Event videography is a booming trade, and as a result, this line of work offers great opportunities for beginners to acquire their first professional experiences. Of course, weddings are an especially idiosyncratic type of event and as such, they can be uniquely challenging, even for seasoned pros. Most people are familiar with the basic wedding formula, but when it comes to refining your “wedding strategies,” there really is no substitute for experience. This article will attempt to provide beginners with a brief guide to wedding videography.
Neophyte videographers should be careful not to underestimate the importance of “pre-production.” Remember that in the days and years leading up to the ceremony, brides and—whether they will admit it or not, even grooms—are known to harbor elaborate fantasies about what they hope their wedding day will be like. It is imperative that you discuss their expectations in detail.
What type of video do they want? A wedding video can be as simple as a three-to-five-minute music video or as elaborate as a reality television series. You and your clients must establish a mutual understanding regarding what they want and also what is possible. Many wedding clients do not understand the benefits of a multi-camera production. If they are unwilling to pay for a second videographer and you are on your own, you should be honest about the contingent limitations. If they want a shot of both their faces as they look into each other’s eyes and speak their vows, you will need at least two cameras. Of course, you can always set a second camera on a tripod and just let it run, but when you are dealing with the dynamics of a live event, there are inevitable limitations for a lone videographer.
That’s not to say that a solo videographer cannot do a great job. Most wedding videos are probably shot this way. However, this necessitates a great deal of preparation. There will be a list of very specific moments that your clients want you to record. When you plan your coverage, you will have to think like an editor. What angles do you want? When and where do you need a close-up or a wide shot? On the day, you will be constantly on the move and, if you’re running a second camera, you will need to be in two places at once.
Establish a schedule for the day and map out directions for each location. The wedding party often starts the day in two different locations, so that the bride and groom do not see each other until the ceremony. Do your clients want you to cover the pre-ceremony preparations? How early can you access the various locations? You will need time to set up and break down your equipment. Wedding receptions often carry on late into the night, and you will likely be exhausted by the end, so find out how late they want you to stay.
Once you and your clients have established this basic plan for the day, you can go ahead and prepare your equipment package. If you are building a collection of gear from scratch, bear in mind the specific demands of event videography. HDSLRs are a popular choice among beginning filmmakers.
"Regardless of the type of camera you choose, you are going to need two things: lots of recording media and plenty of battery power."
The film-like aesthetic and relative affordability of HDSLRs make them an attractive option, but certain models present considerable challenges for event coverage. For instance, video recording times for still cameras are often limited to 30 minutes, which allows manufacturers to avoid a hefty tax that the European Union imposes on traditional video cameras. This is easily overcome if you can simply start and stop video recording manually, but it may be a problem if you want to set the camera on a tripod and just let it roll through the entire ceremony. Regardless of the type of camera you choose, you are going to need two things: lots of recording media and plenty of battery power. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I’ll share a personal anecdote with you. When I was first starting out, I thought to myself: “Certainly three batteries must be sufficient, and I’ll bring my handy charger for insurance.” Of course, I ended up needing to intermittently charge batteries throughout the day. My system was working perfectly until I got distracted—you will inevitably get distracted—and I ended up leaving my battery and charger behind when the wedding moved on to a new location. I never saw that battery or charger again and, as I was digging into my wallet to replace them, I thought to myself: “I wish I had just spent this money on a few extra batteries from the beginning!” The lesson here also applies to memory cards. Don’t expect to have the luxury of ingesting and backing up footage in the field.
Audio gear is another key element of your equipment package, and in some respects, audio is even more important than the picture. When editing, the continuity of picture is largely dependent on the continuity of sound. There is almost always some kind of creative workaround if you need to compensate for a missed shot, but there are certain moments that absolutely require good, clean audio recording. Weddings are rife with speeches, and the vows are probably your very highest priority. When you get to the reception, introduce yourself to the DJ. If there is a DJ, very often they emcee the reception and they can give you the heads-up when someone is going to give a speech. Also, if they’re really nice, they may let you record line audio direct from their mixer, which should give you really clean recordings of the speeches. Try to adjust all of your audio settings when the DJ is testing their equipment, so you’ll be ready to catch the important stuff.
Professional camera support gear is essential. In the very least, you will need one tripod per camera. Not only is it totally impractical to shoot handheld through the entire ceremony, but a tripod lends your footage a subtle yet arguably palpable sense of emotional stability. If your clients are really big fans of Paul Greengrass films, then you might be able to get away with shooting the ceremony handheld, but you’ll probably want to discuss that with them. On the other hand, during the cocktail hour, dinner and dancing, you will probably want greater mobility. You might consider a monopod or a shoulder support rig for those situations. Such gear gives you increased mobility with adequate stability and, in the long run, it can spare you considerable fatigue. Plus… it makes you look professional. Kidding aside, freelance wedding videographers get a lot of business through referrals, and the look of pro gear makes an impression and can attract future clients. Of course, you’ve got to back it up with solid work.
All of the gear that we have discussed so far is more or less indispensable, but now we’ll be getting into a category that really depends on the unique circumstances of a given occasion. Most modern weddings blithely accept the brazen intrusion of a photographer’s camera flash, but continuous lighting is a different story. Video lights constitute an acute imposition on an otherwise carefully planned environment. This gives us an opportunity to define two very different approaches to wedding videography. If your clients want you to capture the bride and groom’s first dance but the room is too dark, your solution to this problem depends on what kind of videographer your clients want you to be. Do they want you to be an unobtrusive, naturalistic documentarian? Or, do they want you to do whatever it takes to get the shot? A large light kit should only be deployed in the appropriate time and place, and whatever the case, remember that you are there to record these memories, not to be a part of them. With that in mind, keep a small on-camera light in your bag. You never know when it will come in handy.
Ideally, your entire approach to wedding videography should be informed by a thorough understanding of what a your client wants, and this is sure to vary from couple to couple. Of course, it is important to remember that you are an artist. Most weddings are ill suited to the avant garde, but all clients appreciate creativity. They rarely know exactly what they want from their wedding video, and that is one of the reasons they hired you. A good wedding video has a few surprises, and the best kind of surprise is an honest document of a spontaneous moment. If you catch the “Ring Bearer” kissing the “Flower Girl” on the cheek, that’s video gold.
I hope you have found this beginner’s guide helpful, and I invite you to share your thoughts in the Comments section, below. If you would like help navigating the rather broad product categories that we’ve discussed here, please visit the B&H SuperStore, call us at 1-800-606-6969 or contact our sales professionals via Live Chat.