In this article, we cover some helpful hints, tricks, and wedding videography tips to help you get the ball rolling.
Look, I don’t take much pride in telling people I shot weddings for three years. It was a dark night of the soul of a jaded post-college wannabe-artist twenty-something. But… I did learn a lot. From camera technique to editing skills to running a business even learning to live in more harmonious accord with my fellow travelers on Spaceship Earth, weddings afforded me experiences that I still value today.
While I have no plans to return, I think I’ve had enough time and space from those years to revisit and pass on what I’ve learned. So with a healthy balance of practical tips, abstract advice, and a dash of affiliate links, here are nine life lessons from my time as a wedding videographer.
While you can probably count on borrowing a pencil from a classmate at school, it’s a bit more difficult to get your photographer counterpart to lend you a battery or SD card that you forgot at home. Compatibility issues aside, it’s just not a good look. It might seem overly obvious, but I always make sure that:
- My batteries are charged up the night before
- I’m stocked with spare SD cards
- And I’ve checked to make sure I have the right adapter for connecting my audio recorder with the venue’s sound system.
An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of last minute scramble.
If you’re interested in upgrading or restocking your memory card supply, check out JuicedLink’s article of our top picks here.
Contrary to the carefully calculated conditions of indoor studios and film sets, wedding venues are fast-paced, dynamic, often chaotic environments. No one is going to wait for you to yell “action”, because the action never stops. One minute you’re filming the caterer’s precarious balancing act of unloading the cake and the next minute the wedding planner is hurrying you out to the first look.
Staying light on your feet means making important decisions about how much gear you need to pack.
- Don’t choose a tripod where a monopod will do.
- Consider a zoom lens over three primes.
- Pick a backpack/camera bag that distributes the weight on your shoulders evenly. Single strap messenger bags are killer on the old trapezius.
- Wearing appropriately cozy shoes is a must. I emphasize appropriate because you don’t want to bring any more attention to yourself than your camera rig already will.
Speaking of feet, it’s not crazy to be literally on your toes for 12 hours the day. I often showed up at the venue at 8:00 AM and was still shooting until 8:00 PM when the couple drove off in their 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier. (Hey, not everybody can afford a vintage convertible Corvette.)
Wedding days are long days, so pace yourself. If there’s downtime, take a load off. Perfecting your something old, new, borrowed, and blue detail shot isn’t worth expending energy you’ll need for the ceremony (or the egregious final push that is dancing).
4. Know thy camera
No list of wedding videography tips would be complete without mention of your camera. Weddings are notorious for unpredictable lighting. The transition from a dimly lit green to a cloudless mid-afternoon sun is just a doorframe away. It is so easy to get under and overexposed shots if you don’t know the difference between your camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and aperture settings. For much longer than I care to admit, I kept most of my camera settings on automatic and had to deal with frustratingly grainy or blown out footage.
Anticipating your subject’s next move is a vital skill of any documentary-style videographer. But even the most adept professor of human behavior will lose great shots if they don’t have the muscle memory to quickly adjust camera settings.
Mirrorless cameras perform particularly well in low light situations. Lenses that open wider than f/2.0 also help capture clean post-sunset footage.
5. Choose lenses wisely
No list of wedding videography tips would be complete without mention of your lenses either. I’ve found that a just-right focal length of 35 mm to 50 mm can cover just about every part of your standard wedding day. The 35 mm felt like it gave the audience the sense of being right there; just wide enough to see the full breadth of the scene without the unnatural distortion of an ultra-wide lens.
The important exception is the ceremony where a longer focal length allows you to capture tight shots at an unassuming distance. Capturing human moments like a teary groom or the exchange of rings is made possible by “spy lenses” with focal lengths around 85 mm to 135 mm.
The great thing about wide-range zoom lenses like a Canon 24 mm – 105 mm is that you get all of these distances in one package. Imagine how your body will thank you for choosing the weight of one zoom lens over three fixed-length prime lenses. The unfortunate tradeoff is that zooms tend to have a smaller aperture, which can be tricky for low light situations. And, of course, as any good prime purist will tell you, zooms just don’t look as good.
That said, honor the artist. Picking focal lengths is still a subjective… well… subject! There are so many creative shots to be captured by breaking rules and spurning “normal” focal lengths for something we’ve yet to see. Lord knows, weddings could use a little originality.
6. Steady, steady
Shaky footage is a big facepalm, especially because it’s such an easy fix. From monopods to gimbals to glidecams, there’s an entire sub-genre of video gear dedicated to keeping your footage smooth.
Even if the footage isn’t quite as shake-free as you’d like it to be, the added stability of a monopod will give you the foundation you need to use a post-production effect like Premiere Pro’s warp stabilizer. It’s a handy tool, but without a little bit of physical stabilization, artificially wave warped footage can be just as distracting as shaky footage.
7. Relate to the photographer
This is a list of wedding videography tips, not wedding photography tips. That being said, this you can take as gospel:
Wedding photography is more important than wedding videography.
I’ve yet to encounter a wedding in which the couple, the parents, or other financially responsible parties aren’t paying more dollars to the photographer than they are to the videographer. Put simply, society values pictures more than video.
It’s why couples on a budget will always make sure they have a photographer before a videographer. It’s why you can walk into the home of any married couple and not be more than a stone’s throw away from a picture frame of their happiest day. It’s why some couples (and I can’t even tell you how often I hear this) haven’t even sat down and watched their wedding video!
This comes from couples who’ve been married a year and couples who’ve been married for twenty-five. It’s actually pretty depressing when you think about it.
I’m waxing because this fact should define your relationship with the wedding photographer.
- It means deferring to their lead.
- It means making sure you’re out of the way during money shots like the ring exchange, the kiss, the first dance, and the getaway.
- It means not wearing a neon orange beanie that will cause the photographer to smash their head into their keyboard trying to photoshop out later. (Yes, it’s happened.)
- And for God’s sake, communicate with the photographer before the ceremony. It’s a lose, lose, lose for all parties involved if the photographer and videographer are competing for space. Gah. So many horror stories I care not recount.
8. Relate to the couple
One of the most valuable wedding videography tips is simply being personable. This goes so much further than just raw talent and has as much to do with being a decent human being as it does your average client not really understanding what makes one wedding video “objectively better” than another.
Most people are much more concerned with you positively contributing to the happiest day of their lives than how your video compares to the professional vids you’ve seen on YouTube.
Even if you’re the Michael Moore of weddings, both in terms of documentary prowess and inflammatory personality, you’re probably not gonna be asked back next time. Of course, there won’t be a next time because this is kinda supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event… in theory, anyway, but that’s why you gotta be on your best behavior.
Be kind. Be comfortable. Don’t shove camera lenses in peoples’ faces. Knock on changing room doors before entering. During the ceremony, be mindful of your surroundings. Basically, live by anything Yoda would say.
The wedding guests today are your billboard tomorrow. Because when the bridesmaid gets hitched next month and starts looking for a videographer, they might just be looking at you.
9. You don’t have to do weddings forever
But for the time being, it’s an excellent way to “get good”, as the kids say.
- Weddings develop your eye for framing, light, and b-roll.
- Weddings are fast-paced environments that will train you to be light on your toes.
- Weddings will net you a ton of hands-on experience with your gear.
Weddings are the place to start, especially if you plan to someday be a documentary filmmaker. If you keep at it, you’ll learn business skills like marketing yourself and the art of the deal (can’t guarantee you’ll become president, though). You might even meet some good folks along the way. And, shoot, you’ll get paid to do it. In my mind, those are all good enough reasons to stick it out until you can’t anymore.
And on that day, I guarantee you’ll be confident enough to say “Hey, I don’t have to do weddings anymore.” Or, I guess you could be the sort of person who has made it their career endgame to be a wedding videographer… bully for you. You did it.
Do you have any wedding videography tips of your own? Let us know in the comments. For all other matters of wove, twue wove, keep it bookmarked to JuicedLink.