Once you’re committed to a wedding shoot, the first thing to do is sit down with the bride and groom to discuss the big day. This meeting can’t be too far out or they won’t know the details yet, but make sure you meet far enough in advance that both you and the couple can still make adjustments to the plan. If possible, meet at the event site so you can see the actual venue and discuss specifics with the couple. The most important part of this meeting is to solidify in everyone’s mind what the couple wants in the final video. Do they want it cinematic? Do they want interviews? Music? Long slow shots? Are there going to be specific events they want captured? Is the bride going to be wearing heirloom earrings that need to be captured? How long do they want the final video to be?
These and any other details of the sequence of events or their expectations of you as a guest at their wedding are important to discuss ahead of time for best results. You don’t want to be caught off guard when the flash mob starts up or the father of the bride breaks out in song.
Reach out to the ceremony and reception venues and find out if they have any rules covering videography. Many churches won’t allow videographers in certain areas, so it’s important to note if you will need to bring a zoom lens. Some large reception venues require you to show proof of insurance before they let you shoot there. It’s your responsibility to have everything in order before the wedding day.
Talk to some of the vendors, mainly the ones you will work with on the wedding day. Knowing key vendors in the industry can help you land future weddings. Be sure to get to know the Wedding Coordinator as they are often the first vendor an engaged couple seeks out and you want to be the videographer that gets recommended. Ask for a copy of the schedule and contacts for the other vendors. Ask the DJ about their setup and if you can plug into their sound board to get backup audio. Will they bring a high end light kit for the reception? See if the photographer is willing to collaborate with you. Can you shoot side by side and rotate for closeups? Getting acquainted with everyone will help the shoot move along much more smoothly.
Gear: Keep it Simple
The best advice we have about equipment is to keep it as minimal as possible. Let’s face it, it’s likely nobody at the wedding knows you and nobody wants to turn around and trip over your tripod or get blinded by your lights. The basics are enough lenses, microphones, battery packs to get you through the night and maybe a mono-pod or shoulder rig. Bring extra batteries and a charging station. You don’t want the bride waiting on you to find a fresh battery before she’s allowed to toss the bouquet. The goal is to be invisible. Blend into the background like a ninja. In order to do that you can’t be toting around a ton of gear. You also need to be agile and able to follow whatever action is taking place. To do that you need a simple setup.
Going to the rehearsal is not necessary to shoot a good wedding, but if you have the time and think it will be fun, then by all means, go. It will give you a good idea where the best angles will be and where to stand to avoid being in the way. While you are there, why not get some video of the rehearsal? Don’t be surprised, however, if the wedding ceremony ends up quite different.
Having some footage from the rehearsal also gives you a chance to patch up bad footage from the event or have something to use for transitions.
The Big Event
On the day of the wedding, arrive at least a half-hour before the ceremony. You should wear semi formal clothes, such as slacks, a cotton dress shirt and tie. Wear comfortable rubber soled shoes so you can run from stance to stance without worry of slipping or being uncomfortable.
The first thing you do when you get to the location is find the wedding planner or person running the show. Go over all the details of the event, even if you went to the rehearsal. Make sure you know where the wedding party will enter, which way they will face and if they are doing anything special during the ceremony. Strategically plan your shots and how you want to get from one spot to another so when the party starts you don’t miss key moments.
Then get video of the groom preparing. He might be a bit nervous, so try not to get too close to him while shooting. Make sure to get a close-up of his face and a wide shot as well.
If the bride is already at the site, you should get her preparing as well. Get a long, medium and close-up shot of the bride. Use a monopod and try to stay out of the way; you don’t want to make the bride feel nervous. Remember, be invisible.
You should be waiting with camera ready at least five minutes ahead of the ceremony. Get some shots of the altar, the scenery, and guests while you are waiting. Make sure to shoot a few 20-second close-up shots of the flowers, surroundings, and decorations. You can use them later in editing to cover up bad shots or build into transitions.
When the ceremony begins, remember to stay invisible. Get a good long shot of the wedding party coming down the aisle. Do not follow each person, but rather find a fixed position, hold a medium shot, and allow everyone to walk in and out of the shot.
Before the wedding march begins, you should already be focused on the bride’s entrance. Follow her as she walks down the aisle. Hold a wide to medium shot of her. After she gets to the altar, greets the groom and walks to the officiant, you should move to the right or left side of the altar. You should go to the side where you can get the best shot of the bride. Getting good shots of the bride is key to a great wedding video, the groom should be in the shots too, but use him as an accent to the bride for many shots. You should stay in one place as long as you can to stay discreet. Keep the camera rolling and hold each shot for several minutes, getting a wide shot at first, then a medium and then a close-up. Make your zooms very slow and your camera movements very slight. You want people to concentrate on the bride and groom and not the camera movement.
Stay focused on the bride and groom through the entire ceremony. You want to be sure you don’t miss any facial expressions or emotional moments through this part. The wedding party and officiant will be there after the ceremony ends or before it starts, but this moment should be focused on the wedding couple. After the couple are announced, you want to run to the end of the aisle to get them walking out.
The reception is far more casual and you can get much closer to the action and get more involved than you were at the ceremony. Oftentimes receptions are in the evening or in a dimly lit environment, so bring the right gear for the task. Be sure to know when all of the highlights like the newlyweds walking into the reception, the toasts, cutting the cake, first dances and the garter and bouquet toss will be so you can be in the right position for each one. You should also get some ambient shots of the reception hall, such as the cake before it’s cut, the registration book, wedding invitations, the table setting, the centerpiece and anything else that looks special or unique to the couple.
We also recommend trying to get a quick shot of as many guests as you can, especially immediate families and members of the wedding party. These should be candid shots of them doing things like chatting, dancing, meeting and congratulating the newlyweds, and even decorating the car. The amount of footage you use from these shots will depend on how long the video will be, but many times, seeing these scenes of the guests will be a first for the bride and groom since their attention was elsewhere during the actual reception.
Audio is just as important as video, so make sure you capture it well. It seems to work well to turn off the auto gain on your camera when possible, and adjust the volume input manually. The auto gain can put a hiss in your audio track during quiet parts that add extra work to post production. You can often get good results from putting a lavalier mic on the groom, but never try to put one on the bride.
Don’t be too artsy-
You may feel the need to experiment on the wedding day. That’s okay, but be sure you don’t miss the traditional shots and if you have plans for something crazy, be sure it lines up with the bride and groom’s expectations. Experimenting is a great way to help you find your style, but don’t forget that couples want to see their vows, first dance, and cake cutting. Make sure you have the important things covered before you get all those cool transition shots.
Keep the camera stable-
To make a high-quality product, stabilization is required. Going handheld won’t work. Whatever stabilization you use, be sure it’s quick and easy to operate. Tripods can be too big and bulky for weddings with the exception of long steady shots like those at the ceremony. A monopod, glidecam, gimbal, or shoulder rig is probably better for most of the shots.
Have an extra camera capture parts of the crowd during the ceremony. This footage will always come in handy to hide any rough edits. It’s also great to cut to the crowd if the photographer walks into your shot of the couple at the altar.
Tell a story-
Regardless of how long the wedding video is supposed to be, the most memorable ones tell a dramatic story using both strategic videography and post production additions like music and transitions. The story should build from the start to a dramatic climax and then end with the celebration of a new family.
Don’t shoot too much footage-
The more footage you shoot, the longer it takes to do post production work before you get a final product to send to the newlyweds. This requires a vision of what you want the video to be long before you start shooting random things. Plan it out beforehand. If you do your own editing, this will save you time. If you send it out, this will save you time and money since many editing shops charge based on time or complexity. Before you hit record, get in the habit of asking yourself, “Will I use this shot in the video?”, and then mentally place the shot in the sequence so you can work through post-production more efficiently.
Post is where many videographers struggle. Video editing is an acquired skill and is different than capturing footage. We at Video Butlers use Adobe Creative Cloud products for our edits. This gives us limitless options for creative edits, transitions, and effects. It also makes it easy to do color grading and rendering out to almost any format available.
If you love shooting weddings, but aren’t keen on editing, we may be a good fit for your process and can save you time to help you spend more time at the wedding and less time on the computer.