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Shooting A Wedding by Doug Graham and David Chandler-Gick

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Shooting A Wedding by Doug Graham and David Chandler-Gick



A CreativeCOW.net "Basics of Shooting Weddings" Tutorial





Shooting the Perfect Wedding Video


David Chandler-Gick
Backyard Productions
Dynamic Media Group

Doug Graham
Panda Productions
Doug Graham

Article Focus:
We see posts in various video forums from new event videographers, asking, "What shots should I take at a wedding?" So, Doug Graham and David Chandler-Gick decided to respond with a list of possible shots and techniques often used by one or both of them. You won't be able to get all these shots at every wedding, but if you get a good selection of them, you'll be ready to edit a memorable wedding video.


Oh -- one final note before we get into the thick of things: We describe a number of special shots, such as rack focus, crane shots, and camera moves. These are great, but don't attempt them unless you are already proficient in getting good, steady, properly framed, properly exposed, properly focused footage. In other words, be sure you've mastered the basics before attempting the fancy stuff! OK, on with the show...


Before the ceremony:

  • Bride and bridesmaids dressing (keep it G rated!) While you're there, you may be able to get the following:

    • A shot of the bouquets and boutonnieres prior to being put on. David likes doing this as a truck shot, moving the camera slowly along an arrangement of the flowers. Doug likes the slow zoom out, or reveal shot.

    • Groom getting ready, horseplaying with groomsmen. You can try some staged shots here, such as the best man checking his watch in response to the groom's question, or the best man proving he's still got the ring in his pocket.

  • Groom getting boutonniere placed by his mother

  • Detail shots (sometimes even in macro). (For example: At a recent wedding, on the table was the marriage certificate, the two ring boxes and a pair of sunglasses. I opened the ring boxes and placed them in front of the marriage certificate, which I stood up. Then, I took the sunglasses, closed one ear piece, and placed it so it "wrapped" around the boxes. Then, I set the camera on the table and set up a depth of field shot allowing the rings to be in focus, the certificate out, and adjusted the focus so the certificate came into focus, the rings out. -David)

  • Additional detail shot ideas: Bride's shoes, wedding gown on a hanger, bride's earrings, and other jewelry, the details of the gown and bouquets, ring bearer pillow, flower girl basket.

  • Exterior church. A nice shot might start at the top of the church steeple, then pan down to reveal the entire building. Try to take architectural shots at an angle, not standing flat in front of one wall. If the church has a pretty tree or flowers in the right position, here's another chance for a depth of field shot, focusing on the foliage, then changing focus to the building.

  • Wedding party arriving at church. If the limo takes them, try to get a shot of the limo departing the bride's house, and another of the limo arriving at the church.


At the Ceremony:

  • Continuous roll of ceremony, from prior to the bride's entrance to the couple's walk down the aisle at the end. Ideally, use two cameras. Place one in the back third of the church, near the aisle. Start the other handheld, positioned on the bridesmaids' side of the aisle at the altar steps. Shoot the procession, letting the bridesmaids walk past your position. After the bride arrives on her father's arm, move to a tripod placed behind the officiant and on the groom's side. This gives the best shot of the bride during the vows. This movement MUST be coordinated and cleared with the officiant, which is why it's necessary to attend the rehearsal. If the officiant won't allow this, just place the front camera on the tripod from the beginning.

    (I try to shoot with three cameras, the procession camera moving to the back, around and then back up front to get set up for the Groom’s shot, readers, guests, etc… I stand at about the 3rd to 5th pew from the front, allowing the other two cameras to shoot around me… That’s to say, the Bride’s camera can have a tight shot of the Bride and her Father, without this third camera being in the frame, and the back camera can adjust their shot to also frame out this procession camera, allowing them to move without being noticed later on the video. In a 2 camera shoot, I’ll move when the bride and her father are about 3/4 of the way to me, then set up in the Bride’s camera position as described by Doug… At a recent shoot, I was afforded carte blanche, and I stood to the right, and behind the officiant. -David. )

  • Another tip on the processional: Don't make every shot a pan, or at least not a full pan. You really don't need shots of people's backs as they walk past the back camera and on up the aisle. Pan a little to keep them in frame, but as they get to the back camera, stop the pan and let them walk out of frame.

  • Any special touches in the ceremony, like a solo song, unity candle lighting, etc.

  • Reaction shots of bride and groom's families, especially during the vows.

  • Try a depth of field shot - For example, the soloist in focus with the Bride and Groom in the background out of focus, then gently shift focus to Bride and Groom... things like that. (See the movie Reindeer Games for examples of perfect DoF shots!) DoF shots (also known as rack focus) take practice, and are especially hard to perform with a servo-focus lens, like those found on popular prosumer camcorders such as the Sony VX-2000 and Canon XL1s. They are easier to do when the focus ring is actually connected to the lens, on cameras like the JVC DV-500 or Sony DSR-300.

  • (At the rehearsal, I tell the Bride and Groom to stop a few feet in front of the back camera as they come down the aisle at the recessional, and kiss. This is a nice touch. -Doug)


After the Ceremony:

  • If you can, stage a reenactment of the ring ceremony. Get a good close-up of rings being slipped onto fingers, as well as a shot of the groom looking into the bride's eyes. (One thing I like to do is to shoot through the netting of the Bride’s veil, over her shoulder, and then truck slightly to the right, causing the foreground (the veil) to move out of frame, resulting in a Reveal shot. Obviously, this depends on the bride’s veil, and if there’s enough to accomplish this. -David )

  • In addition to staging the rings, also reenact the unity candle... These reenactments can make a 2 camera shoot look like a 3, 4 or 5 camera shoot.

  • Take video during the photographer's formal posed shots. (NOTE: Some photographers object to this. Don't get in a big fight about it). Later, in post, you can liven up these poses by ending each one with a cut to white simulating a camera flash, followed by a still image of the last frame of the clip.

  • While most of your shots during the ceremony will be taken from a tripod, and a good steady tripod shot will always look more professional than a shaky handheld one, you should also be prepared to take handheld footage before and after the ceremony, and at the reception. Your video will have much more interest if you can learn to do smooth handheld camera moves, as well as steady handheld non-moving shots. David recommends the use of a monopod. With a small camera like the PD-150, a monopod can serve as sort of a makeshift steadycam for tracking shots. Hold the monopod loosely just below the camera. Here's an example of a moving shot taken when the Bride and Groom are about to enter the limo: Start low, walk from the back to the front, pan up and over the hood, come down the drivers side to the open door and see the Bride and Groom entering the limo from the other side...

  • Wedding party leaving church.

  • Limo leaving church.

  • Limo on road (this one might be hard to get, given time constraints.)


At The Reception:

  • Exterior shots of the reception venue, if it is at all photogenic. Cutaway shots of flowers, fountains, statues, etc.

  • Limo arriving at reception, and wedding party getting out. This one's important. While you are setting up your gear at the reception, you or your assistant should keep a sharp lookout for the arrival of the bridal party!

  • Wedding party entering reception. (This, and sometimes the best man's toast, are about the only shots at the reception that I'll use a tripod for -Doug)

  • First dance. This is the most important dance to shoot, and here are some of David's tips for getting good dance footage: Using a monopod, do the following during the first dance once, maybe twice, never thrice. Start out at 90 degrees from your safety (tripod camera). Via radio communication, have the safety get a head and shoulders close-up, then move. With your camera on full wide, and focus set about 4 feet, walk towards the couple dancing, keep the lens pointed at them and walk around them in a circle to their right. You will complete a full circle, around them, maintaining a head and shoulders shot, and you will find yourself backing out of it and ending up across the dance floor, almost exactly 180 degree from where you started. Then, in post, use a slo motion cut of this shot. (This assumes that they are dancing in a typical fashion, turning clockwise as they do - your circle should be counter clockwise. Obviously, you reverse directions if they are backwards.) Repeat this shot for the mother-groom, and father daughter dances. During the wedding party dance, it might be too crowded, but you can compensate and get something close.

  • Using the monopod, get over the head "crane" shots. Stand behind the lights of the band or DJ and use them as foreground objects for some of these shots. If you are shooting with a shoulder mounted camera, you can get overhead shots by standing on a chair. Have an assistant steady you.

  • Mom's dance with the groom.

  • Dad's dance with the bride. This one can be a real tear-jerker, if you take a close-up with one camera, and a full shot with a second camera. In post, apply slow motion to the close-up and dissolve it in about 30% over the full shot.

  • Best man's toast. This is best shot with two cameras, one on the best man, the other getting a reaction shot from the bride and groom.

  • Cake cutting.

  • Garter removal and toss.

  • Guest book signings. (Again, Doug likes a shot that starts closeup on the guest book and the signing hand, then pulls out to reveal the guest.)

  • Any other special dances and ceremonies at the reception. You'll see stuff like the Chicken Dance, Electric Slide, conga line, Hokey Pokey, etc. at many receptions.

  • Interviews with guests.

  • Interview with the bride and groom. (This may be easier to do if you can arrange a separate interview shoot, rather than trying to squeeze it into the reception when there are so many other demands on the Bride and Groom's time and attention).

  • Cutaways and detail shots - cake, presents, decorations, flower arrangements, the DJ or band, etc. Get a copy of the wedding announcement, and anything like souvenir napkins, etc. for later copy stand work. If the bar has a lot of glasses set up, shoot a detail shot through the glasses. Get a shot of a dinner plate being served. If buffet style, truck or zoom-reveal the buffet. Detail shots of the Bride and Groom champagne glasses. Centerpieces on the tables, and anything unique. (At the last reception we did, the tables were not numbered but named for tropical islands... This is unique. -David )

  • Romantic Moments. If you can, get a shot of the Bride and Groom kissing against a sunset. Shoot this twice; once exposed to put them in silhouette, and once with your on-camera light to give them a romantic orange glow as they kiss.

  • Children: Want to get a response from a child? Flip the LCD screen around so they can see themselves... A photographer may not be able to get a fussy child to sit still long enough but you can... Shots of the bride with a little boy or girl can be very touching.

  • Guests saying goodbye.

  • Bride and Groom exiting the building and getting showered with confetti.

  • Bride and Groom getting into the limo; limo driving away.

DON'T shoot: People eating. Too many backs of heads. People backlit by windows. Drunks. (This becomes harder later in the day. If necessary, shoot the drunk and edit him or her out later).

DO take every shot you can three times, changing something about the shot each time. Make the first one a clean, solid shot and then a reverse or close-up and then a funky, creative shot... you'll appreciate this in post. Also, pick up a copy of Elite Video's Advanced Broadcast Camera Techniques series of videos. Jon Cooksey has some great ideas on how to liven up your shooting.

Interviews at a wedding are a real art. One way is to just have the guests pass around the mike and ask them to "say a few words to the happy couple". If you remember 'em, some good leading questions to ask might be:

  • What can you tell me about how Bill and Sue met?
  • What did you feel when you learned they were engaged?
  • What do you think Bill should do to keep Sue happy?
  • Where do think Bill and Sue will be ten years from now?
  • What do you think Sue loves most about Bill?

Or you can take a different tack. For example, have your assistant take the mike and become a cheerleader. "Who's the prettiest girl at the party?!" Table response, lifting glasses in salute: "SUE!" It all depends on your own judgment of what's good material, and what the client will like.

Interview the bride and groom individually, rather than together. Ask each of them the same questions, such as:

  • How did you meet?
  • Tell me how the relationship deepened and grew.
  • When did you first know Tim was the "one"?
  • Tell me about how you (he) proposed?
  • What are your plans for the future?

Then cut the responses together. The juxtaposition of the two viewpoints can be funny, touching, or poignant.

When interviewing, remind your on-camera folks to answer any questions in a complete sentence. For example, if you ask "What's your name?" you don't want "Joe". You want "My name is Joe". That way, you can edit out your questions and the response is complete in itself.

Finally: SMILES! LAUGHTER! FUN! Practice some witty one-liners to just toss off to people to get them to relax, and then shoot 'em! It works better than just sticking a camera in someone's face.

Doug Graham
David Chandler-Gick

Feel free to discuss this article at CreativeCOW's Event Videography forum.


Article Copyright 2002 by Douglas W. Graham and David Chandler-Gick. Publication Copyright 2002 CreativeCOW.net Permission is granted to copy this material for personal use only, not for resale or profit.






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