There are many ways to shoot a wedding—perhaps not as many ways as there are to perform a wedding, but enough, certainly, that opinions vary widely on the best way to shoot the big day. Some take the journalistic, fly-on-the-wall approach, where anything beyond invisibility is intrusive. Others cross that line occasionally, suggesting scenarios they believe will work in the final production. Still others try to run the whole show.
My goal, and the goal of every wedding videographer, is to produce a wedding video that tells the story of the wedding day. I don't know if there's a right way, but I do know what I like, and I know that what I like tends to work. My clients have given me their seal of approval on the way that I envision the finished product.
My take is that the videographer should give little or no direction during the wedding. Let's look at photography. There are typically two types of wedding photographers: one that poses every shot, and one that lets events unfold naturally while photojournalistically snapping away.
Aesthetically, I have always preferred the latter's work. It is more pleasing to my eye. The images flow and create a feeling of truly being there.
Posed photos are boring and unimaginative. They all look the same from wedding to wedding. Granted, it's nice to have a crisp group shot of the whole family to put in a frame, but it doesn't come close to a shot that catches the look in the father's eyes as he gives his little girl away.
And that's the way I like to conduct my shoot of the wedding day: videojournalistically. I recently had a conversation with a top photographer who told me of an experience while working with a videographer during the pre-ceremony, when this photographer likes to pose his formals and romantics. After each pose was set up and shot, the videographer butted in and requested his shot, whereby he proceeded to re-enact the same shot the photographer had just posed but with the bride and groom looking directly at the videographers lens and (on cue) smiling, waving, or kissing.
The photographer commented to me that aside from the time it took to do this, the results on video would look extremely cheesy and staged. I agree. Every time I see a wedding video that has the subjects mugging for the camera or being posed for a particular shot, I can't believe how awful it looks.
Do the clients actually appreciate this type of footage? They certainly don't in my market, where the client is somehow associated with film, TV, or music, and has a more discerning and discriminating taste—or at least knows what good video looks like.
The videographer needs to create his/her own shots that will complement the story of the day. Look around. What are the flower girls doing? Who is the mother of the bride greeting with a big hug? Is that grandma getting out of her wheelchair and walking for the fist time in ten years? The line-crossing videographer is oblivious to these moments because he's too busy positioning the bride and groom at the fountain so we can see the water between them as they are instructed to look at the camera, then turn toward each other, smile lovingly, and kiss until the videographer says "cut."
There is a huge stigma attached to the video industry, in that we are viewed as obtrusive and as an added distraction in an already hectic day. This may have been true years ago, but methods have changed, as clientele has demanded a documentary style. We are not there to change the wedding day in any way; our only job is to capture it. In the quest for word-of-mouth referrals it serves all of us to be neither seen nor heard.
For us, guest interviews are definitely a thing of the past. I have always heard from my clients that when they attend a function as guests themselves, they typically loathe the moment when the videographer approaches them with the "could I have you say some well wishes to the bride and groom" face. Who needs that, not to mention 60 messages from guests that all say "We love you and this is the best wedding we have ever been to," or some slight variation of that theme.
There will always be clients who love to be manipulated and directed by the videographer. There will always be clients who want every table approached and interviewed. However, it is up to each and every one of us to help educate them during the consultation that this simply does not make great video.
From my experience, most clients really do not have a clue as to what a great wedding video should look like. Let's steer them in the right direction and shoot the wedding day from the shadows. Always be in the right place at the right time, always be constantly aware of your surroundings, and at the end of the day, you just may be surprised at what you capture.