If you’re a filmmaker or into video production, starting a wedding videography business might be something that you’re considering. Wedding videography is growing faster than ever before. It used to just be a bride’s uncle at the back of the church with a betamax camera topped tripod, or a groomsman drawing the shortstraw and having to lug the “holiday camera” around with him for the day.
“Make sure you get lots of shots of great-grandma Simms!”
Nowadays, wedding videography is a very fast growing part of the wedding industry and good videographers are paid a lot of money to capture the memories of couple’s big days. The improvement of filmmaking technogy and drops in prices also mean wedding videography is more accessible than ever before.
After my time in the trenches learning from mistakes and growing the business one step at a time, I’ve put together a guide to starting and growing your wedding videography business. I’ve tried to keep it conscise and focused on the really important things you need to know, as well as the things you probably don’t realize you need to know but do! After years of doing this and meeting and working with all kinds of people, I could probably fill a magnum opus of information on the subject, but that would be over-wordy and disjointed.
So let’s keep things well ordered and tight, just like your wedding videos should be.
Note: This is Part I of a 2 Part series.
Without further ado, I present my Guide To Becoming a Damn Good Wedding Videographer.
What You Will Learn
- The 3 mindsets you need to understand to be an outstanding wedding videographer.
- The 3 key things to do before each couple’s big day.
- The 9 aspects of the wedding day you must capture and how to go about your work on the day.
- How to send a special questionnaire before the wedding day that gets you into the head of your client, and helps you understand exactly what they want before you’ve started filming.
- How to handle meetings with your wedding clients.
What Equipment Do You Need?
One of the downsides about writing a guide like this is that everyone gets immediately obsessed with the gear/equipment recommendations and often solely focuses on that. People end up discounting the guide, and end up missing the (arguably more important) recommendations on the business side of wedding videography, the mindsets you need to have and all the other hard-won pointers from years of experience.
So I’ve included my gear recommendations near the end of this two part series, because I feel the emphasis should be on the other points not just the latest equipment to be released. And we all know there are a tonne of gear/equipment articles, message board threads and videos out there already.
3 Mindsets You Need To Be a Successful Wedding Videographer
Before we talk about the day itself, it’s worth addressing the kind of mindsets you need to be a successful wedding videographer. Shooting weddings can be a crazy business, but is also exceptionally rewarding. Follow these 3 Mindsets and you’ll be well on your way to tackling any wedding a couple can throw at you:
Expect the unexpected
Every wedding is different. We’ve encountered all sorts of couples having all kinds of weddings in many different situations.
It’s easy to go into wedding videography thinking you’ve been to a few weddings as a guest and “they’re all pretty similar.” There’s the ceremony, the speeches and the first dance. They’re all the same, right?
It isn’t until you start working in the wedding industry that you notice the differences (big and small) and you see how much variety there really is out there as far as wedding days go.
Going into every wedding ready to expect the unexpected is a key mindset to being a great wedding videographer. As much as people try to keep on schedule and have things “going off as planned,” weddings very rarely end up this way.
And nearly every wedding ends up running behind schedule for various reasons (nearly always because of the photographers! ;))
This isn’t to try and suggest that you should expect imminent disaster at every wedding, or anything like that. You should certainly go into each wedding with a positive frame of mind. Just know that ‘expecting the unexpected’ is where your mindset should be during a wedding.
Get used to solving problems and putting out fires.
It’s a social day, after all. No one should get into wedding videography if they don’t like being around people and interacting with them. Still, it’s sometimes hard to tow the line between being friendly and gregarious, and still being about to concentrate, knuckle-down and get the shots you need.
You’ll find yourself getting asked to open bottles of champagne in the morning, especially if you’re filming the bridal preparations (they’ve just had their nails done!)
You’ll also find yourself thrust into one of the most emotional days of people’s lives. Don’t be surprised to see tears, tantrums and the occasional fight, both verbal and physical.
Also, it’s funny to look back on it, but you do become a kind of counsellor at times. Someone people can bounce ideas off to calm their nerves.
Embrace the social side of the wedding day, but maintain your standards and professionalism at all times. Not only will you be remembered fondly by your clients and their guests, you’ll also make contacts and get to know other potential clients. This is true for wedding work, as well as video production projects for guests you might meet who have their own business. Yes, you can meet promo video clients for your video production company at weddings!
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Hard Nosed and Persistent
Linked to the first mindset comes this one. Working on weddings means that you come into contact with people. Lots of people. And when you work with people, you naturally end up working with the odd difficult person.
In our experience, clients are nearly always awesome people and good to us. We do have control of their image, after all! 😉
But the people who can be potentially difficult is everyone else. Again, go into things with a positive outlook, but be ready to put your foot down and be firm when necessary.
I’m talking here about troublesome vicars/masters of ceremony, guests who won’t play ball and vendors who make your life difficult. Now, let it be known, these people are fortunately very rare, but they do exist.
Knowing that there’s potential for a difficult vicar who doesn’t want you even in their church, let alone close to the altar where the ceremony is taking place, is one step towards being able to handle these situations professionally and with aplomb.
Always handle yourself professionally and treat others how you’d like to be treated. That’s the first rule. However, don’t be afraid to be direct and forthright when you need to be.
The 3 Key Things To Do Before The Big Day
There are a number of things you need to do even before the wedding day itself. This guide assumes that you’ve won the business, whether that’s through:
- your website.
- social media.
- your network.
I’ve written a lot about the business side of videography and how to set up and grow a successful video production company, and all the business and marketing information there is applicable here. In fact, in that series of guides, I include lots of wedding videography examples throughout.
So this particular guide is going to focus on the specifics of wedding videography rather than the raw marketing side, which I already have written plenty of articles about on Filmmaking Lifestyle.
So now that you have a client:
1. Meet with the couple and set expectations
Listed this first, as it’s the most important aspect. So many times, we get bookings through email and the client pays the deposit (and even the full amount) without even suggesting they want a meeting before the big day.
We like to meet with all our couples at least once before their big day. An Initial Meeting is important for a number of reasons:
- You get to know their personalities and what they’re all about.
- They get to know your personality and what you guys are all about as a company.
- You can allow them to ask any specific questions that aren’t covered on your website, brochure, Terms & Conditions, etc.
Meeting beforehand just makes things so much smoother on the day. You’re thrusting yourself into an incredibly intimate moment, so it helps to have at least 30 minutes of getting to know each other before you turn up on the day with cameras pointing in their faces!
Small talk is required, too – it doesn’t have to be all business. You can even, gasp, talk about things other than their wedding!
This meeting is key for discovering if they have any special events that are taking place at their wedding. Couples can be funny when it comes to special events at their wedding. Because (most of the time) they’ve only done this once, they kinda gloss over things like fireworks, horse-drawn carriages and flash-mob dance sequences, because they just assume this is standard practice.
It’s also something they’ve had in their heads for a while, so they tend to assume this is a given. It’s not for a videographer and certain events might call for specialist equipment, so you need to ask outright, “Do you have any special events or planned activities at your wedding?”
Being a wedding videographer also often requires discreation. I’ve lost count of the times a bride or groom has taken me aside privately (or called me randomly late at night) to tell me there’s now a secret special event that their partner doesn’t know about! So always tell the couple upfront to keep you informed of any changes they might make to proceedings.
In these meetings, you need to be upfront and honest about everything. Let them know what you can and can’t do. Set expectations.
If you do this properly, you’ll get to a point where any misunderstandings or issues later will be your responsibility, as you haven’t primed your client properly. It’s really about taking control and giving the client the best possible experience with you.
2. Send out a Questionnaire PDF with important questions
We like to do this right after a couple has booked and before the Initial Meeting. The PDF document is easily emailed to the client and contains important personality-gauging questions, asks specifically about special circumstances on the day and also gets admin stuff in order.
A PDF document like this is so important because every wedding (and every couple) are different. Would you rather go into a wedding blind, or go in armed with answers to important questions that will help you produce much stronger work and a better product for your client?
Your questionnaire should be specific to you, but here are some sample questions:[feature_box style=”33″ title=”Sample%20Questionnaire%20Questions” alignment=”center”]
1. What are your 5 favourite movies (either individualy, or as a couple) – [this is a personality gauging question]
2. What are your 5 favourite bands/singers? – [another personality-gauging question]
3. What is the most important part of the wedding day for you both? – [let’s you know what to put extra focus on when filming and editing. This is a really important question and lets you know exactly what kind of couple you’re working with.]
4. Why did you choose wedding videography for your big day? – [another key question that will pay dividends. This cuts to the chase and finds out exactly what each couple are looking for and expecting.]
5. What are the best parts about our work at [insert your production company name]? – [this preps the client to checkout your work (they should have done already) and also primes them to be focused on your work, not someone else’s that they found online.]
6. Please give 3 emergency contact numbers for on the day – [important admin question for obvious reasons. You can even make a joke here about never having had to use them before!] [/feature_box]
These are just sample questions. You should shoot for around 10 questions, but you might want to have more or less depending on your particular circumstances.
3. Get Your Planning Done Properly
You need to know what gear you need for the wedding and if you need any specialist equipment for a particular situation. As mentioned above, the Initial Meeting is when you need to find this out. Remember that renting is always an option, especially if it’s something that you’re not going to use regularly (think a jib that you might use at only certain types of wedding).
Common sense stuff: get batteries charged, ensure your memory cards are clear and ready to go, clean lenses, stock your bags for everything your need on the day. Food and drink, or is that being provided for you on the day?
Make sure you go to bed the night before a wedding shoot knowing that you can just wake up fresh tomorrow ready to go and eager to get started!
A quick note here on insurance: I wrote an article that goes into detail on video production/filmmaking insurance. Make sure you read that.
The bottom line for wedding videography is that you should, at minimum, ensure that all your gear is insured for accidents, damages and theft.
You also need a public liability policy in place to cover yourself in the event of damage or injury whilst you’re working in venues around the public.
I won’t list all the possible companies you can go with here, as the article I linked to above goes into great detail. Just know that you need to be covered for those two things (equipment and public liability), and that lots of venues won’t even let you enter in a professional capacity without seeing the documentation.
Here’s an entertaining video on putting together quality wedding videography that’s worth a look:
The 9 Aspects of the Wedding Day You Must Capture & Tips For Working On The Day
Some of the biggest questions people have when starting a wedding videography business center around the big day itself. There are many approaches you can take, but here’s what I recommend:
I’d recommend not shooting a wedding film with less than two videographers (with a camera each). With just one videographer, you run the risk of serious lack of shot and angle choices when you come to edit. This is particulary important when it comes to the ceremony and speeches.
You might consider having a static camera set up on a tripod for segments like the ceremony and speeches, where getting multiple angles (especially the ceremony) is important. The double-edged sword here is that the ceremony is the time where you’ll encounter the most resistance to your filming…especially with more than two cameras!
Yes, I’m calling out vicars! They aren’t always the most accommodating of people!
Here’s a list of what you should be filming on the day of the wedding. I’ve tried to keep it as concise and simple as possible. Note: Every wedding is different, so these recommendations obviously depends on the situation and what events the couple has set up, etc.
Arrive early, have one videographer filming the bride and one filming the groom. Interact and be social. This is your first opportunity getting to know the characters of the day.
As well as filming the obvious bits like the bride getting her hair and makeup done, it’s also a great opportunity to get some awesome b-roll shots that can be used in lots of places during the film. The right preparation venue can make this very easy!
This is also the time where you’d do a First Look if that’s something you’ve planned. The so-called First Look, where the bride and groom have a quick intimate meeting dressed in their wedding attire before the ceremony, is really popular in the United States, but is virtually unheard of in the UK and other countries.
2. Church/Place of ceremony Arrival
Potentially includes filming departure of the place of preparations if there’s a carriage pickup of the bride, for example. Brides always like to see their arrival in the car or carriage. Bank on a non-rainy day!
Makes sense to have the videographer who’s been filming the bridal prep capture these bits.
Have a videographer up close getting two-shots of the couple. Another videographer either roaming around the church or positioned at the back or side. Hard to give general advice for this. Really depends on the ceremony venue and how accommodating they are.
Sound is tantamount here! Pay special attention to it. Either go to the ceremony location on a day before the wedding and negotiate sound logistics, and/or have a videographer in charge of sound getting to the church early to figure this out. This is nearly always going to be the videographer who was filming the groom in the morning, as it makes more sense for him to get to the church earlier.
4. Church/place of ceremony departure
Sometimes they’ll be photos, etc directly after the ceremony. We find this isn’t necessarily the best time to get good video because the photographer is usually posing group shots at this time. However, there might be opportunity to get candid and natural moments that can be used later.
5. Reception arrival + various segments around the reception
Plenty of b-roll type opportunities here.
People will be at their most relaxed, the drinking begins and it’s a great time to get plenty of candid, fly-on-the-wall type shots.
This is a good time to do Video Messages if you want to. Video Messages are special filmed interviews with freinds/family directed at the couple that are great to include in certain segments of your film. It’s an opportunity for funny stories, emotional moments, or to simply wish them luck, and couples love to see their friends and family speaking directly to them.
Take the couple out for creative shots around the reception location getting intimate (not too staged!) shots of them together.
These are awesome!
Often the photographer does this too, so you can always tag along with them if that’s appropriate. The wedding reception itself is often a blur for the couple with so many people wanting their attention and energy. It’s nice to take them away from all that and get some natural, intimate moments with just the two of them together.
Sound’s hugely important again here. Use a minimum of two angles, with the videographer in-charge of sound further back in the room getting a wide-shot. As with the ceremony, you can consider having an unmanned camera setup near the back of the place of ceremony (with a telephoto lense on it).
Make sure you have another videographer in as close as possible getting close-ups of the speakers and grabbing little moments between the bride and groom as the speeches play out.
8. More reception footage
After the speeches, there’s usually more reception segments, especially in the summer months where the light lasts longer and people are outside mingling.
Also a good time for the aforementioned Video Messages.
9. First Dance
Lighting is key here. Literally ask the DJ if he can keep things as bright as possible. He usually brings his own lighting. Don’t be afraid to ask the reception staff/Master of Ceremonies if you can retain as much lighting as possible.
This is obviously all venue specific, but lighting can be a big issue during the first dance, even if you’re running with fast glass (that is, lenses with a low f-stop number). After 4pm during the winter months can be especially tricky, but it’s tough even during the summer months if there’s no natural light in the First Dance room.
You can, of course, bring your own lighting setup and investing in this is highly recommend, although not always feasible when starting out. More on this later in the Gear section.
We normally depart around 30 mins after First Dance. Judge each situation by its merits. If it looks like an upbeat bunch, you might want to stick around just in case there are dancing hijinks that are worth filming.
Have an agreement with the couple ahead of time as to when you might leave. This should be in your Terms & Conditions (more on that in Part 2), but obviously allow flexibility as this isn’t some corporate meeting situation.
Also allow for any events the couple might have scheduled for after First Dance – fireworks is a popular one, for example.
That’s all for now. I hope this article has been helpful in clearing up some questions you had about starting a wedding videography business. I’ll be posting Part II up very soon!
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