How to Choose a Wedding Videographer

"Vicky was boyish... she was fun to hang out with... she's still fun to hang out with," quipped Vicky Song's brother right before the video transitions into a quick shot of Vicky's bridesmaids exclaiming:

"We love Vicky!" And...  "I love this weather!"

The weather was rough for filming, but as a wedding videographer, I knew I had something special once I saw the raw video. I spiced it up with one of my favorite Velvet Underground songs, and did my editing magic. When the final one hour wedding video was edited and delivered, Vicky confided in an email to me: "I laughed and cried watching the wedding video. Love it!"

This is the power of cinematic wedding videography. Indeed, stylistic still photographs can capture powerful images that last a lifetime, but the keyword is STILL... 

Only through the power of video can we hear the past and relive the MOVING images of the most important and iconic moment in our lives -- the wedding day.

Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second.
— Jean-Luc Godard

With the help of modern technology, we can immortalize the most important memory of our lifetime. This is very much possible with the help of a wedding videographer - a reason why wedding videography is one of the booming industries today. Almost all couples these days opt to have their wedding captured on lenses because it reminds them of that special day: their walk down the aisle, their first dance as a married couple, the cutting of the cake and other details which only come once in a lifetime.

From choosing the location down to choosing a wedding gown, wedding preparation can really be full of challenges. There’s hardly enough time for anything let alone vet a pool of qualified wedding videographers to find that special one. What questions to ask? What’s the difference between documentary versus montage wedding videos? Can I have a little Jay-Z in the house? What’s wrong with using the iPhone? Yes, you can shoot a wedding video – or any video with an iPhone – but it won’t be a cinematic. It won’t be movie magic.

Most newly engaged lovers out there do not have much experience when it comes to finding the best professionals that offer cinematic wedding videography. It's good to remember that every wedding videographer in the industry has their own style in terms of shooting as well as editing. Finding the perfect artist that fits with your tight budget can be a tough task to do. Aside from the cost, there are other factors that you must take into consideration such as, the style, creativity, equipment, experience and packages that are being offered in the world of wedding videography.

Here are things to consider when choosing the best wedding videographer for your special day:

COST OF A WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHER

 Wedding videography packages usually range from $1K to more than $15K. Most wedding videographers charge a rate based on the amount of time they render their professional services. Others out there offer a preset package which also includes other pieces such as an extra shooter or a same-day edit. Even if you are just planning to buy a standard package, it is very important that you run through the other offers and what's included. Some wedding videographers will also base their pricing on the number of guests and venue of the place. 

The following are some common wedding videography packages:

  • Full wedding Package - this is a complete video coverage package of the special event - from the start of the preparations until the end of the wedding reception. Here, everything will be filmed: from the essentials to the unseen down to the overlooked details. You can definitely relive very stunning detail of your wedding because it is HD or high definition and usually comes in three Blueray copies plus a hard disk for the data files and raw footage.

(Optional Add-Ons - You can have your own mini-movie on your wedding day with this particular package. Through a mixture of interviews, photos and location shoots, you can definitely have a special audio-visual documentation that tells your very own love story).

  • Ceremony Only Package - if you have a tight budget then you can have this one. The wedding videographer will cover the ceremony only. 
  • Reception only package - This is a coverage of the reception only. An additional time may also be added to the typical four hour coverage. This package also includes a complete editing of the video plus 3 copies of the reception on DVD.
  • Wedding essential package - This is a package that is perfect for brides on a strict budget and want a straightforward, simple wedding documentation of the wedding ceremony as well as the reception. This particular package covers the entire ceremony to give the couple a lasting memory of their special day. Usually, the end-product is a video montage with background music.
  • Comprehensive package - this package offers a complete coverage of before, during and after the wedding ceremony. The wedding videographers (usually two to three camera and sound guys/gals) will arrive at the place 1-2 hours before to set-up. They’ll shoot various b-roll: the bride wearing make-up, the bridesmaids chit-chatting about the couple, the parents reminiscing about the bride’s childhood and various cinematic shots. The purpose is to create a cinematic wedding movie. This package usually includes a 4-hour coverage of the reception, particularly the highlights of the reception such as bouquet and garter toss, cake cutting, departure of the couple along with the dancing. Premium editing is included with the final product packaged into DVDs. In summation, this package is the “Mercedes Benz” package offered by wedding videographers who have high-end equipment.

Almost all packages come with the raw files for the wedding. These files are all the snippets taken by the wedding videographer. However, by themselves, they are not as useful because they lack color correction, stabilization and other post-production magic. It is called raw footage for a reason. In fact, footage shot on an iPhone would look better than raw footage because an iPhone does have basic stabilization and color settings. However, an iPhone is no match to a Sony FS7 footage edited by a professional editor.

When choosing a wedding videographer, you have to ask yourself this question: do I want a cinematic 1 hour movie with a trailer, or just a trailer with fancy music? The more features you want; the more expensive it gets. Once you've locked onto a budget, then it's time to think of the next important subject...

STYLE

The styles of wedding videographers can vary. With this being said, it is quite tricky to find someone who can meet your expectations. Wedding videographers, just like the photographers, take different approaches and style to their craft. Documentary style wedding videos present the events in a chronological manner minus the special effects. They tend to lean on interviews of the guests and montages overlaid with snippets of conversation and catchy quotes.

The second major style of wedding videography is montage. Montage filmmaking came into vogue during the French New Wave. Artists, like Jean-Luc Godard, popularized this style of filmmaking, and it has inspired the likes of Quentin Tarantino. Montages in wedding videography often involve five to ten second shots pieced together to create a cinematic, cohesive narrative. Usually, it has music in the background to enhance the mood and the viewing experience.

Here is a list of wedding videography styles that employ either documentary or montage style filmmaking:

  • A mixed-media video - this is a mixed format or combination of documentary, grading super 8 and cinematic style.
  • Same-day edit wedding video – this is a cinematic mini-documentary that narrates a couple’s wedding day as it unfolds from the bride and groom’s perspective. It usually includes video of pre-ceremony preparations, the actual ceremony and post-ceremony events, like cutting of the cake. The show The Office would be a good example of this type of wedding videography.
  • A movie-inspired wedding video - here, you and your partner can be your own leading man and leading lady just like in the movies. Since it’s a movie, it will involve scripted scenes. Popular themes, like writing love letters to each other and re-enacting the proposal, are often used for this style of wedding videography.
  • A stop-motion video - here, an arrangement of photos in a chronological manner is used to appear like a movie footage. It is a wedding video trend that promotes a perfect mix of vintage and modern style.
  • A wedding music video – essentially, this is a video montage with your love song in the background. Often, these five to ten minute videos are done in slow motion with various five to ten second clips pieced together by a professional editor. These are the most popular type of wedding videos that can be found on Youtube or Vimeo. 

Here is an example of a mixed style of documentary (interview style) and wedding video montage:

The essence of cinema is editing. It’s the combination of what can be extraordinary images of people during emotional moments, or images in a general sense, put together in a kind of alchemy.
— Francis Ford Coppola

EXPERIENCE

Although expert wedding videographers are preferred, up-and-coming, or new artists in the wedding videography industry will not do you any harm. If they have the equipment and you’ve identified you’re preferred style of wedding videography, then it’s matter of finding the right match!

Experienced wedding videographers are obviously the best place to start. They will have tons of references and have the equipment to offer what you want. However, they will be pricey, and the more established ones will only work with clients who opt into their “Mercedes Benz” package. You’ll definitely get quality in terms of video production and final edit. However, be mindful of style. If an experienced videographer only shoots documentary and you want a hip-hop montage, then it’s likely not a good match.

New artists are hungrier, and their pricing is also way cheaper than more experienced wedding videographers. Check out their IMDB profile and definitely check their work on Youtube or Vimeo. Perhaps, the wedding videographer doesn’t have much experience in wedding videography, but they might have really cool short films. Perhaps, they might have done amazing video content marketing for businesses. They might be branching out to wedding videography to diversity their businesses, and they shouldn’t be discounted for their lack of experience. Moreover, new artists tend to specialize in niches. If you’re into hip-hop and want a Wu Tang Clan rap song in your montage, then go find someone who has experience making hip hop videos.

Experience in wedding videography is important, but not as much as the artist’s style and niche.

EQUIPMENT

“Lights, Camera, Action!”

In order to create a cinematic wedding video, it’s crucial that you’re wedding videographer has the right tools. A wedding videographer without a high-end camera is like Leonardo Da Vinci without a paintbrush. They must have the right sound equipment, the lights and cameras that can handle low light situations (such as inside an old cathedral).

The first thing question to ask: will the footage be in high definition? Almost all cameras shoot high definition (even 4K is becoming standard). But if you’re videographer tries to convince you of the power of iPhone footage, it’s time to walk away. Don't settle for less.

As mentioned before, make sure the camera works in low light conditions. Lower end models such as Canon XH-A1, FX1/Z1U/Z7U would work. In 2Bridges, we exclusively use the Sony FS7: 

For portability, we use the Sony a7Sii. It's a lightweight and versatile camera, perfect for live events like weddings:

High-end cameras tend to have good sound features. However, if you want the best (why settle for less?), then make sure the wedding videographer has a good inventory of sound equipment. Most wedding videographers, like 2Bridges, use Lav mics and Rode. If you intend to record dialogue, especially the wedding vows, then it’s important to have a Lav mic. They can be attached underneath a groom’s jacket and can capture the special words of “I do.”

Moreover, how will you capture the speeches at the reception? If it’s a music montage wedding video, then capturing the speech is unnecessary. However, if you do intend to capture the speech, then it’s necessary to have a microphone, provided by either the wedding videographer or the DJ. Most clients make the mistake by claiming: “It’s a small enough venue. We can hear fine.” However, video cameras are finicky, and speech might sound a little off if there is no dedicated mike. Sometimes the background conversation (which could be happening near the camera) could overpower the best man’s speech from fifteen feet away. Don’t underestimate sound. In fact, sound is the least appreciated aspect of filmmaking, but certainly one of the most important in making a cinematic wedding video.

Most wedding videographers have a website that lists their equipment. You can also check out their social media profiles and videos online to assess the quality of their cinematography – the more visceral the image, the higher likelihood they’re using high-end equipment.

Finally, just ask!

In this world, you get what you pay for.
— Kurt Vonnegut

In the world of wedding videography, you definitely get what you pay for. If you don’t do your homework and opt for the “Mercedes Benz” package from a Hollywood videographer, then you’ll definitely be paying for a lot. That Hollywood videographer may provide amazing footage, but his or her style might not be the best fit for your taste or the theme of your wedding.

First, it’s key to understand what you want. Is it a hip-hop video? Is it a documentary, similar to The Office? Perhaps, you have a Korean theme:

Once you understand what you want, then it’s a matter of doing your research. Find the best hip hop videographer for that hip hop, cinematic wedding video. Find a videographer who has experience with pyebaek. Match your niche to the specialty of the wedding videographer. Fortunately, in today’s world, it’s easier than ever to find anyone or anything on the Internet.

Once you’ve found that match made in heaven, it’s time to make wedding video magic!