Looking For A Wedding Videographer? 5 Tips To Make Your Search (And Wedding Day) Easier
Written by Christian Peterson from One Heart Films
I want to start this guest blog post by saying I’ve been friends with Christian from One Heart Films for over a year now, and I’ve always been so excited to work together! That’s largely because of the style of his films, of course, but most importantly, because of his way of dealing with clients and fellow vendors. Almost every time I have a meeting with couples they end up asking me about wedding videography. Though I can answer some of their questions, I’ve asked Christian to help couples that are planning their wedding day, understand better the things to consider when looking for a wedding videographer.
Here are his thoughts:
Technology and Style
Quickly before I start; while wedding videos have been around for a long time, wedding cinematography as an ‘art form’ is relatively new, dating back to around the time when high end photo cameras started being able to record video (with the Canon 5D Mark II in late 2008). I mention this because the change in technology really allowed wedding videographers to become wedding filmmakers, to focus on the image-making process with tools that were not only less cumbersome, but yielded significantly improved image quality.
Out of this tech revolution arose two distinct styles:
Storytelling-based wedding films emphasize, as you might expect, story! They’re often based on prior knowledge about the couple, what they’re like, the things that make them unique, and tend to integrate a lot of audio from the day and/or a previous/later session. The perspective is more human, and often playful or intimate.
Cinematic wedding filmmaking is more visual and emulates Hollywoodian productions by making use of tools such as sliders, steadicams and drones. The idea here is to really wow the audience and provide great production value, making it feel like they’re watching a film in theatres. The perspective is more dramatic, providing an ‘alternate’ look at what happened, an interpretation.
If I were in the position of a bride or groom, this would be my first question to myself: do I want a dramatic perspective (cinematic) or a personal look (storytelling) at the wedding day?
If asked the question, I’d say that my work with One Heart Films is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. One Heart Films definitely does work that is more storytelling-based, but still tries to focus on the wedding as event rather than a ‘production’. I do have some more high-production value shots, but in the end, it’s all anchored not in the desire to make cinematic images, but in my belief in the importance of a personal perspective.
With that out of the way, here are some tips that will help any couple to find a great filmmaker!
1. Hire a wedding filmmaker
I know, this isn’t a great tip. And it’s super biased, given that I’m a filmmaker myself. But let me ask you this: do you know why people hire both a photographer and a filmmaker? In my mind, it’s because the emotions you get from looking at your photos won’t be the same as those you get when watching your wedding film.
Photos are about freezing moments in time and condensing feelings into single frames: that one moment where everything lined up, somehow; when the light fell on her face as she said her vows; or when his tie got a wedding-worthy knot that said ‘I’m ready’. It’s about framing ideas.
Films, on the other hand, are about time and story. They’re about re-living series of actions, about movement, about the conversations and the moments that you can’t possibly remember. It’s less about that one instant, and more about ‘flow’ and feeling.
I would never, ever advocate hiring a filmmaker instead of a photographer, but I do believe that there is something we do, that job of capturing and archiving images that play out ‘in real time’, that photographers can’t do. And, like theirs, our work can be enjoyed for years and years to come, restore full memories.
If you can, hire a filmmaker to capture it all. It may feel like a steep price during the planning process, but once it’s all gone, your film becomes increasingly valuable with each passing year.
2. Make sure your photographer and filmmaker’s styles are complementary
Finding a photographer and filmmaker that will work well together is so important! They don’t need to be best friends, or even know each other ahead of time, but you’ll want to make sure that you set the basis of a successful collaboration between them – and a pleasant day for yourself.
But how do you know if they’ll work well? Start by thinking about whether their styles ‘match’.
This is important because if your filmmaker likes natural light and your photographer relies heavily on off-camera flash, or if your filmmaker does highly cinematic grand staged shot and your photographer is more on the candid documentary side, it will be hard for them to work together. Not because of personality, but because of how they look at light. At the end of the day, things are always easier when there is an artistic understanding between both imagemakers. Go candid all the way, or dramatic all the way. But make sure styles align.
3. Try to figure out how well they’ll work together
Just ask them: do you shoot solo, or do you have a big team? Do you like to pose most of your shots, or keep things simple? As a general rule, filmmakers will have 2 people covering a wedding, but the team will sometimes extend to 3 or 4 people total if it’s a big affair with a Same-Day Edit. In my experience, photographers usually either work solo or in pairs. So expect 3 people minimum, and 6 on the high end at your wedding.
Now, if your photographer specifically mentions that they like to work ‘small’, it might be wise to hire a filmmaker that also likes to keep it simple. That way it feels ‘even’, with everyone on the same level.
I also do believe, having been a part of a company that did both photo and video, that while there is value in ‘packages’ that include both photo and film, the best artists in this business tend to specialize. There are exceptions, of course, but most of those whose work I love are either full-time photographers or full-time filmmakers, not both. The reason for this is simple: both crafts are really hard! I spend literally all my time making films, and while I’m a competent photographer, I think that it’s better for me to be fully focused and place my trust in others for that part of the job instead of managing a large team of people with different goals. While I always try and help the photographer, at the end of the day, I’m also always thinking, focusing on my vision for the wedding film.
I always tell couples that I’ll let the photographer run the day and tag along, jumping in here and there for a few shots of my own, but essentially letting them steer. I’ve found this works best from a workflow standpoint. After all, it’s our job to work together!
4. Be Clear about your expectations
To ensure that you’re happy when your filmmaker finishes everything a few months after the wedding, be sure that you know what you’re getting from the get-go.
Coverage: how many cinematographers will be at your wedding? How many angles are planned for the various parts of the day? (Generally I do 1-2 cameras per ‘event’, with the ceremony and speeches sometimes having 3-4 cameras). For how many hours will the cinematographers be present? Do you know who will be your main cinematographer (if dealing with a ‘studio’ type company) and will you meet with him/her prior to the wedding day?
Deliverables: How many edits will you get? Typically, filmmakers deliver in one of three lengths: highlights edits tend to be 3-5 minutes in length, feature edits approx. 15-20 minutes, and documentary edits 60-120 minutes (they include full ceremony speeches). Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting at the end of the process. Also, if that is something you want, ask about acquiring raw footage; some filmmakers give it away, some (like me) just pass on the cost of the hard drive purchase, and others have it as an add-on to their package.
Music: Keep in mind that most professionals wedding filmmakers will need to use licenseable music for your film. This is not a control ploy, it’s a legal requirement and a moral responsibility. After all, it makes sense that if we get paid for our film work, that the musicians that provide the soundtrack to those films also get their share for our usage of their work. I personally use The Music Bed for all my music licensing, but your filmmaker might be using a different source. I would recommend discussing this with your wedding filmmaker.
5. Be present
Lastly, remember this: stories are about people. And for me to tell a good story about you, I need you to be present.
That means having fun with the process and playing ball. If you have a big personality, be bold, and fun, and loud! If you’re more reserved, that’s ok. Just set things up the way you like them and don’t do things because people are telling you to (reading cards is not for everyone, for example). If you’re close to your family, include them heavily in your wedding day.
I think TV shows have instilled in people this idea that weddings are supposed to be stressful. I don’t buy that! I think that it should be a series of moments that are about the things and the people that matter to you. So cut out the noise. Go ahead and ignore us for most of the day. Don’t worry, we’ll be there in a corner somewhere, capturing life as it happens!
Thank you Christian for such great tips! Make sure to check out One Heart Films where you can get more tips on wedding videography and see more of his beautiful work.