One of the most stressful jobs you can take on as a videographer is shooting a wedding, so make sure you’re prepared before your first gig.
Weddings. It’s a step that many videographers take after being in the industry for a bit. What can go wrong? All you have to do is shoot the ceremony, get some close-ups of the ring, capture the kiss, then slap a Kodak LUT on the final product and make a boat-load of money. Right?
There are countless things that can go wrong during a wedding. It’s one of the only gigs out there that won’t offer you any do-overs: the ceremony is going to go on whether your battery just died or not. If you miss the kiss, you can bet your bottom dollar that the “happy couple” won’t be so happy anymore. In fact, save your bottom dollar. You might need it for dinner.
So I’m going to let you in on a few things that I make sure I pack in my bag, some techniques I use during the shoot, and the failsafes that I have in place in case things go sideways on the wedding day so you can be prepared to take on the Herculean task of capturing the best day of someone’s life.
What I Have in My Camera Bag
It’s important to be prepared with the right gear for a wedding gig. Not having the right equipment can severely limit your ability to capture the video you need. But, you also don’t want to overpack and overwhelm yourself with options. So after a few gigs, I’ve narrowed down what I like to have in my backpack to this list:
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K
- Sony A6500 with 16-55mm lens
- 24mm and 85mm Rokinon prime lenses
- Aputure AL-MX
- 1-2 Quasar Lights
- DJI Ronin S
- At least 500GB in CFAST cards
- At least 500GB in SD cards
- 1-2 TB External Hard Drive
- 6-10 batteries for each camera
- ND Filters (Preferably Variable)
- Lav mic and Audio Recorder
- DJI Mavic 2 Drone
My favorite camera to shoot on is the BMPCC, since it’s just such a perfect handheld shooter that can capture amazing shots for a $1,299 investment. I also like to have my A6500 with me in case I have my BMPCC on a tripod and I want to get some more coverage. Then, I use the Mavic 2 to get some sweet sweeping shots of the venue and any other outdoor activities.
The Aputure AL-MX is a great little pocket light to have in case you need to brighten up a dark dance floor. I also like to have one or two Quasars on hand in case I need a really convenient soft source for shooting close-up inserts of the ring and the dress.
Obviously, you want a load of memory cards and (fully charged) batteries. Being caught with an empty battery or a full memory card at an important moment is how you miss a shot. Just in case you shoot enough footage to take up space on the majority of your cards, it’s handy to have a laptop and an external hard drive with you so you can dump footage on the fly.
My Tips for Shooting
- Almost 99 percent of the time, you will not be able to put a mic on the bride. If they have a wedding arch on the stage of the ceremony, sometimes you’ll be able to fit a small shotgun mic on it and hide it under some flowers. If they don’t have one, mic up the groom and the officiant, and you’ll be able to sequence the bride’s vows from there.
- Shoot most of the time with your wide lens. Wide shots are a lot easier to throw Warp Stabilizer on later in post, and with 4K, you can push in if you need a closer shot.
- Shoot in 60-120fps most of the time. Slow motion video is very “in” for Instragram-able one-minute wedding stanzas, and to me, it’s just way easier to edit and make a more cinematic video with footage you can slow down. For anything that involves speaking or you would like to show in real-time (such as the actual ceremony), shoot 24fps.
- Shoot in a LOG color profile. Most brides and grooms prefer a heavily stylized video nowadays with fun color grading.
- If you’re shooting alone, bring two cameras: one to keep on a tripod, and one to keep on a gimbal. I usually set up my Blackmagic on a tripod and capture static shots with that, and then use the Sony a6500 on the DJI Ronin S for more dynamic coverage.
- Make a list of the most important shots of the wedding (kiss, cutting the cake, first dances, etc.). Plan your shoot around those shots. You can get coverage of everything else later.
- If you can afford to, try to get a second camera op to come along. It reduces stress, and you get two different sets of eyes to capture the wedding.
- Coordinate with the wedding planner to get a detailed schedule of the entire day so you can anticipate the flow of events. Weddings always change on the fly, so if you can establish communication with the planner, you can get info on locations and last-minute adjustments.
Failsafes to Have In Place
- Keep a fully charged battery and empty card in your pocket. You never know when a memory card or a battery might fail.
- Have a second camera on hand. If you don’t own a second camera and you don’t want to rent one, ask a friend if you can borrow theirs for the day. You might not ever use it if you prefer only using one camera, but if your camera somehow fails after you drop it in the fountain, you’ll have a reserve on deck.
- Set up a little “Battle Station” in an accessible-but-hidden area. This is where you can set up a row of chargers, your laptop, and your external drive. You can also come here to take a breath and rest during a break (but not for too long — don’t want to miss Uncle Jeffery’s dance-off with grandma).
Looking for more videography tips and tricks? Check these out.