Remember Your Role
When you're videotaping a wedding you're generally either doing it as a friend or professional who's been entrusted to shoot the official wedding video, or as a guest who happened to bring along a camcorder.
If you're not shooting the official wedding video stay out of the way of the person who is. The bride and groom likely paid a lot of money to hire this professional, and he or she should always be given priority in setting up the best shot and getting the best angle of the events.
If you step in front of the hired videographer to get a good shot of the vows, you're actually ruining the wedding video that the bride and groom paid for. No one will be happy with you, no matter how good your video looks.
If you're new to videography, shooting wedding videos makes for an intense boot camp. The tips for recording good video and good audio will help with shooting a wedding video (or any type of video for that matter).
Tapes & Batteries
You'll need five or six tapes, depending on length of the day. Label the tapes ahead of time so that it's easier to keep them in order. You'll also need an extra battery or two, as just one probably won't last you through the whole day. If you don't have enough batteries be sure to bring your charger so that you can recharge the batteries during down time.
Use a Lapel Mic
Without a lapel microphone for the groom you probably won't be able to hear the audio for the vows. Ideally, you'll have a wireless microphone which can hook into your camera. However, these are expensive, so you may not be able to afford one (especially if you're not getting paid for your work!).
As an alternative, you can buy a digital recorder (or transform your iPod into a digital recorder) and wire a lapel mic into that. You'll have to synch the audio and video while editing.
Know the Schedule
Talk to the couple ahead of time to find out the schedule for the wedding. That way you'll be able to anticipate the action and won't find yourself running out of tape at an crucial moment or missing an important event that you should be videotaping.
Ideally you'll be able to attend the wedding rehearsal. This will give you a chance to find the best place to set up your camera. You'll also have an opportunity to find out if there are any restrictions at the ceremony site. Many churches have rules about where videographers can stand, whether you can move around, and about the use of lights.
If you weren't at the rehearsal grab a copy of the program so that you can figure out what's going to be happening during the ceremony.
Remember, a wedding is a day to celebrate the couple that's getting married. While it's important that you make a great video to remember that day, it's just as important that you let the bride and groom and their guests enjoy the day. You may have to move around some during the ceremony but try to do it quickly and quietly so as to not draw attention away from the couple.
Also, use your zoom to get close ups of the guests. No one likes to have a camera shoved in their face, and it's one of the biggest complaints people have about wedding videographers.
Talk to the Guests (or Leave Them Alone)
Some wedding guests are vocal and want to say something to the camera. Some are camera shy and want to be left alone, if that's the case, respect their wishes.
Light the Scene
Thanks to new, better quality digital camcorders, gone are the days when wedding videographers needed to set up large, 1000 watt lights. Still, though, you may need some extra light to get good footage during a wedding. A small, 50-watt light mounted on the top of your camera will light the scene without blinding guests or breaking your budget.
Make Friends With Other Vendors
The videographer, the dj, the photographer and the reception site coordinator all have a common goal: make the day go smoothly for the bride and groom.
As soon as possible introduce yourself to these people and find out what you can do to work together to all do your jobs well. The photographer should know where your camcorder will be set up at the ceremony, so he or she doesn't stand in front of it. The dj or site coordinator can tell you the schedule of events for the reception, and make sure that you're in the room whenever anything important happens.
Take a Break
Shooting a wedding video means spending a long day on your feet and hard at work. Be sure to take a break now and then for some rest and refreshment. I don't recommend drinking on the job, but a Coke or an ice water can revive your spirits when you start to fade.
Also, taking a break can be good for guests who are camera shy. Some people will leave the dance floor the instant they see a video camera coming their way. If you take a break and sit out a few songs, you'll give these folks a chance to have some fun without fear or embarrassment of their dance moves being caught on tape.
Try Two Cameras
If you have two video cameras use both of them to shoot the wedding video. That way you can set one up to capture a wide shot of the bride, groom and officiant, and use the other one to get close ups and reaction shots.
By using two cameras you know you'll always have the wide shot to cut away to, which will give you more flexibility during editing and shooting.
Get the Shots
Every wedding is unique, but there are certain things that are common to most weddings. This wedding videography checklist should help you make sure you get the important shots that the bride and groom will expect to see in their wedding video.