No, friends and family, I didn’t secretly get married without telling you. This blog is about my first job as a wedding videographer and what I learned from it.
Ever since I got my first “real” camera, I’ve wanted to photograph weddings. Unlike most girls who look at wedding magazines and think “someday my wedding will be just like this!” I think, “I could shoot that.” After hearing Trevor complain and complain about shooting weddings (sorry hun, can’t sympathize), Peter and I finally got our first wedding videography job! Of course, what I’d really love to do is still wedding photography, but after graduating with a BS in Film Production, shooting a wedding should be cake, right?
Luckily Trevor (who interned for a wedding videography company) gave us tons of tips and advice before the wedding so we were well prepared, but looking back at the footage there are a lot of things I’ll do differently next time.
Here’s a list of things I learned from my first wedding. Hopefully any photographers or videographers who stumble across this blog will learn from my successes and mistakes.
1. Shoot with a partner! Working with another person was TOTALLY invaluable. Sure you make less money with a partner, but you get so much better coverage and are way less stressed. When I went to go shoot prep with the groom, Peter made sure we didn’t miss anything good with the bride. When Peter set up our third camera, I was able to shoot the Bride getting dressed. When Peter ran out of cards, I had an extra one. When my lens wasn’t fast enough, Peter had a better one, etc. etc. I can imagine being a solo wedding photographer, but I would never want to be a solo wedding videographer. More than anything, it’s just more fun to have you friend come along with you!
2. Shoot with a tripod or monopod as much as you can! After the Bride and Groom’s prep and before the ceremony, Peter and I walked around the hotel and got “details” of the wedding– the fountain with the guests in the background, the wedding cake, close-ups of the flowers, the ice sculpture, the food, the champagne, etc. Of course, I made the stupid mistake of foregoing my tripod for the convenience of handheld. Wrong! I should’ve known better, and of course all the footage I shot during and after the wedding (on my tripod) turned out much, much better. Stability is always worth the extra effort when you’re watching the final product. It just looks so much more professional!
3. Shoot the ceremony video true multicam style. Peter and I kind of shot the ceremony multicam (like they do in sitcoms). We set up one wide static shot on the Panasonic HMC 150 and each had a roaming DSLR to cover the bride and the groom (pretty standard video “coverage”). Unfortunately, DSLRs can only shoot 12 minutes of video at a time, so we couldn’t do true multicam, where all 3 cameras run the duration of the show and are synced together by a slate. What I wish we’d done in retrospect (not that we had the resources) was use three cameras capable of shooting for long periods of time (HMC 150s for instance) and slated our footage at the beginning. That way, in post-production, we could have synced all three clips together in Avid (the best editing program for multicam) and then easily cut back and forth between different angles for the duration of the ceremony. This would make our lives MUCH easier and result in a much better ceremony video. The only downside to this plan is that you need enough money and resources to rent three cameras.
4. Get a better microphone! One thing that I’m really glad I did was walk around after the ceremony and ask guests for video messages to the bride and groom. I was afraid that my internal DSLR mic wasn’t sufficient enough and it did the job, but I would’ve been MUCH better off with a mounted shotgun mic. For the most part you can hear the cute messages they left for the bride and groom, but sometimes the background noise from the hotel is overwhelming and you lose what they’re saying.
For the ceremony, we miced the groom so that we could hear everything he, the bride and the officiant were saying without dealing with the trouble of micing the bride in her beautiful dress. It is much easier to mic a suit jacket!
5. Make conversation with the guests. As I walked around the champagne reception and got video messages from guests, I usually introduced myself by saying “Hi, my name is Helena and I’m the wedding videographer. Is there anything you would like to say to the bride and groom?” This worked very well and most people were excited and wanted me to record their message. However, in retrospect, what I wish I found out who the guests were (and wrote it down) so that I could’ve included that information in the edited video. Also, it would’ve been nice to know which people were more important than others. That’s not to say I would’ve skipped “less important” guests, but it would’ve been nice to know, for instance, when you’re about to shoot a message from the groom’s sister or the bride’s grandmother. If I had known who they were before they said “Hey Kristen it’s your Grammy!” I could have situated them in better light, gotten a better angle or made sure the location was better for the sound recording. I realized this immediately after I started shooting one of my last video messages, a charming old woman who turned out to be the Bride’s grandmother. I introduced myself and she nodded that she wanted to leave a message, but immediately after I hit record and she started talking, her teeth were totally covered in lipstick! In retrospect, I wish I would’ve stopped her and politely told her she had lipstick on her teeth, so the Bride’s grandmother wouldn’t be immortalized (in close up) with pink teeth, but I was inexperienced and shy enough not to know what to do. If I had a better conversation with her beforehand, the problem would have arisen before I clicked record.
6. White balance is gonna be a bitch! So make sure and bring something to help you white balance on the fly! The first room we were in– the Bride’s room– was a mess of many different light sources with many different Kelvin ratings (wah wah). I tried all the presets on my camera and nothing looked right but I couldn’t miss any of the good action, so I rolled with it. Still photographers have the luxury of A) Shooting in RAW, which makes it easy to adjust white balance in post and B) Flash, a controlled source of light. Unfortunately us videographers get screwed by low lighting and gross color temperature so we have to be prepared to compensate. I’m sure all of the Bride’s prep footage will turn out well with a hefty amount of color correction, but it would’ve been much easier if I got the right color temperature to start with!
7. Bring fast lenses! Of course, to bring fast lenses, you must be able to afford fast lenses (my problem). By the end of the night, the hotel was very dark and my f/2.8 lenses wouldn’t cut it anymore Luckily Peter had his f/1.8 lens for the last hour of the wedding. Of course, if we were still photographers this wouldn’t be a problem because of flash and the ability to drastically change shutter speed without affecting picture quality.
That’s all I can think of for now! Now that I’ve shot a wedding, I’m hoping it will be easier to get more wedding jobs. My next camera-related investment will probably be a f/1.8 lens or a flash, so that I can start getting stills jobs. That would be awesome!