August 28, 2017

A Filmmaker's Guide to Shooting Beautiful Wedding Ceremonies

How do you go about capturing one of the most important days in a couple's life?

Even if feature filmmaking is the big dream for you, wedding videography can be a major, even necessary stepping stone on the road to making it come true. Shooting such emotional, important, once-in-a-lifetime events, however, can be one of the most difficult and stressful things you ever do as a creative, but to help you be able to handle the chaos of your clients' big day, Parker Walbeck and Brenden Bytheway offer up a ton of pointers on how they anticipate and prepare for it all so they're not exchanging memory cards while the couple's exchanging rings—or something equally as horrifying.

Before we get to the takeaways from the video (and there are a lot), take a look at the final product from the couple's special day:

Now, here are the takeaways I thought would be most helpful for new wedding videographers:

  • Use lavs, booms, and onboard external mics on your camera to pick up audio (One of these is bound to fail, and if you only have one, there go the vows.)
  • Use covers to reduce the amount of noise the lav picks up from clothes
  • Aim for levels between -18dB and -6dB
  • Get as many different angles and shot sizes as you can
  • Capture a master of the bride and groom throughout the entire ceremony (using a slider gets you extra points)
  • Try to shoot a tight over-the-shoulder shot of both the bride and groom saying their vows
  • As you move around during the ceremony, try to avoid crossing in front of the bride and groom
  • But don't be too shy to move around (the couple is paying you big bucks to shoot their wedding...they want you to do your thing)
  • Try to avoid clashing with the wedding photographer
  • Try to avoid capturing the wedding photographer in your shots
  • Wear dark colors...and honor the dress code
  • Get plenty of b-roll of your bride and groom, even staged b-roll (this should be discussed and scheduled way before the ceremony)
  • If you've only got one camera that's okay
  • Write out a shot list
  • Try to memorize all of the important shots you need to get
  • Be nice. Say congratulations.

The difficult thing about giving advice on wedding videography is that it all depends on your setup and your clients' event. There's a pretty big difference between shooting solo with one camera, shooting solo with multiple cameras, and shooting with a crew. Furthermore, the wedding you're shooting will have a ton of variables that will require you to adjust, not to mention the random fateful occurrences that will force you to switch up your game plan at a moment's notice.

Being able to roll with the punches, adapt, and keep a level head is integral to making it out of the wedding alive. The same goes for the videographer, too.      

Your Comment

8 Comments

As a wedding videographer, I totally get that the couple is paying you to get certain shots and be "creative", but I would personally never get two feet behind the couple during their vows to get a shot. At that point, you're taking attention away from where it should be. The couple, their bridal party, and the parents sitting in the front row are fully aware of what you're doing and now they don't have 100% of their attention where it should be: on the couple. Their memories of that moment will now include you, which it shouldn't. The shot looks great in the final product, but it comes at too high a cost in my opinion.
I don't like being critical of other wedding videographers work, but I think this is a bad practice to propagate.

August 29, 2017 at 11:56AM

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Sean Kenney
Event Cinematographer
212

Cool comment.

August 29, 2017 at 2:31PM, Edited August 29, 2:31PM

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Saied M.
906

I understand your concern and appreciate the need to respect the bride, groom, and guests. However the challenge is having a fast enough, wide-enough, and long-enough zoom lens to get the shot from a respectful distance without having to change lenses during the short ceremony. As a Panasonic GH5 shooter I can recommend the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Lens which would be the full-frame equivalent of 24-120mm plus it has OIS (plus with GH5 in-body stabilization for dual-IS). The only challenge with this lens is the variable aperture which would demand on-the-fly exposure adjustments after switching focal lengths. However, with a variable ND filter this wouldn't take much time. Your thoughts? Your recommendations for Canon or Nikon shooters?

August 29, 2017 at 7:02PM

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Benjamin Bettenhausen
Owner, Mahalo Video
1

To say something that's blasphemous for a film purist, you can probably get away with bumping up shutter to compensate for exposure, especially given that there's little movement. No fiddling about with filters (which also means: no skin looking matte because of polarisation from vari NDs, and no moisture on the filter because you're shooting in humid weather). I've worked for a dozen or more wedding companies, and only one cared about breaking the 180 shutter rule. Still Motion did it all the time, and instructed people to do it in their videos.

August 29, 2017 at 7:29PM, Edited August 29, 7:37PM

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Adrian Tan
Videographer
938

I shoot with the 70-200 during the ceremony on my left and right side cameras; I can get close up shots without being a distraction. Since you're filming in 4k with the GH5, you could crop in to get even closer. These videographers have some really nice/ expensive gear, I see no reason why they couldn't have filmed with longer lenses to get their close ups.

August 30, 2017 at 1:51PM

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Sean Kenney
Event Cinematographer
212

Totally agree. Use a longer lens, there's nothing worse than an intrusive photographer or videographer. You need to manage expectations before the wedding preferably during the pre-wedding visit and just make sure they understand that in a live, one shot deal like a wedding ceremony sometimes even when super prepared, shit can still happen and we just have to deal with it best you can. You might not get all the angles, you might not hear everything or someone/something off camera might upset the apple cart and there's nothing you can do about that. If your couple understands and accepts that there are things that can go wrong before they hire you they're more likely to be understanding if lighting and audio aren't as good as they might have been in a more controlled situation.

August 30, 2017 at 3:12PM

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John Stockton
Film maker, Editor, Photographer.
310

Don't only manage expectations -- put it in your contract. There's a billion things that can go wrong. Photographers and guests can jump in front of your shot. DJs can unplug your sound recorder. Police radio can show up on your wireless mics. You at least need a clause to the effect that no particular shot can be guaranteed, and also that you retain creative control. If you decide to focus on their faces rather than their hands while the rings are going on (or vice versa), that should be a possible choice for you and not a source of conflict afterwards.

August 31, 2017 at 10:48PM

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Adrian Tan
Videographer
938

Here's my second video ever of a wedding. A camera is BMCC 2.5k shot prores and B/C Cameras are 5dmkII's.

I grabbed audio off board, levels were good but once in the editing booth I found out all the audio was trashed and clipped. So I had to do a ton of editing on audio which took days.

Second, I try not to get close to the ceremony so we were far away from the people. My 200mm on the BMCC is a 450mm.

Third, we have no steady cam, sliders or custom rigs. I used a heavy old tripod (50 pounds with a fluid head) for the BMCC and bought two video monopods and found they barely hold the BMCC w the L70-200mm 2.8.

Finally, my editing style is different than traditional wedding videos, faster, more cuts, I re-created and edited some of the music too.

I don't know, thoughts? Critiques welcome. Thanks!

https://vimeo.com/227469797

September 1, 2017 at 7:35PM

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Matt Battershell
Web Developer / Graphic Designer / Filmmaker
114