The original version of this post published last week went viral. We received hundreds of love letters from photographers and hate mail from videographers. Unknowingly we hit a hot button issue. Some asked us to expand on our initial thoughts and we are happy to do so now after wrapping up one of our busiest weeks ever. The bullying, however, we will not tolerate. Personal attacks are not necessary and only validate any negativity surrounding the wedding videography climate and community. The opinions expressed and experiences shared here are ours and ours alone. They are not meant to apply to everyone with one broad brush stroke. It is concerning that such assumptions were made. Watching this debate unfold over the past week has sparked some wonderful conversations and acknowledged a sorely needed dialogue. We are happy to have put this on the table and are very hopeful for what lies ahead.
We're in the business of capturing moments, of hitting time's pause button to remember and marvel and share gorgeous photographs with generations to come just like the generations before did with us. We understand that some of you (about 20% of our couples) would also like to press the play button and literally rewatch your vows, the toasts, and your grandpa's silly moves on the dance floor.
Our couples can typically be separated into three camps when it comes to wedding videography:
1. Those who have a friend or relative in the television or film industry outside of weddings who they have asked to film their wedding.
2. Those who could go either way. They have strong positive or negative opinions on videography based on weddings they have either been in or attended.
3. Those who hire a videographer because someone or a checklist told them they should, usually at the last minute.
Wherever you fall in the spectrum above, we offer you this advice if you are considering adding videography to your wedding day:
• Approach Wedding photographers and videographers have the same goal: to tell the story of your wedding day. The difference, tho, is that when I started photographing weddings nine years ago videographers had large cameras that mostly resulted in a stationary tripod being set up in the balcony of the church or alongside of the band, ie: on the sidelines. These days videographers are using lighter, less bulky equipment identical to ours which means instead of being on the sidelines, videographers are in the thick of the action often angling for the same shot we are or worse- preventing us from getting that great shot. Many videographers we have worked with have no qualms about setting up camp at or in your aisle, with or without a slide, behind your best man at the altar, and so on, and therefore end up in many of our photographs. It's a major distraction to our creative process and surely vice versa. Videographers can adversely affect your photographs just as much as photographers can affect your video. When interviewing a videographer, ask them how many tripods/positions they will have set up at your ceremony, for instance. If the answer is three (which is common) imagine how that set-up will look in your photographs. And imagine how often we will appear in your video. Likewise ask how the videographer films your first dance and toasts. Does the videographer circle the dance floor with a steady cam for a sweeping Hollywood look or plant themselves with a 50mm in front of the toast giver for the duration of the toast blocking the view of the guests? Would that bother you? Maybe not. If the answer is yes, again, imagine what that will look like in your photos and vice versa, of us in your video. This doesn’t apply to all videographers so be sure to ask.
• Style Traditional, photojournalism, fine art and fashion are the main styles of wedding photography. Wedding videography has similar styles. We are a photojournalism studio. We move swiftly and unobtrusively on the wedding day. We don’t recreate events, add effects to images or make things look any more or less dramatic than they were on the wedding day. We document the day as it happens. We recommend you research to find a videography style that is suitable to your liking and complementary in approach. When interviewing a videographer ask them to explain their style in detail, ask if your finished product will feature slow motion or if they circle you while you’re dancing on the dance floor. If the answer if yes, our working styles likely won’t mesh well together.
• Equipment Since your videographer may be using the same cameras as we have (DSLR’s), it's confusing to your guests to know who is shooting video and who is taking stills and it is often assumed we are one company. I can't tell you how many times someone has stopped to mug in front of the videographer for a photo not realizing they aren't taking candids. The difference comes, of course, during dancing when a constant bright beam of light might adorn the top of their camera, calling attention and causing behavior changes from your guests as video cameras make people very aware. A minor point, but still worth mentioning as you envision how you want your wedding photography and potential videography coverage to look.
• Professionalism We operate by a strict code of conduct that we developed that follows the ethics of photojournalism and our approach to the day including many things like how we dress, how we present ourselves, etc. that add up to a polished professional experience. We would like to assume that everyone follows suit, but unfortunately we have photographed at formal weddings where the videographer is in dark denim. Would that bother you? When interviewing a videographer (or any wedding vendor) ask them what they wear. You’ll get a good sense for their level of professionalism from how they conduct themselves in your interview, their online presence and sample work. Talk to references.
Taking all of the above into consideration, we once had a lofty vision to train an in-house videographer to help eliminate all of the points above that we found frustrating, to work together as a team and execute our company's standards across all visual points. It was a lot of work and in the end it pulled too much energy and resources away from the bulk of our business.
So now what, you might ask? We’re hopeful this post has been helpful to get you thinking more about the benefits and challenges, similarities and differences between wedding photography and videography in approach, style and equipment and what that means for your wedding day. Most of our clients’ priority is investing in photography and would rather a family member/friend record the vows and toasts on a camcorder, leaving a clear canvas for the wedding day photos to unfold without distraction or a gang photo and video production approach. You don't hire two caterers to work in the same kitchen, so if you are on the fence give careful thought as to if you would want to have more than one visual company jockeying for the same position at every step during your wedding day.
Ultimately the choice, of course, is entirely yours and we support your decision wholeheartedly and want you to have the best day possible. It’s your day and we will work in a professional manner with every one of your vendors. We are happy to recommend one videographer who we feel is the best in the area at what she does and we enjoy working with. But please-oh-please, a straight from the hip word of caution: don't skimp and hire a sub-par videographer to save costs. They won't have the professional chops to back it up, you won't be as happy with the finished product, and they'll have driven us mad having to avoid an inexperienced shadow shooter for the day. There are a few of these folks we flat out won't work with and you wouldn’t want to either, so please be sure to discuss this with us prior to booking. Bottom line: if you want a videographer, don’t wait until the last minute and hire a great one now.
Again, these are our opinions. We have been to hundreds of weddings and as a staff decided collectively it was important to share how we feel.