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The Fundamentals of Wedding Videography for Beginners

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There is a first time for everything, and if you have your mind set on producing a wedding video, you will encounter plenty of “firsts” during that initial wedding weekend. There is a first kiss, a first dance, and a first slice of cake. Where will you have your cameras set up for each of these memorable moments? Will you need lights for every shot? How will you manage the audio? When the bride says “I do,” you will want everything in place to ensure that you capture every word and angle. This guide will address equipment needs, event priorities, and typical expectations of the bride and groom and their families.

Things to Consider

Remember that each ceremony is unique, every ballroom and reception hall is different, no two events unfold in quite the same way and, above all, every wedding party—from groomsmen to flower girl to the father of the bride—will bring their own personalities, special needs, and last-minute requests. The first bit of advice for all prospective wedding videographers is a quote from human performance expert and author Denis Waitley: “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised!”

Traditionally, the family of the bride has paid for photography and videography. In recent years, some of the “who pays for what” has changed, but whoever is footing the bill will be your client. Keep in mind that they will set the guidelines for what is expected of you, what you will cover, and what will be included in your final product. If a wedding planner is involved, it is likely you will have more than one boss. You may come to the table with a package or, perhaps, several to choose from, but be open and flexible to the needs of the family. They might request airport arrival video of international guests or underwater coverage of a scuba wedding ceremony. Saying yes to an unusual request might land you the job and secure the shoot of a lifetime.

Of course, most typical weddings will have fixed parameters around time, events, equipment, and personnel. Will you be covering the rehearsal dinner? Do they want video of the bride and groom in their respective dressing rooms, readying themselves for the big day? Will they want you to stay for the complete reception or do they only need coverage of the ceremony, the cutting of the cake, and the first dance? The length of the day and the location of each event are important factors to consider as you create your equipment checklist and assemble your crew. If you are working within a limited budget, this will dictate some of your choices. Be very clear with your client about what you will capture and how much you will be paid to do it properly. After all details and contingencies have been discussed, an agreement signed by both parties becomes the foundation from which to formulate your plan.

It is possible to shoot a wedding by yourself, but a capable assistant can make all the difference. He or she can handle a second camera when needed, keep batteries charged and ready, oversee recording media, and be available to deal with any unforeseen tasks. There will also be location changes, strikes, and setups to deal with. A larger crew and a third or even fourth camera might be required. Having someone to upload and back up captured video is an important consideration. They might also be tasked with logging the clips as they save them. Retaining a responsible and well-trained crew allows you to concentrate on being a videographer. And knowing you have all the critical shots covered from at least one other angle will keep you calm and focused.

The Gear List

Along with the proper personnel, you will want the correct equipment to do the job right. While there is no perfect number when it comes to cameras, the recommended minimum is two of the same or very similar camcorders on lightweight, sturdy tripods. Check out our article on choosing a camera, Which Video Camera is Best for You?

A third handheld camcorder is an excellent addition if you have the crew and budget to justify the extra expense. Since you will be editing the final product using video from all available sources, it is very helpful to have cameras that capture the same format, are well matched, and properly balanced.

Lighting is a crucial component of any video production. A small light kit like the Impact Qualite 300 2 Light Kit, the Smith -Victor KT750LED 2-Light Umbrella Kit, or the uLite 3 Light Lighting Kit will cover you for most situations. However, a wedding ceremony and reception are not typical shoots. Therefore, most lights you utilize must be carefully placed. Bounce your lights off walls and ceilings where possible, and use softboxes or diffusion when direct lighting is required—these techniques will provide you with ample light. In many cases, you will not want to use any lights at all, since they can have a major impact on the desired ambience of the event. Another option is having a small camera-mounted light, such as Genaray LED-5300 120 LED Dimmable Compact On-Camera Light, to use in certain situations, such as interviews during the cocktail hour. This is something to discuss with the client before the wedding date. Scouting locations ahead of time will provide invaluable information for basing decisions on lighting, as well as other factors.

Impact Qualite 300 Focusing Flood 2 Light Kit

Coming up with a comprehensive plan for recording audio will likely be the most thought-provoking element of your wedding shoot. You will want to capture good ambient sound of the guests as they “ooh” and “ah” the bride walking down the aisle, or clink their glasses in a toast to the newlyweds. Your onboard shotgun microphone will likely provide adequate coverage of the crowd noise, but a well-placed digital recorder, such as a Zoom H6 or Tascam DR-40 is another good option. In fact, a digital recorder will come in handy in many instances. You can place it on the altar or lectern during the recitation of the vows, or on the bride and groom’s table during the reception dinner, to capture candid remarks.

Zoom H6 Portable Recorder Field Kit

Following the ceremony, the reception presents you with a variety of options for recording audio. There will be toasts and speeches, so a handheld wireless microphone, such as the Sennheiser ew 135-p G3 System with an 835 Handheld Mic, can be a very useful piece of equipment, and it comes with XLR and 1/8" output cables for connecting to your camera’s mic input.

Sennheiser ew 135-p G3 Camera Mount Wireless Microphone System with 835 Handheld Mic

Taking a line out from the PA system will often be your cleanest and most reliable audio feed, but a backup of some sort, even if it’s the shotgun microphone on one of your cameras, is essential. Be sure to have audio cables of various lengths and a variety of adapters, such as XLR, 1/4", RCA and 1/8" mini connectors. Monitoring your audio with a good pair of headphones, like the Sony MDR-7506 or the Senal SMH-1000, is essential.

Senal SMH-1000 Professional Field and Studio Monitor Headphones

Once all of your equipment needs have been met, create a checklist for each wedding you book and go over it thoroughly the night before the shoot. In addition to cameras, lights, audio gear, and hardware, make sure to have an adequate supply of cables, adapters, batteries, chargers, power strips, cords, and recording media. Other essential items include gaffer tape and a tool kit.

Making Professional Connections

In addition to your own crew, you will need to make contact with and coordinate your shoot around the other professionals working the wedding. The wedding planner, if there is one, can assist you. There will most certainly be a photographer whose needs will almost mirror yours. Contact that person ahead of time, if possible, or early on the day of the wedding at the latest. Ask about their schedule and shot list to discuss how you can best coordinate your efforts.

The DJ is also someone with whom you will need to touch base as early as you can. Besides the toasts and the cutting of the cake, you will need to be in position to capture the tossing of the bouquet and garter belt. Have at least two cameras ready for the first dance, which you can easily set up for if you’ve coordinated with the DJ.

Personal contact with the musicians is also a good idea. Though you may already be aware of a live band or a soloist, checking in with them ahead of time is a courtesy that will not go unnoticed, and you can ask them to cue you when they are ready to begin.

Be Thorough

There is often much to do even hours before the guests arrive. Have at least one camera ready to roll as flowers arrive and are arranged on tables. There will be programs and guest books, trays of champagne glasses, and platters of food. Get as many beauty shots as possible for cutaways and a montage.

If you are to cover the bride and groom getting ready, one handheld camera in each location is best. Be sure to catch as many details as you can. Shoot the hair and makeup, the ribbons and shoes for the bride and her entourage. The tying of bow ties and the last-minute nerves of the groom and groomsmen will help build the visual momentum of the occasion. You will only need background sound, so your onboard shotgun microphone will suffice for this.

As the guests begin to arrive and the events start to unfold, be ready to capture anything “special” or out of the ordinary. The arrival of a twelve-door stretch limo or a military contingent in full dress uniform will be wonderful additions to a video that will stand alone in its uniqueness.

In Conclusion

With time, you will develop your own methods and style of capturing the wedding day. There are some basic rules, though, that will help you get off to a good start. Early in the day, set and secure any light stands you will be using. After checking the lights and taping down any power cords, remove the heads for safety and keep them nearby for easy setup when you need them. Claim your ceremony spaces by setting up your tripods well in advance. Be sure to have a wide cover shot, high enough to shoot over the audience members when they stand up. Make sure you can always see the bride’s face from at least one camera from the time she enters the ceremony until she leaves. Be certain to get cutaways of the parents of the bride and groom, as well as any important relatives or dignitaries. Set up an interview area in the reception space. The parents, best man, and maid of honor are a must!

If you need additional help choosing equipment for an especially high-profile wedding or event, visit the B&H SuperStore in New York City, chat with our sale professionals online via Live Chat or contact us by phone at 1-800-606-6969.

20 Comments

I have 9 cameras in my arsenal. Different cameras for different situations. I usually use 6 - 7 cameras during the ceremony. Yes it takes longer rendering everything to the same format but well worth it. I have 2 big ol' Sony video cameras, the $3,000 type that are my work horses. They do great in low light amd having a power zoom is great. I also have 2 Canon 70D's with several different lenses. Love the touch screens for DOF/focus changeups but they don't fo great in low light. I have GoPros which work well when you want to hide cameras but you've got to be close and that is the way I use them, intimate setups. 3 more cameras of different makes and designs, mostly have them for backup. I have 2 Rode shotguns ......... the key to using them is manual settings but you've got to have a pair of headphones to real know what your getting. 4 sets of programable kelvin LED lights for on-camera use, love them. Also have 3 digital recorders that I use during the ceremony, sync to video in PP. All PP is done in FCP. Have done over 200 weddings ........ still many surprises happen, very seldon does a wedding to by the book or timeline. The faster you fet used to catching the changes quickly and adjusting the better. Nudd said .........

So you can operate 9 cameras. Must be really talented.

Uhhh.. congratulations?

That it's a hell of equipment i wonder Why you don't have a mobile unit for live productions,perhaps a video switcher, camera remote control to paint every one, sound mixer , stands lights etc... many crew man or video camera man. How many people to do your production? 9 videocameras, 9 camera operators? 3 go pro, mics for ambient sound.. The cost  for a video wedding production i think goes to expensive not only for the customer  also for you I think your coment is ridiculuos ( video recording event) i can do that whith just one camera on stand with a very good  boom mic and a very good  hand held also atached a very good mic and light, making pan travels close up everything,but the meaning it's the video editing if you whant to exagerate (VIDEO RECORDING) could be 3 people.One to operate each one a video camera,but only one to make shots with out camera on stand i mean doing mobile.I can put alot of details here but i'm going to make the same mistake you did. My EXPERIENCE? i been working on tv for more than 15 years on tv . live events or recorded, comercials, music etc in studio,m0bile unit, or in the camp. also if you want to make photo you need an assistant or are you going to make video weddings with your DSLR? that's is very unprofessional. good photo and video weding production? 2 persons for video (roll situatiations to make differents video shots) and one photographer. but you could do it photo and video with 2 people also

Anonymous wrote:

That it's a hell of equipment i wonder Why you don't have a mobile unit for live productions,perhaps a video switcher, camera remote control to paint every one, sound mixer , stands lights etc... many crew man or video camera man. How many people to do your production? 9 videocameras, 9 camera operators? 3 go pro, mics for ambient sound.. The cost  for a video wedding production i think goes to expensive not only for the customer  also for you I think your coment is ridiculuos ( video recording event) i can do that whith just one camera on stand with a very good  boom mic and a very good  hand held also atached a very good boom and wireless mic (each one in different stereo chanel right left ) and light, making pan travels close up everything,but the meaning it's the video editing if you whant to exagerate (VIDEO RECORDING) could be 3 people.One to operate each one a video camera,but only one to make shots with out camera on stand i mean doing mobile.I can put alot of details here but i'm going to make the same mistake you did. My EXPERIENCE? i been working on tv for more than 15 years on tv . live events or recorded, comercials, music etc in studio,m0bile unit, or in the camp. also if you want to make photo you need an assistant or are you going to make video weddings with your DSLR? that's is very unprofessional. good photo and video weding production? 2 persons for video (roll situatiations to make differents video shots) and one photographer. but you could do it photo and video with 2 people also

One thing not mentioned in the basics is acquiring a GOOD shotgun microphone.  Invaluable for closups, shout-outs and general audio backup.  BUT you need to get a mic that doesn't pic up the ultrasonic signals that are everywhere.  I have an AKG C568-B that I used for years and when I bought a Rode VideoMic Pro for my smaller cameras I noticed after several events that it picked up odd noises and figured out looking at the footage that whenever it was pointed at microwave dishes, cell phone towers, guard shacks, facilities with burglar alarms, perimeter security and lots more, it made screeching sounds of various volumes.  In addition to the AKG C568B is the Rode NTG-1.  Not as quiet but acceptable for events, the NTG doesn't pick up these signals either. Also, wireless microphones - OF ANY QUALITY-  will pick up these UHF signals.  Always test your audio equipment before the event at the site.  And even then, there are no guarantees.  Always record off of the PA or DJ's sound board if possible, especially if it is the house system. They have already tested it.

Also, the suggestion to use wireless handhelds is great.  Few people want the hastle of wearing a lapel mic.  Lapels are only good for the ceremony.

What is a about post production!

John S, what do you need to know?  Software, hardware, workflow, what? I have used eight different editors for event videos.  I listed them but the expora thought it is SPAM. You need a fast, high mHz chip to edit, with at least 16 GB of quality memory and lots of storage. Expect to spend at least $2,000.  In addition, the software you choose will be VERY particular as to what Video graphics card you MUST use.  This error has confouded thousands of people.  Don't let it happen to you.  You can't just build a good gaming machine and expect it to work well.  ANY computer can render prerendered game video files.  Editing must handle unrendered high bit rate HD and UHD video. Workflow is a whole nother matter.

What camera do you have and what do you use now?

tech me to go live

What about a DSL Camera ? which one the Best?

There are many excellent options on the market for DSLRs which can be used to shoot weddings.  I would suggest sending an email to our dedicated Photo Department letting us know what/how you shoot, a rough estimate of your budget, and what (if any) equipment you already have.  We would then be able to make a recommendation or two that would best fit your needs.  AskPhoto@bhphoto.com

I agree, What is the best quality lens should we be investing in for Top Notch  Wedding Picture Perfect Quality Photos ? 

I own Canon 5D Mark lll . 

Yolie "captureitphoto888@gmail.com

Thanks 

After you’ve done a certain amount of weddings, you’ll eventually gravitate towards a favorite lens/focal to work with.  There are 3-4 lenses we commonly recommend and are popular to work with for wedding shoots.  For a full-frame Canon such as your 5D MK III the most common first lens to go for would be something in the 24-70mm or 24-105mm range.  They offer a wide focal to get your scenic and group shots in, and also offer a nice portrait perspective for when you are closer to the ceremony and events.  If you were only going to go with one lens, I’d recommend it to be one of those two.   My second lens choice would be something in the 70-200mm range for instances where you cannot get close up to the moment, and then a 50mm f1.4 is another good lens to have in the kit bag for portraits.  See the links below for details on each. 

http://bhpho.to/JLPlEB

http://bhpho.to/1bhI2hU

http://bhpho.to/ISfrp1

http://bhpho.to/1cqA0Ez

we use a 24  to 105 for all fixed shots wide angle focus racked and manual color balance. and for all moving shoots we use a hpx 250. Weddings are so fast and dont have time to worry about focus so we use our cannon for stills and the complete overview of the room (this is only due to focus and limited capture time unless you spend allot on external recorders and such). IMHO get a run in gun good low light P2 or Micro P2 camera like the new HPX270 great focus 4 channel auto and great low light for the price. Dont spend your money on a lens for the Cannon get the right gear for the job and you will be much happier. We shot weddings and a dslr is nice if you have time to compose shots , a typical wedding is run run run then more running. hope this helps.

Knowing that a DSLR can produce decent results at events, they makes for a lot of work to get there.  The Best DSLR camera is the one you sold to buy a real video camera.  By the time you get all the hardware needed to get quality shots, you could afford a decent $4,000 video camera that has a decent chip size, can shoot low light and yet have a better color space and data bit rate. A DSLR will never be able to produce high data rate video with any depth of color space without cooling the chip.  No DSLR does that. That big chip in your DSLR? It may be 20 megapixels but HD video is only 2.2. It must shut down pixels to produce video and in the process creates artifacts. 

As a converted Phideo nut, I found that a large chip DSLR is nice for low light shots, but horrible for run n' gun, shaky shots, moire patterns, changing scenes, setting white balance and general shooting.  With a decent video cam, you can focus, reset the white balance as you transition from out to inside, change the aperature and adjust the sound all while walking and within 10 seconds. 

A DSLR is good for making shot planned work.

i shoot weddings with a gh4 and it is perfect. No need for a video camera at all. My back ups are 2 x gh2's hacked. Monopods tripod steadicam slider and my 4k drone. 3 lenses covering all focal distances and a pc i built for £800 that flies through footage. My whole set up cost under 2k and i get some epic results! Hence my full ofder book for this year.
Its not tge 3000 dollar camera its the guy behind it. Its a wedding shoot candid mainly my equipment is light and small and unibtrusive. This is not a hollywood movie set.

Thanks

Hi Glenn would you mind telling me the 3 lenses you use to cover all focal distances? I just shot my first wedding and am looking to upgrade lenses. Thanks so much for any help!

Can i make a wild guess? 18-35, 17-50 and 70-200/50-150?

very good...

Great Stuff...Keep it coming...

You might what to show the difference between low budget and high end cameras for doing weddings.

Same with mics...shotgun vrs ...etc.

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