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Vantage Point: Choker Close-ups and Other Deadly Shots
Posted Mar 8, 2008 Print Version     Page 1of 1

I was recently chatting with the very talented LaDonna Moore-Aiken of LaDonna Visual Artistry. She commented that the reason why so many brides don’t want a wedding film is that they don’t like the way they look on video. This thought had never actually occurred to me, but the moment she said it, I knew it was true.

This explains the love affair brides have with their photographers. Photographers pose the bride, or photojournalistically capture her, in the most flattering positions possible. There’s no need for continuity, so any less-than-perfect shot can be thrown out. Videographers, by contrast, deal with subjects in motion. It is far more challenging for us to keep our clients looking their best.

Right now you’re probably thinking, "Laura, as if our jobs weren’t tough enough, now you’re telling us that we have to worry about double chins and jiggling upper arms in addition to white balance and moving camera techniques?" Well, before you throw your hands up in despair over the increasing complexity of wedding video, let me assure you that with a bit of rethinking and by following a few easy-to-implement tips, your brides will look more beautiful and you’ll book more weddings.

Many brides choose to have their weddings filmed under the guise that they just want to "have it recorded." Translation: They want to preserve the perfect, fantasy wedding of their dreams. Women don’t diet like activists on hunger strikes, spend months picking out the tiniest of accessories, and spend hours on their hair and make-up without wanting to look gorgeous in their wedding film.

There are a few potentially lethal shots to avoid in order to keep your brides looking beautiful. First and foremost is the choker close-up. A choker close-up frames the face from above the eyebrows to below the lips. This shot has been popular with videographers for a few years. Unfortunately, not all subjects look good at such extreme close range. It’s not just about the skin either; some people—even attractive people—look brutal in a choker.

It’s easy to get excited about a cool shot, but that should never overshadow good judgment in approaching each bride as an individual. Look beyond the focus. Really look at your subject, and try to see the shot as she will see it. If a choker close-up doesn’t compliment a bride, don’t use it. Pull back to frame her in a more flattering manner—a head and shoulder close-up, for example. As you’re editing, you may notice she looks great in a choker until she turns revealing her profile. Simply cut before she turns and move on to the next shot.

If a bride’s profile isn’t as becoming as other angles of her face (during pre- or postceremony filming), simply move a few inches to frame her at a three-quarter angle, which is much more flattering. It’s tempting to rationalize that if she hasn’t had a nose job, she must not hate her nose, but she’ll be thrilled and grateful to have moments in her film where she looks her best.

Use editing to tell the story of your bride’s unique beauty. Again, take the time to really look at your client. If you’ve got an unattractive shot of her that isn’t essential to the story line, cut it out.

Another close-up to be handled delicately is the bridal prep shot of the earrings going on. Use three-quarter angle framing from the front of her face. Never shoot directly at the ear. No bride wants to see her ear canal looking as big as a salad plate on her big screen TV. If you love getting a detail shot of the ring and your bride is older than 40, film it in her bouquet, by her shoes and jewelry, or dangling from a button on her gown—anywhere but her hand. She won’t want her wedding film to remind her that her hands aren’t what they used to be.

Historically, we’ve relied on close-ups to provide us with the definition we so desperately crave. Now, with the move to HD, we can step back and unfurl our shots, which will immediately give a more filmlike quality to our productions. Video tends to be confined and claustrophobic, while film provides a more expansive viewing experience. Think soap opera versus motion picture.

Brides with—how shall I say it?—more of them to love need special consideration too. Avoid shooting them from your waist or hip; shoot them from eye level or from above at a down angle. Up angles—especially close-up—make a bride look bigger, and the last thing an ample woman wants is to look more abundant.

It’s been said that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. That notion really hit home with me while in the presence of male videographers who referred to their monopod shots of dancing wedding participants as being filmed from their "cleavage" cam. Ironically, I had considered this to be my "bald spot" cam. This distinction, because it’s not always about the bride, brings me to overhead shots of a balding groom, which should also be avoided. Even though we’ve been taught to capture as many alternate angles as possible, we must remember to adhere to these "rules" only when the shots make sense.

When editing a demo, follow these same guidelines when choosing shots. Use images in which your clients look great. All the camera command, glidecam shots, and sophisticated editing in the world will mean nothing to a prospective bride if she doesn’t see other brides looking their best. Brides want to see the beauty and feel the emotion. The tools we have in our filmmaking arsenals should be used as a means to achieve that goal.

Laura Moses (info@vppvideo.com) is half of Vantage Point Productions of San Dimas, Calif. She and her husband, Steve, are winners of multiple international awards and were selected to the 2006 and 2007 EventDV 25.

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