The wedding video has become as much a staple as save-the-dates and specialty cocktails. Hiring a wedding videographer isn’t just a special expense — it’s something that almost every couple budgets for.
That’s because couples want to remember their special day, and the best way to capture those moments is through video. It’s a way to preserve the visual and audio pieces of their memories, and bundle them up in a beautiful and finished product that will be the source of happy tears for decades.
But as wedding videos have become more popular, the standards for those videos continue to climb. People expect cinematic wedding videos with the same production values as a short film, regardless of the fact that most couples only hire one filmmaker to record their big day.
Thankfully, pulling off a “cinematic” look isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be. (In fact, you can do most of it in post-production.) By keeping these four tips in mind, you’ll get everything you need to shoot and deliver a cinematic wedding video on any budget.
1. Take Stock of Your Gear
Budget is one of the biggest limitations for filmmakers. And one of the places you’re going to feel it most is when it comes to the gear you can afford (either to own or to rent for specific shoots).
In the case of shooting cinematic video, that gets easier when you have more professional equipment, like a really good camera for YouTube. But the truth is that you can often complement your camera by investing in good lenses, which can help with figuring out how to shoot a cinematic wedding video.
The right lens can help you create depth in every shot, which plays a major role in getting that cinematic look couples want. It also gives you an opportunity to include as much of the scene as possible, capturing all of the details that the couple put thought and planning into for their wedding day.
So whether it’s cameras or lenses, any gear that handles color and low lighting well can help you get that cinematic look you want. (If that’s not an option, it may just mean more work in post-production; preparing for that ahead of time can save you a lot of effort.)
Scope Out the Venues
Location scouting is an unrealistic thing for wedding shoots. You may have an opportunity to visit the place ahead of time, and you should — hopefully — be invited to the wedding rehearsal. But one of the first things you should do is scan the location and find problems before they get in your way.
Talk with the wedding photographer or the event coordinator. (And if you’re going to the rehearsal, try and talk with the couple.) Then walk around the space to test the lighting and find spots you may want to shoot from during the actual event.
You should already have an idea of the couple’s expectations, but getting any final comments before the event can go a long way in making sure you are in the right places at the right times.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to fail to capture an important moment. So if at all possible, work with the couple and get a wedding day checklist that includes their must-have events, interactions, and moments. This will give you a clear idea of where you should be as the event progresses.
And if you’re on-site for the rehearsal, you might even plan some shots. After all, if you’re going for a cinematic wedding video, movement and shot framing will play a big (if visually subtle) part in the overall look.
3. Pay Attention to Audio
Every wedding filmmaker knows there are two kinds of shots: ones that require ambient audio from the location and ones that don’t. If you’re collecting audio with your footage, you’ll be trying to capture things like the couple’s vows, toast speeches, etc. — the sort of audio that will be hard to capture unless you’re in a great spot.
However, almost anyone who watches the video will be intimately familiar with the couple, and nothing pulls on the sentimental heartstrings like hearing the groom cry through his vows or the father-of-the-bride’s toast about his baby girl. So you should do everything in your power to capture at least some audio.
Maybe you’re standing close enough that you can record video and audio. Maybe you’ve got a friend as a second shooter, and you position them to capture audio for very specific moments. Maybe you mic up someone, or plug a recorder into whatever equipment is at the venue.
Either way, you’ll want to have audio, even if all you use it for is a voiceover track during footage of the ceremony. So invest in a great microphone and give yourself more creative options for audio.
4. Think About the Music
Now, the footage that doesn’t need recorded audio is still important. Footage of the reception hall, the greeting line (after the ceremony), and the photo session don’t exactly need to have every comment recorded forever.
But these moments are valuable parts of the video because they’ll help viewers relive that day. And that makes them very important to the couple that will most likely watch the video every day for the next year.
If you’re not relying on voiceover on live audio, you’ll need music. Specifically, you’ll need wedding video songs that help you create a certain feeling or capture an emotion.
Sound plays an important role in how the human brain engages with visual content. For videos, that usually means music. And for wedding videos, you have to juggle a lot of different factors in finding the perfect song for each piece of the project.
On one hand, you may have clients who want to be involved in the song selection process. (And in that case, you’ll want to use things like curated wedding music playlists so they can sample a variety of songs.)
You’ll also need to license that music — it’s the only way to make sure the couple can share their special video on social media without worrying about copyright infringement. Hence why royalty free music can be such a great resource.
DIY Cinematic Wedding Videos
At the end of the day, filming a wedding can be a long and exhausting process. But if you take time to prepare for the big day, you’ll be able to capture this special event and present the final project to (hopefully) very happy clients.
Getting cinematic footage doesn’t require a $10,000 camera or hundreds of hours spent editing and coloring your footage. Even first-time wedding videographers can pull this look off simply by being aware of their surroundings and being intentional about how they shoot the wedding. And hopefully these tips help you do just that.
If you found this information helpful or want more resources for wedding filmmaking, we’ve collected lots of content — like blog posts, FAQs, and downloadable templates — that will make your life easier and more organized.
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