When searching the net you can probably find a handful of blogs with list on what to ask when searching for a Wedding Videographer. But, rarely do you find info from a Videographers perspective to help you along your journey. This is not a quick list of 20 questions you should ask but more of an essay compiled from questions I've been asked and the experiences I've had as filmmaker. What I would like to do is empower brides and help them with their important decision on hiring a videographer. This is a critical decision! Not only will the Videographer capture all of your special moments. You are relying on them to capture some of the moments you may have missed.
1.) WHAT TYPE OF VIDEO DO YOU WANT?
This may seem like a no brainer right? It's not. Filmmaking is an art and the end product can be as different as night and day. Do you want a Traditional Style video or do you want it to be Cinematic.
Below is an example of a Traditional Wedding Video. Yes it's old school but if you go to one of the most popular wedding sites like "The Knot" you will still find a few videographers that still make videos like this. I'm not knocking them. Obviously people are still buying them. For the Traditional styled video above this one you really only need a Tripod, Camera, and basic editing software.
Here is an example of a Cinematic Styled Wedding Video (Or Modern). Even though I am a videographer I am a Fan boy for the following film company (Iris Films). I have worked on a wedding with them before so I can definitely give credit when its due plus wouldn't it be a little self serving if I plugged my own video? :-)
The video directly above takes and experienced videographer, advanced equipment, and advanced editing software (With color correcting skills) to give this perfect look. I can tell you from experience that this was also NOT a one man job. This was a two to three man job and probably cost between $3K - $5K. For those of you that may be thinking that is to much money its not. Just one of my professional lenses alone cost over $1,000. Just for the lens not the camera; and I have several lens which capture completely different shots. I have telephoto lenses, wide angle lens etc... All my various Editing software is over $2,000. So as the saying goes "You get what you pay for" which is the perfect segway into our next topic.
2.) TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL YOUR BUDGET
The first thing I want to suggest is before you pick up the phone to call a vendor know your budget. Take this from a guy who planned his own wedding (Ok, my wife helped a little "Shhhh don't tell her I said that"). But seriously, before you start shopping for vendors KNOW YOUR BUDGET. It's like going house hunting and falling in love with the million dollar homes but you can only get approved for a $200K loan. Now you wasted your time and your relators time. The same rule applies to Wedding Vendors. Ok, so I'm going to seem a little bit BIASED on this one but YES do tell us your budget. Unlike most Videographer's or Photographers I list my prices on my website (Some vendor's may say I'm silly for listing my prices but that's a debate for another time). Back to the topic. You may ask yourself well why don't others list their prices? Now I have to take up for my "brothers (and sisters) in lenses". It's not because they are trying to be sneaky! Most Brides (maybe like yourself) go website hopping. They will see a price for a package and think its too high because they are not well informed on the typical cost for certain wedding services and they will leave the site never to return. Thus, the vendors do not list their prices because they want to get the chance to talk with you. Not scam you. They want you to call so that they can tell you what makes them unique and explain their specific expertise. They want to discuss your budget. Yes, we are back to that again. I can't tell you how many times I've asked a Bride for their budget and they've replied "I don't have one" Then I tell them my price for a particular package and they now reply "Wow, that is too expensive". OH so now you do have a budget? Now most vendors won't change the prices of their packages and you shouldn't want them too. It's like if your boss says "hey I know your pay check is usually $2K but I'm going to give you $600 this week" or if you walk into a designer shoe store and want those $900 shoes Beyonce wore to the Oscar's but try to offer them $200 for them (You'll get laughed right out of the store). I am sure there was a lot of thought that went into the pricing of their packages (Insurance, equipment upkeep, additional videographers/assistants, not to mention their everyday expenses for life). Wedding vendor's are just like any other business. So if you find a videographer and you truly love the content he/she creates it is important to share your budget because while we may not change the cost of our packages we can potentially customize them by removing some services so we can accommodate your budget.
3.) MEASURING THE EXPERIENCE NEEDED WITH THESE QUESTIONS
Unless your really don't have it in your budget, you really should hire a professional videographer. In most cases when you finally decide to make that call or email to a videographer you've already seen some of their work. However, you also want to make sure that they have enough experience that is useful to fit your needs. Take me for example. When I first started filming weddings I had no experience at all in wedding videography. But I already had two degree's in Film & TV Production, worked as a camera man for a New York News Outlet and had completed several short films and commercials. So, while I was not able to show that first client/bride a wedding in my portfolio I had a lot of other content to share with her. You also need to be able to measure how much experience is enough. You don't measure the experience needed from a videographer on your special day by the number of guest that will be attending. It doesn't matter if you have 4 guest or 200 the number of guest you have really don't affect our jobs much as a videographer. The way you will measure the size of your production is by how many moving pieces there are on your wedding day. It takes a lot of work to "properly" cover the Pre-Ceremony (Getting Ready), Ceremony, First Glance, Cocktail Hour, Private Post Ceremony Videographer Session, Reception, and Send Off. You also need to consider the type of look you want the final video to have (Don't be afraid to send the videographer samples of other wedding videos you like). Do you want your video to feel like a movie? Well then you need to inquire about the type of equipment your videographer is using. Don't just ask if they are using HD cameras (My cell phone shots in HD; it actually shots in 4K). Are they using camcorders or DSLR's? You can even ask what kind of Camcorders or DSLR's their using. Then you can go to YouTube, put in the camera name along with test footage (example: "Canon 5D Mark III Test Footage"). You will then see the look you can possibly get when using that sort of camera (Lenses play a part in the look as well). Getting that professional movie look in a video is not easy. Lighting, angles, sound quality all plays a major role. You need to ask what type of lighting they will be using for the reception (which in most cases is very dark). You need to ask what type of microphones they will be using to record the ceremony. Using the wrong type of microphone at the wrong time will result in bad audio so be sure to ask if they are using a shotgun microphone (Shotgun Microphone), or Lav mic's (Lavalier Microphones) and when. Do they have a backup plan in-case of equipment failure?
4.) ARE THEY SOCIABLE? CAN THEY LEAD?
Most filmmakers aspire to not only be behind the lens creating breath taking shots but the end game is usually to become a Film Director. However, most aspiring filmmakers don't realize that behind the glamour of being the next Steven Spielberg, Film Directing is "people management" at its core. When your wedding starts, your videography has to be able to work hand and hand with you, the other vendors, and guest. Your videographer is not only responsible for capturing moments but creating moments. Like the photographer your videographer needs to have the type of personality that makes people want to smile for the camera. Most people are not professional actors and are not comfortable being recorded especially while speaking, so your videographer needs to be able to put your guest at ease so he/she can capture their that funny moment or those everlasting words of advice for your future. Your Videographer has to be able to deal with the potential WAR every videographer will unfortunately face at some point during their wedding videography career. The WAR with the Photographer! As a videography you will come across some Photographers that are VERY territorial.
Some photographers often forget that we're also there to support/celebrate the bride and groom on their special day. I am sure when you watch your wedding video you don't want a video with the photographer standing in-front of the camera during the most important wedding moments (Trust me it happens, a lot!). But even when dealing with some of the most difficult personalities there doesn't have to be a war. With great communication skills, positive attitude, and compromise (Reminds me of a great marriage) your videographer can work in peace with your photographer. Lastly, make sure your hired filmmaker is likable. Most brides are so busy that they just want you to show up. I realize that planning a wedding while still trying to tackle your everyday task can be a challenge but do try to take some time for yourself and future husband to meet your videographer before the wedding.
5.) MY FRIEND WILL DO IT
Alright, let first discuss hiring a friend to film your wedding. One of the scenario's I run into is when a Bride get's one of their friends who happens to have a camera and the filming of a few soccer games under their belt to film their wedding. I completely understand that weddings get pricey really fast so what is most appealing about this situation, is the price! You can't beat free right?
Don't get me wrong some hobbyist filmmakers are responsible and take their projects seriously. The problem arises when you have someone who wants to do a good job but either doesn't have money for specialized video equipment and you get a wedding video full of shaky footage and low quality audio. Another unfortunate situation that I've seen first hand is when your friendly videographer gets caught up in the excitement and forgets to keep the camera on the action.
I have friends who are embarrassed to show people their wedding video because the quality is so poor. If you are going to get a friend to film your wedding its best to set your expectations way before the filming begins. Yes, they are doing it for free but don't be afraid to tell them what your expectation's are. You can even find wedding videos online to show examples of what you hope the final product will look like (Then ask them if they feel they can pull that look off). In most cases when you have a buddy film your wedding don't expect to get that video back any time soon. Once the wedding is over and your friend gets home and they have 20 - 30 hours of footage to try to edit, it can seem over whelming (Especially when they most likely have a full time job and a life of their own to get back to after your wedding is over). That video may be put on the back burner for the next 6 months. Be sure to ask them how long it will take for them to finish video. Depending on the type of video you want created most Professional Videographers give themselves 30 days to finish the final product for you. Always remember to ask your videographer whether their an amateur or professional how long it will take for you to get the completed video and if you have any say in the final product. I typically allow for a few minor changes to the final product.
As you can see there is a lot to think about when searching for a videographer. Hopefully I've given you some tool to help you along your journey. Good luck! And, I look forward to working with some of you.
Thomas Brown, Founder of ThomasVisionFilms, is a Filmmaker, Wedding Cinematographer, Video Editor, and Video Content Director here in Atlanta, GA. He is our lead filmmaker and the wizard behind all of our video editing. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in Film and TV Production. As an avid film geek he was passionate about filmmaking and video long before ThomasVisionFilms was formed.