Choosing a Wedding Videographer: How to, and why it's important to have one.

Introduction: Since the 1860's, when photography first became possible, weddings have been recorded by still photographers.

You've probably looked at the photo albums which preserve the memory of their parent's wedding. Unanswered by the photos are questions such as "how did Mom manage that huge train as she walked down the aisle?"

 "Was Dad able to bend over in his stiffly starched shirt?" "Was their first dance as graceful as their dancing today?"

What's missing from these frozen moments of the wedding are the sights, the sounds and the bustle of activity that only moving images can capture. Videography has given today's bride and groom the opportunity to have created a memoir of their wedding, complete with all the sights and sounds of that most important event in their lives, a memory which can be revisited for years to come. Creating a video record of a wedding is a job best left to professionals. "Why would we want a professionally made wedding video?" ask many brides and grooms. "Uncle Charlie offered to do it for us for free."

As we'll see in the rest of this article, there is a lot to wedding videography that Uncle Charlie probably doesn't know about.

Wedding Video Styles: Wedding videos tend to fall into either the documentary or journalistic and what might be called the MTV or cinematic style. Neither is better than the other; they're just different.

Unlike the still photographer, who carefully poses each picture, the documentary style videographer records things as they happen. The activities of the wedding day are captured candidly, and often include moments the bride and groom never see on their wedding day, being occupied elsewhere. Videographers who work in the documentary style shoot as much of the wedding day activities as they can, then select the footage that best creates the narrative of the wedding.

Videographers who work in the cinematic style are more likely to stage couples, like a movie director arranging a scene. In this regard, the cinematic style videographer is somewhat like the still photographer. Videographers who specialize in the cinematic style are excellent choices for couples who want a "how we met" Love Story, and who do not mind having the natural flow of the wedding day interrupted from time to time by requests to pose or perform for the videographer. Like documentary style videographers, the cinematic style professional will also carefully select (edit) footage to tell the wedding story.

Again, it's not a question of one way being better than another, but rather a matter of "style" and of personal taste. Be sure you're comfortable with your videographer's approach before you sign a contract.
Choosing a Wedding Videographer: How to, and why it's important to have one.
Long Form or Short Form? For many years, wedding videos have documented virtually all of the wedding day. Often from ninety minutes to two hours in length, so-called "long form" wedding videos faithfully record every moment of the wedding service, from the first bridesmaid as she starts down the aisle to the last guest leaving the church. At the reception, in addition to such traditional events as the first dances, the toasts, garter and bouquet toss and cake cutting ceremonies, a great deal of the dancing is recorded and made a part of the finished tape.

During the past decade, brides have become enthusiastic about shorter finished wedding videos, tapes that are perhaps 30 to 45 minutes in length. The focus of these "short form" video tapes is the emotional content of the wedding day.

Instead of showing each bridesmaid walking the full length of the church aisle, for example, the short form video might have a single reference to the bridesmaids by showing them clustered around the bride in the dressing room, the camera lingering for a moment on each as she admires the bride in her gown and reflects on her own wedding. The exchange of vows and rings and lighting of the unity candle is shown in its entirety, but choral interludes, responsive readings and lenghty pastoral commentary is reduced to its essence.

At the reception, the focus of the short form video is more narrowly on the bride and groom than on the food, the guests and perhaps the antics of the DJ.

The same amount of video is shot for the short form as for the long form, but the shooting and editing approach is quite different. Videographers working in the short form emphasize those special moments which are the signature of the wedding day.

The short form might be said to be poetic, while the long form is epic.

Which form the bride chooses is a matter of personal taste. Discuss these forms with your wedding videographer. Decide what's right for you.

What cost to expect: The location of the wedding, the length of coverage and the amount of editing involved, and the reputation of the videographer combine to determine wedding video pricing.

Just like housing and food, wedding videography costs more in metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle, than it does in Fargo or Eugene.

The length and nature of coverage plays an important role in price: how many cameras and camera operators will be at your wedding and reception, how long will they stay and how much editing does the videographer estimate will have to be done.

The least expensive coverage typically provides one camera and operator recording the wedding and handing you the tape at the end of the ceremony.

More expensive packages typically include two or more cameras and operators at the wedding and reception, with editing, titles and music, and perhaps a photo montage included as well. Videographers may use two or three cameras to cover a wedding: two or more manned cameras, plus static or remotely controlled cameras focused on the choir, lectern and congregation. Some might use even more, depending on the circumstances. The advantage of multiple cameras and editing is that the videographer is able to combine footage from each camera into a single visually interesting and exciting record of the ceremony and reception. This flexibility costs more, but it's worth it!

Prices for wedding videos in the Seattle area vary from as little as $500 to as much as $3,500 or more, depending on the individual videographer and the options you choose. Expect to pay more to get the very best, and expect to get what you pay for.

A good rule of thumb is to be prepared to pay at least as much for your wedding videographer as you pay for your wedding photographer.

Additional Video Coverage: Many brides want their wedding video to include features well beyond the basic coverage of the wedding and reception. These may include a large number of still photos of your courtship -- a full-blown photo montage -- and the option to include photos and video footage from the honeymoon (some videographers will even provide a video camera to take on the honeymoon.) You may also request coverage of events prior to the wedding, such as the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner and activities such as the bride and groom dressing, and perhaps a wedding day brunch.

These are probably extras, or add-ons to the basic wedding day video services, and add-ons such as these will probably increase the cost of your video, since the videographer has to do a lot of extra work beyond shooting the wedding and reception.

Another add-on is the Love Story, which is almost always arranged for separately. The Love Story can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish, but since it requires a great deal of shooting and editing time, expect to pay more than just the cost of the basic package.

For many brides and grooms, the Love Story, which encapsulates the romance of the courtship, and provides an opportunity for the couple to speak freely of their love for each other, becomes over time as important as the wedding video.

Finally, you might opt for a first-year retrospective. Roughly a year after the wedding, you and your spouse, after reviewing their wedding video, speak on camera of their first year together, and what married life has meant to you. This may then be edited and placed on the wedding video tape, or given to you as a stand-alone video, a reminder in later years of the start of a long life together.

What to ask about: In buying the services of a wedding videographer it's important to ask the right questions.
  1. The wedding rehearsal: Start with whether or not the videographer will attend the rehearsal. If your wedding is to be complicated or nontraditional, it's important that the videographer knows where everything will be taking place, and who's doing what. If you feel it's important that the videographer be at your rehearsal, insist on it. If you feel strongly about it, and he refuses, find another videographer.
  2. Audio: How will the videographer pick up what is being said by the bride, groom, officiant, readers and musicians? Most videographers use wireless microphones placed on the groom and the officiant. Many videographers also make use of small stand-alone recorders that can be placed on the groom and at other appropriate locations as well. Whatever the equipment, make certain that the videographer is using microphones located very near where you and your fiancée will be standing: the nearer the better. No video professional worth hiring will tell you that he relies on the camera microphone alone to pick up the wedding ceremony.
  3. Cameras: Find out how many manned cameras will be used to record your ceremony. Will remotely controlled camera be used? Manned cameras (a camera with an operator attached) and remotely controlled cameras provide better coverage of the wedding ceremony than do stationary cameras, cameras set up on a tripod, focused on a particular part of the venue, and left unattended. The footage from a stationary camera may be excellent, but there will be little variety in what it records, since it won't be repositioned during the ceremony. Manned cameras make for rich visual imagery. Many videographers make use of both when taping a wedding. When you hear "I'll use three cameras at your wedding," find out exactly what the videographer has in mind. Make sure you're getting what you think you're paying for.
  4. Lights: Most videographers use ambient (available) light to record the wedding ceremony. The down-side of ambient light is that the quality of the video may suffer. Candle-lit weddings are a videographer's nightmare! Although today's high-end cameras are pretty good at delivering good video in low-light conditions, if there isn't enough light in the venue, the video will look grainy, the colors flat and washed out, and there's little the videographer can do to improve it.  A few videographers will suggest the use of supplemental lighting to enhance the light in a dimly lit venue. Many officiants will not allow supplemental lighting, so check this out thoroughly if your videographer suggests supplemental lighting during the ceremony. You have to decide at what level of brightness the lights in the venue will spoil the mood of your ceremony. You may not be able to do this until the day of your wedding rehearsal. Realize that there's a trade-off here -- whether to have mood lighting and not-so-hot video, or terrific video and lots of light. Try not to get adversarial about this. Trust your videographer's judgement about what the video will look like, then make your decision. Don't be surprised if this decision becomes an item added to your contract with the videographer. Most videographers use supplemental lighting of some sort at the reception to insure good coverage of the toasts, cake cutting and family dances. On-camera lights are very sophisticated and many have dimmer controls. Well-used camera lights are relatively unobtrusive: their use often makes the difference between good video and virtually no video at all. Here again, discuss this thoroughly with the videographer, and be comfortable with the answers you get before deciding to hire him.
  5. Turn-around time: How long will it take to get your finished video tape back? 12-16 weeks is not unreasonable. Each wedding takes the videographer 20-30 hours to edit, and it's in the editing that the video receives its final artistic form. Your wedding goes in the production line at the end of the queue, so don't be too impatient. It's worth a reasonable wait to get a superb video, isn't it. And remember: you have a responsibility, too. Your videographer can't begin editing your wedding video until you have provided the still photos, music, invitations and programs, and anything else you wish to include as part of the finished tape.
  6. Attire: Find out what the videographers will wear to work. Videographers in tennis shoes and jeans can spoil everything you have tried to achieve in setting the tone of your wedding. Attire is negotiable, so don't be afraid to discuss this.
  7. Payment: Ask about the payment structure and whether there are any hidden costs. How much is the retainer? Under what circumstances is it refundable? Is it part of the total cost of the wedding video? Does it guarantee the date? When is the balance due? Decide what you're comfortable with. These conditions may be negotiable. If you're not comfortable with the financial arrangements, find another videographer. Payments are often made in three installments. This is designed to protect both you and your videographer. The first payment is the retainer, a portion of the whole -- often a third or a half -- that guarantees your date. It is usually paid at the time the contract is signed. Common practice is for a forfeiture of the retainer should you cancel: the videographer has held this date for you, often turning down other work to protect your date. Your videographer may ask that a second installment be made a week or two before the wedding. This and the retainer pays for the actual shooting of the event. You could agree to pay on the day of the wedding -- your guarantee that the videographer shows up -- but if you forget your checkbook, you run the risk of winding up without a wedding video. Put the date for this second installment in your bridal schedular as soon as you sign the contract. It's your responsibility to make the payment. The final payment is made when the videographer delivers your wedding video to you and your husband -- your guarantee that the work has been done.
  8. Contract: The contract is how you and your videographer communicate. It's where you come to agreement and record what will happen with regard to your wedding video. Make sure that everything you want from the videographer and everything he expects from you is written into the contract. A little piece of paper that says "I'll shoot your wedding for you, pay me $1500" isn't doing much communicating. Take nothing for granted. If there is anything you don't understand, ask for an explanation and, if necessary, ask to have that clarification written into the final version of the contract. If there is something you and the videographer discuss, and it's important to you, have it included in the contract. Six months later, the day before your wedding, it will serve to remind the videographer and you that getting pictures of your Aunt Frieda is a "must do." The contract should include a statement that after the contract is signed, changes requested by either party must be in writing. Verbal changes have a way of coming back to haunt you.

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One of the primary goals of Oudney Patsika is to use media to change the cultural narrative. He aims to impact today’s culture with more accurate, responsible, and positive media stories about Christianity and the Church. Get In Touch Today!
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