I’ve met many couples over the years and received emails about booking me for their big day. Sometimes I’ve been asked questions that seemed strange for a couple to be asking. You realize that they must be asking questions they found in an obsolete publication or website. After searching the Internet for information relevant to hiring a professional videographer and quickly found out that there wasn’t much, and what I found was mostly years old predating high definition video. What information I did find was mostly written by people other than videographers and instructed the couple to ask questions in which they would have no clue what the correct answer would be or even understand the answer (for example ‘does the videographer shoot with a 3-CCD camera?’ and ‘what lenses do they use?’).
I decided to come up with a list of relevant items to consider while interviewing professional videographers. Here goes:
Style – Watch many samples online and get a feel for the style of video you are looking for. While it may be hard to classify a videographer’s style you will know what you like when you see it. Styles will range from basic documentary to very artistic. Long Form vs. Short Form. If you are looking for something artistic try to find something that matches your personality. Ask the videographer how they describe their style. While many of the words he/she uses may be ambiguous, matching them to his/her work and then comparing that to other videographers, and how they describe themselves, will help you decide what styles you prefer and what terms you should be using while searching for your perfect videographer.
Equipment – Unless you are very knowledgeable on the latest video equipment don’t worry about asking what equipment the videographer is using. If you are happy with the sound and video quality in the samples the videographer shows you that’s all you need to know. Listen to a sample of the vows during a ceremony, and a sample of reception toasts. Make sure the video samples are in focus (unless it is intentionally out of focus for effect) and the lighting and color look natural (again, unless it is intentional for effect). If the videographer is using obsolete equipment it will definitely show in their sample work.
Who’s Shooting/Editing – Some videographers are a one-man-show while others use hired help, while some others have many employees. One way is not necessarily better than the other. Again, look at many samples from your videographer. As long as they are consistent then you can feel comfortable in knowing that regardless of the resources your videographer employs to capture your wedding day the samples you viewed will be representative of what the end product will be. Chances are that if the style you choose is very artistic and stylized the videographer is a one-man-show. There are some videography companies who employ many shooters and editors. If you interview a company such as this and you find that their samples vary in style then ask if you can choose which style you prefer and then find out which of their employees had a hand in creating that style and make sure you can have them work on your video. If the company can not guarantee which of their employees will be available to shoot/edit your video then they can’t with a straight face guarantee the style of the end product. You’ll probably not want to consider them then.
Music – Can I choose my own tracks? Is a question I’m often asked. Yes and no. For anything that goes online, then no, I have to use a royalty cleared piece of music which I purchase specially for your wedding. So the next question is usually that you’ve seen a load of films online with contemporary music. Though there are some tracks you can get clearance from, these are few and far between. These videographers are actually chancing it and just hoping they won’t get caught breaking copyright law. For your DVD them I can buy a special wedding music license and you can choose your tracks. As we move towards online delivery though it will become less and less likely you can choose any tracks you wish and some companies are already moving to just using royalty cleared music and helping you choose tracks from the list they can use.
Turnaround – OK, so this is something that surprises most brides and grooms but it shouldn’t, taking some things into consideration. If the videographer you have chosen is a one-man-show as I mentioned earlier and if videography is their full-time job then it isn’t unusual for them to have a 3 or 4 month turnaround (or longer). They are most likely shooting 20 or more weddings a year (some as many as 40) and not only are they spending 40, 80, or even 100 hours to edit your video they also have to operate their business. That means marketing and advertising, attending networking events, accounting, meeting and working with clients, checking and answering emails, etc… The larger a company is (the more employees they have) usually the faster their turnaround may be. Remember that you will have this video, movie if you will, for the rest of your life. It can’t be re shot. It’s got to be perfect. Let your videographer take their time on creating the masterpiece you commissioned them to. Its great if you can get your video a few weeks after your wedding but don’t be disappointed if it takes longer
High Definition and 4K – I’m not aware of anyone not shooting in HD, though your delivery on DVD is actual standard definition. Find out if you’ll be supplied a HD version of your film in some format, be it a USB hard copy or a Blu Ray disc (or even online streaming). 4K is the new kid on the block. Very few videographers are presently shooting 4K for delivery due to the large amount of storage space needed to shoot and edit it, plus the fact very few clients will actually have the ability to watch 4K at the moment. Those that do offer 4K delivery generally charge a surplus to do this.
Delivery – How you get your wedding film will be important to you. Some companies are trying to move away from what is now considered obsolete DVDs, especially as they are not HD. Most couples still want DVDs though. If DVDs aren’t offered, how is your film delivered (USB, Blu Ray, 4K, Online Streaming) and will that be suitable to you?
Price – I understand that while your budget for video will determine what class of videographer you can choose from, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. It’s not always “apples to apples” either. Just because both videographers offer 2 cameras for 6 hours of coverage doesn’t mean they should be in a price war, there may not even be a comparison. Some videographers have a hard time charging what they are really worth so it is possible that that cheap videographer is a “diamond in the rough” though more often now that cheap videographer has cheap-looking videos. Give yourself a decent budget for video. You should budget the same for videography that you budget for photography. I didn’t want to say it, but, you get what you pay for.
Do I really need a Professional Videographer? – OK, so I asked the question. Here’s the answer: YES. Just because everyone and their Uncle Bob owns a DLSR camera you’re not going to let just anyone shoot your photos. Just because Greggs makes a mean Vanilla Slice you’re not going to impose on them for your dream cake. These things require skill, artistry, and knowledge that only hundreds of hours of experience can provide. Sure, Cousin Jack may be a student at a local college, and his film project was really cool, but how many weddings has he attended? Does he have the experience required to anticipate all of those one-take moments? You really don’t want to hear, “Oh man! Can you cut the cake again? I was in the bathroom!”
I’m sure I will be adding to this list but these things will get you started and help you in your decision making process. Good luck with finding your perfect wedding videographer and I hope you check us out at In Love Wedding Films.
Thanks to James Burkart for originally writing the basis of this blog 8 years ago and recently posting it for other wedding videographers to use. So here is a version of it I’ve updated for 2016.