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Determining what type of Videography is best for you.

(a guide to the world of wedding films)


The crazy thing about planning a wedding is the number of subjects you have to all-of-a-sudden become an expert on, only to never use that information again.

In an effort to make one of those subjects just a little less overwhelming, I wanted to put together a little cheat sheet for you on what goes into making a wedding film.

1. Documentary vs. Cinematic

The first major distinction between filmmakers is the most obvious. Not everyone uses these words in exactly the same way (and I'm guilty of even switching it up myself sometimes), but what I'm referring to here is the difference between your classic wedding video that plays straight through the events of the day - like a home video shot on a camcorder to VHS in the 1980s - versus an edited film that takes various pieces of the day(s) and cuts them together, usually to music, to build both emotional arc and story. This second type takes much longer in the editing process, but results in a more compelling video for others to watch. What it doesn't do is give you a 45 minute ceremony to watch through. Some filmmakers will offer a version both options, many will offer only one or the other.

2. Color Grading

Another major difference in style that you'll likely be able to notice, even if you don't know what you're noticing, is the color grade. Color grading is what makes a movie look the way it looks. Think of it as the instagram filter (don't kill me professor Doxsee!) on your film. Most typically, a wedding film will fit somewhere into 1 of 3 common styles - Light and Airy, Bright and Punchy, and Dark and Moody. A great filmmaker is capable of delivering any of these styles (and 100 more) if you request it, but looking through someone's portfolio, you can usually see that they tend to lean toward one more than the others. Obviously your wedding's color palette will affect this look, but as you can see below (in a quick comparison I made), the processing matters.

Which one you prefer is entirely up to your tastes!

(From left to right are one take on light & airy, bright & punchy, and dark & moody)

3. Storytelling

This is a big one, and a little bit harder to pin down right away. How does the filmmaker tell a story? What bits of audio do they use? Do they use dialogue at all? Is the film just a montage of images thrown together, or do they build up to something, is there ebb and flow? This is one thing that separates the two main types of cinematic films - does it look or feel like a music video or commercial, or does it feel closer to a narrative film?

A filmmaker's ability to tell a compelling story comes from 3 major things:

  • Their ability for editing a narrative, whether this be natural talent or trained skill

  • The quality of audio and footage they were able to capture

  • How well they know you, the couple

It's that last one that really shows itself best with the videographers and filmmakers who take the time to get to know you in advance. They spend time going over questionnaires you've filled out, and talking with you on the phone or meeting you for coffee or a drink. Maybe they were fortunate enough to create a love-story film, or join you on a hike in the Hudson Valley in advance of the wedding day.

geese along the hudson river
These geese came for a riverside stroll too!

The intimacy of knowing you personally will come through in your film. If you're looking for your video to be more documentation than cinema (refer to above) it may not be worth the additional cost of a filmmaker who will take that time to walk you through the process and get to know you. If you want a film that you can always look on back on to experience the same emotions you did on your wedding day, then maybe it is.

4. Technical Aspects

Lastly, and in many ways the least important (in my very humble opinion), is the technical aspects of the film.

You can decide for yourself (I promise) but these are the things I personally would cut first if budgeting were an absolute concern. These can include things like drone footage, timelapse photography, 4K, 6K or even 8K delivery. How your film is captured is definitely important to the end result, and having a skilled technician who knows about the 180 degree shutter rule, using ND filters for proper exposure and what frame rate to shoot in is something worth paying for, but when it comes to bells and whistles, they're not the thing you're going to cherish most about your wedding film.

What you'll cherish is seeing your partner tear up when you walk in the room, the hug you share with your grandmother, or the image of your parents dancing together under the lights.

Can I provide all these technical things? Yes. Do I require it, and charge you for them even if you don't want them? No. I've worked with some incredible filmmakers whose rates start in the $8K-10K range who film on cameras that are 10 years old. They know how to get a good shot and how to tell a story well, and that beats the newest and fanciest equipment any day.

(Yes, that's Geena Davis with a killer camcorder. I'd hire her)

I hope this has helped at least a little bit.

If you are still struggling, check out my post on the 5 questions to ask your videographer!

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