Video Taping Weddings
There is a huge potential market for wedding
videos. Just look in your local paper any summer week and
see how many weddings there were. Since almost every household
in the country has a VCR, you can bet that almost every wedding
has a video.
Keep in mind, though, that there is also big
competion in this field. If you want to make it, you'll have
be sure of two things: you have the skills necessary, and
that you can offer more in your area.
There's more to taping a wedding than just setting up a camera
and turning it on. If you're married and had a video taken
at your wedding, I'm sure you'll agree. You, the photographer,
can expect to be dropped into an environment of potential
conflict. Last minute spats between the bride and groom, conflicts
between family members, still photographers, all can be a
source of headaches for you.
The best way to prevent problems is to set up a meeting with
the bride, groom, close family members, and, if possible,
any other photographers that will be at the service/reception.
This way, you can find out exactly what the family wants,
any special shots they will want, any unusual parts to the
ceremony that they may want on tape, how many people will
be involved, and other issues. Keep in mind, the family will
be paying you, so they will
probably want to TELL you what you can or can't do. If what
they want is reasonable, don't fight it. That makes your job
easier. But, if what they want is unreasonable, be honest
with them, but, by all means, be tactful.
If you can meet with the other photographer(s), discuss where
they need to be to get their best shots, so you and your camera
won't be in the way. Also, this will help you with your planning
so they won't be in your video, and you won't show up in the
photos. This brings up the subject of planning.
Planning is all important when it comes to wedding videos.
You will be producing something that the couple will want
to view over and over, that their family and friends will
be seeing. It's your best advertisement. So, you will want
it to be the best it can be.
If you know what the ceremony will be like ahead of time,
and what special shots the couple and family will want, you've
got the ball in your court. Be sure to attend the rehearsal,
so you can set your equipment up and plan your camera angles.
Since you've planned your work, all you have to do is work
Here's an idea of the equipment a well-stocked wedding videographer
should have or have access to:
- At least two VHS camcorders with high-quality low-light
- At least one VHS VCR for editing and dubbing
- At least one free-standing light for each camera
- A tripod for each camera, preferably ones with a large range
- At least two twelve hours of batteries for the camera
- The best quality wireless microphone you can afford (one
for each camera)
- All necessary cables, with spares
- Extra tapes, the best quality available.
Don't let this list scare you off. If you don't own all this,
you don't have to rush out and empty your bank account. You
can either rent what you need, or barter your services with
someone who has the equipment. Then, pick up the stuff you
need piece by piece. Also, keep your eyes open for good quality
Other equipment you may want to consider would include a
good video editor deck, for putting your finished product
together; a film-to-tape camera attachment (can be used to
create a montage of scenes from old home movies of the couple
when they were kids - a great service to offer and a unique
marketing point to offer!); and a graphics/title generator.
So, you may have wondered, why would you need more than one
camera? If you have two cameras set up, you:
- can have different angles of the action, instead of the
standard wedding video, which has a half-hour of a still camera;
- you're covered if one of the cameras messes up or lighting
Make sure your videos are special, different from the run-of-the-mill
wedding videos. Try to get a camera aimed toward the faces
of the couple, so you can capture them during the vows, and
at other points. This will also provide close-up footage to
edit in at slow points. Try to have a camera at the end of
the aisle, so you can catch the exit of the bride and
groom. This camera could also be used to show the bride from
the back, entering the ceremony, an angle that you rarely
see in a wedding video. If possible, get or draw up a floor
plan of the location of the ceremony. It will help you plan
your camera placement and shots.
Position your microphones where they'll do the most good.
If possible, get either the bride or the groom to wear one,
and get the minister or celebrant to wear one. This way, you'll
have crisp, clear sound. Just remember to warn the bride and
groom not to whisper anything they wouldn't want the microphone
to pick up! (You can always edit out any unwanted sound.)
Other places you may want a camera would be (with the couple
in the 12 o'clock position): 10:00 or 2:00. Use the camera
to get views of the crowd, the parents of the couple (edit
a shot of them in during the vows - catch the emotion of the
ceremony), and the entrance of the attendants.
If the ceremony is a specialized ethnic ceremony (becoming
more popular, especially with Black Americans) or unusual,
you should look for points of interest to capture on tape
which will show the special meanings and emotions of the ceremony.
If the couple and family can watch your tape and feel the
same emotions they had during the actual ceremony, your tape
is a winner!
Technical skills are important, but they can be learned.
The most crucial skills are smooth panning and zooming. Before
you ever do your first PAID wedding, practice with another
event - for free. Practice makes for fluency.
The worst wedding video is the most common: one stationary
camera, no zooms, never moving. People look around when they're
at a wedding, and so should the camera, within reason. Practice
a slow, smooth pan that keep the subject in the frame of the
camera. Practice smooth zooms that aren't jerky, and aren't
too close or too far from the subject.
You've probably figured that you'll need a helper for the
actual taping. Unless the only camera that will pan and zoom
is the one you're operating, and the others are stationary,
you'll need someone. Be sure your helper is well-trained,
with skills up to par with yourself. Ideas: a friend who also
has a videocamera (here's a way to save on equipment costs);
a college or high-school kid with video experience (they're
becoming more common, as
more and more schools add video classes to their curriculum);
or a free-lancer (possibly a crew member from the public access
channel at your cable station).
At the reception, it's important to get the "traditional"
events: the garter/ bouquet toss, cutting the cake, toasts,
etc. Use the same guidelines as before: keep in mind what's
important to have in the frame, and try to tape it smoothly.
A good idea may be to talk to the relatives of the couple
and see if some of them would want to say a few words about
couple on tape (try to do this early in the reception, before
a lot of drinks have been served!).
If your videos are special and well-produced, you should
be able to charge fees that are toward the top range in your
area. Premium wedding videographers in large areas should
be able to get $750 to $1000 for a wedding. Discretely call
other videographers in your area to get an idea of what the
range is. Marketing ideas:
(1) Scan your newspaper for engagement announcements. Then,
use your computer's word processor to print out personalized
letters detailing your services. Use your library's city directory
to find the addresses you need. Send the letters and a brochure
to the lucky couples.
(2) Set up a referral network with florists, formalwear shops,
printers, and other wedding-related retailers in your area.
You could offer them a set commission fee each time a referral
leads to a taping job.
(3) Find a wedding photographer in your area who doesn't currently
offer video. Set up a deal where your photo and video services
could be offered as a package.
(4) Participate in local bridal shows. These are attended
by people who will be marrying soon, qualified prospects for
your services. Have plenty of your brochures and marketing
materials handy, so you don't run out. A good idea is to have
one of your best videos playing on a monitor at the show (get
permission from the couple on tape first, maybe offer them
discount in exchange for letting you use their tape for marketing
(5) Advertise in your newspaper's wedding supplement. Most
newspapers publish at least one a year.
If your taping was simple, with only one camera, you may
be able to deliver the tape to the couple at the end of the
wedding. If more extensive editing needs to be done, make
sure you give the couple a realistic date when they can expect
the tape. Don't give them a time that will leave you rushed.
If you don't have your own editing equipment, check ahead
with your local cable station. Many times, they have facilities
for their public access station
which can be rented. Many also offer short courses in video
editing which are worth checking into.