young daughter Mira and the positive feedback from my clients. Yes, it is true, even with all the stresses of the wedding day and the endless nights of editing, being a videographer [gives] me so much freedom, fills my heart, and feeds my soul….[meaning]I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Thank you very much Jasser and I can’t wait for this year’s convention.
Written By: Esther Kelly, BEK Studios