wedding setup and what to charge

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    • #37489

      I would like to know how to set up for a wedding shoot. Single cam? Multiple cams? Where to setup for either one. Lighting? Angles? Sound? Where to mike? Suggestions for shooting an indoor night ceremony, etc. Also Iknow someonewho wants me to shoot her wedding. She plans to have about 150 people there to give you an idea the size of her wedding. Can you guys give me some prices that you know of. Obviously it can range from 0 to whatever, I just want some numbers in reference to work you’ve done, so lets say you charged someone 1500, what did that include?

    • #166134

      There is a bounty of information available regarding this, but I will try to give you a shortform version that hopefully addresses your questions.

      You can certainly go wedding (and event) video production using one camera but it is a bit more of a challenge to do so. The addition of a second camera offers many options for additional angles or points of view (POV) and many, MANY of us in the field prefer to shoot with two cameras, using the second unit as a CYA unit. Personally, I prefer two cameras AND two operators, even though one works predominately using a sturdy tripod and working from the back to the side of the main aisle, or in the balcony, even a side balcony if one exists.

      I ROVE, or run-and-gun, using a unique and sturdy monopod system. I also usually monitor wireless audio coming into my unit. Sometimes not. I am nearly always somewhere up front, to the groom’s side, to capture tight, intimate shots of the bride during the vows and whathaveyou.

      I will often utilize a third camera (I presently work in standard definition using two Canon XL1 and one Canon GL2 cameras) for another unique perspective, even sometimes placing it against one of the front row pews on the floor set wide to get a unique angle on the processional including the bridal entry. I have also used it as a unique overhead unit, and even hidden it in the back area of the ceremony area to pick up a wide shot or exclusive CU (closeup shot) of the mothers lighting the unity candles, and the bride & groom lighting the main unity candle.

      Matching cameras make it a bit easier to get some degree of matching imaging, color balance, but that isn’t always the case, even with matching cameras. You will often have to manually white balance each unit, or even do some additional color correction in post. It is amazing how similar the image looks when screening from one unit, but even the minor shift in color when switching back and forth that makes the color change VERY evident.

      In 99 percent of the venues we use natural available light, or even candellight. In only ONE church in my career have I deemed it absolutely necessary to use auxiliary lighting for the ceremony. That church is virtually totally dark with only daytime light entering (barely) from one stained glass window to the front of the church and high, nearly to the ceiling. Even with 1,800 wats of lighting from stand units in the balcony the ability of the cameras we use was sorely tested. This venue is an old mission and pretty much everything at the altar is covered with gold, highly reflective, but not very illuminating. Those instances are pretty rare actually, and even candellight can give a nice, warm hue to the ceremony if you manually white balance according to the light the candles throw off. I have also used 10W aux lights strategically placed to throw some illumination onto the vows area, suspended in the gazebo or arch, or whereever available. If it is going to interfear in any way with the visuals I will avoid doing so, same with mics or auxiliary audio recording units.

      Mic the groom, wireless or hardwired, and the bride whenever possible (one or the other is going to whisper if you don’t and you will NEVER know which one forgets to project) I use a wireless system, with white cable and head for the bride (I have even temporarily coated a black mic system with liquid paper – sure, it rubs off some during the vent, but mostly stays white, and rubbing it off is easy when I am ready to clean it up and use it again in another situation).

      I shoot live audio to all cameras as well, except for the one receiving whatever wireless source I utilize. I have four Zoom H2 digital recorders which I place at the podium, on mic stands or whereever they are needed to pick up soloists, readers, roving ministers, dual speaker podiums, and sometimes even directed toward the “sweet spot” if any of the house sound system. Due to many situations of bad luck and damage to my cameras or mic circuitry, I will NEVER again trust anything from the house sound or auxiliary board. EVER!

      They’re either going to use some lights, or candles for evening services and that will be sufficient for most of today’s venues. Figure out the ways you can adjust your cameras to compensate for more, or less, illumination and various light temperatures and sources, then be ready to adjust on the fly when you need to.

      I use LOTS of 2- to 3-hour bricks, having gotten away from battery belts (too heavy after awhile) even though they actually last pretty much for the whole 6- to 8-hours or so of most wedding events – ceremony and reception. I use NRG varilights that I can dial down as needed without making a LOT of difference in the temperature color. I use 50W lamps with screens over the fronts to keep from blasting guests with blinding white light. Even so, there will be some reaction, but I’ve not run into any of OUR clients who have complained excessively about the “bothersome” lights. Some video producers shy away from using lights at all, but my personal opinion is that “video IS light, light IS video,” and I do not personally like the coloration or the darkness of shooting natural when the DJ invariably shuts down the lighting to show off the color bar, strobes or whatever other light show brought in. We rarely stay for the “party” dancing, shooting the main dances, and two or maybe three of the first party dances, then we get the heck out of dodge, unless there’s late traditional events that have been arranged for coverage.

      Most receptions feature the intro, then toasts, sometimes first dance and subsequent father/daughter, mother/son and bridal party dances happen immediately after the introductions, or the first dance will be between the introduction and toasts, whatever. Always check with the attending activities coordinator or the DJ or entertainer(s) emcee, for the general plan.

      Cake cutting, bouquet and garter will often occur after dinner and prior to the party dancing. If not, you’re going to be stuck for a long night. Try to find out as much about the event plans as you can from the bride, her mother and the coordinator or activities person. Believe me, you will be glad you have some kind of handle on it, even if every thing changes somewhat.

      The market seems to want a “meat and potatoes” quality visuals and quality audio with a minimum of special effects or creative elements, for a production of anywhere from 40 minutes to one and one-half hours in length. Actually, less is more, if you do a GREAT job of shooting, getting good color, quality audio visuals, and editing it all together. Botches in angle, focus, sound, etc. can create some serious editing/production headaches, but usually, if you work two cameras, nothing you cannot overcome.

      With that in mind, event (wedding) coverage that provides basically a documentary/journalistic style approach, (getting what happens the way it happens without creative enhancement – maybe SOME slow motion, or a fancy cuts-to-the-beat dance sequence) should be valued at $1,200 to $2,000, depending on your experience, abilities, equipment used and assistance needed. My package starts at $1,500 for basic, and goes up to $5K. We also offer a $1k service that is primarily a highlights production with natural audio for the vows and rings, everything else edited montage style and featuring the high points of the event – plus they get TOTALLY RAW DVDs of the footage shot – no kisses, no promises.

      Hope this helps.

    • #166135

      That was an extremely well-written post…

      I am on the other side, I shoot single camera, use natural light and my packages range from 1.5K to 2.5K

      Most of appreciation has been from my editing skills on top of my shooting skills…in addition to what was mentionedd above, go in for the close ups, get the intimacy of the moment, stay on the bride and get the bride as she is congratulated, get people giving vox pops into the camera….

      best of success, I love shooting wedddings….


    • #166136

      I have to agree with Q …Earl, that was an extremely well written post. You provided me with a ton of info. I know that there are lots of books and such out there and of course I’ll be doing lots more homework, but I can’t read all of that in one night.But I can reada couple of post on a website or two. You gave me the cliff notes…real stuff too,direct from the field, not just theory from a book. Man that was a lot of info. I have a MUCH better understanding of the”meat and potatoes of wedding videography” now.

      Q,I appreciate your post too.You added some good food for thought.

      My nextquestion is this…after asking around, it seems thatphotography prices average more than the cost ofvideo at least for weddings. Any idea why? Just curious. I would think peopleexpect to pay the same at least and sometimes more, but like I said, the girls that I’ve asked about their weddings allexpected to pay more and did pay more forphotographs compared to video. Nothing against the photogs… I used to do photography, and I still think it’s cool, but I like video better.

    • #166137

      The tradition of photos is a longer one than video production for weddings especially. The photographs are entrenched in the minds of not only the bridal community; professional quality portraits, and creative photography have long been the ultimate in preserving family members images – all those large family portraits on the walls of everyone from the Olan Mills and/or Sears/K-Mart studio/in store knock-outs, to professional portraiture artists who have made a name for themselves.

      Like the painters of old who did oils of people rich enough or famous enough to afford/acquire them, many high-end photographers have done the same, established themselves as the “go to” artists for the name-dropping people with discretionary income. This long-standing tradition has a STRONG influence on people, especially bridal clients. Photos, properly cared for, protected or stored, can last next to forever – not something the early days of video, with its magnetic particle coated mylar tape, scrubbing past rollers, spindles and heads, rewinding, being improperly stored, never repacked, often lying on the sides where gravity comes into play, etc. The element of magnetic tape itself did little to guarantee long-term color and quality retention, losing much of its glory every time it was played.

      Only recently, with the advent of digital quality to sustain multi-copy reproduction, DVD and eventually a consistent higher quality for HD, has it appeared that there’s a medium with an archival quality and visual quality that meets or exceeds home film, photographic paper, or even movie film. We, as video producers, have simply not caught up with the long-standing tradition, longevity, quality and timelessness of photography.

      Even the advent of instamatics, home cameras and now not only disposable film still cameras, but disposable video cameras as well, cannot displace the professional quality of the creative, educated, talented and informed photographer with the right (AND EXPENSIVE) tools. While, on the other hand, though many, many people who are purchasing rather sophisticated video cameras are editing challenged, even creatively challenged, they still, with the help of this high quality, affordable technology, are able to produce, watch and enjoy some darned decent video.

      It STILL, though this is changing with the advent of DSLR cameras (still restrictive price-wise, for what they are capable of doing in a single-use tool – AND though the new Canons and Nikon multi-capable DSLR-Vs are rapidly changing that reality) is “restrictive” compared to the technological capabilities and advancement of camcorders and the media they are capable of recording FOR THE PRICE.

      There will soon be a day when, like the Mac OS and PC OS and platforms, video/still camera platforms will merge, the lines will blur until a single unit is pretty much capable of doing either BETTER, or as good, than one or the other. This may not appeal to everyone, but…

      The good news is that with the billions of people on this planet, not everyone is going to desire to become capable or even knowledgeable of, or efficient in, the use of either, or both. Nor will everyone get into editing video beyond a basic stitch-it-together and put some elementary titles on it. Probably less than 1 percent of the population will move to that level of production using these ever-improving tools of our trade – be it video and/or photography.

      So we who have decided to pursue either photography or video production or even film/cinema production will always have MORE than enough people willing to pay for our professional services and keep most of us, from beginning “prosumer” to top-ranked professional, in business.

      It’s coming, but for now the general population of the independent professional video services provider will have to continue working against a long-standing tradition of professional photography and the high perceived dollar value it can bring – an industry that has had a good many more years than video to impress upon humankind its values and perceived quality, and the prices people are willing to pay to have.

      I am working on some video shorts, even commercial length concepts, to help convey the differences and reasons for a higher perceived value of video (as a long-term archival and multi-dimensional, creative medium) over JUST photography. I will share when they are ready. The points, IMHO, will be strongly, poignantly presented.

      As I note in one of my marketing brochures: “After your wedding, your video will remain.” 1990-2009 Earl Chessher. Go to my work-in-progress website at (only a cover page for now, until I get time to further expand it) and click on the link there. Read my little prose on the opening page of the California Wedding Cinema web site. That site is also soon to experience changes/enhancements and new clips – read the prose, also copyright.

      BUT, if you request to use it, or any portion thereof, and promise to give me credit for its creation, I will most likely be glad to give you non-exclusive copyright clearance to do so.

    • #166138

      In addition, and maybe just my observations, but there are a LOT more “professional” videographers that aren’t than there are photographers…

      Anyone with a big/fancy camera can call themselves a videographer, but there is so much to learn and if you screw up the shot, you screw it up….

      With photos, they can take 100 shots of the bride walking down the aisle and only need 10 to make the album…

      With us, we need that walk down the aisle, in it’s entirety, nicely framed, no bumps, nothing to kill the moment….

      All it takes is one bad professional video guy at a wedding to make people second think about getting it done “professionally”….

      or maybe I have just seen a lot of bad “professional” wedding videos….handing out JUST the raw video with source sound is not enough…(unless that’s all they want to pay for)….the magic is in the editing, that’s how you make it a real story


    • #166139

      WHoa. Didn’t think about that. It’s really true. The only point that is critical for the photog is the wedding party shots, which are staged. They can even do them over if they have to. It may cost a little but they could do it. Video…no way. This is really a one time event. You can’t bring the crowd back, the family, etc. You can’t ask the bride to walk back down the isle, or the minister to re-perform the ceremony, vows, and the like. ONe time, one shot deal. Either you capture it or you miss it. Plus there is sound involved which is another animal altogether. Technically the videographer should be able to charge more but I think Earl was right in that photography is an age old tradition. Picutures are as much a part of the wedding as the vows, even if you go to the courthouse, you’re bound to take pictures after its over, even if its just with your camera phone. Video on the other hand is still probably considered optional. And for those without a budget for it, amatuer video shot by friends, full of camera shake and all is okay because it’s just for fun. As long as they have the pictures, everybody is happy.

    • #166140

      I also HAVE had occasion to re-stage the kiss shot due to unforeseen difficulties, as well as staging closeups of rings onto fingers to cut to during the REAL rings ceremony. Even a few times have re-staged unity candle scenes. It CAN be done, if absolutely necessary to make the BEST possible production, or to correct known real-time errors during acquisition. Not something to think like, “fix it in post” but these ARE things that can save, make or break a really GREAT shoot. Of course, re-staging isn’t ALWAYS an option.

      Story time: Shot B&G ceremony on bridge over pond in garden wedding (one time outdoor, another time indoors – both with water falls or fountains directly behind staging area) with BAD audio no matter what or how I tried to work around those dang falls/fountains.

      Advised couples both times of the evident and obvious problem/challenge and both (along with the officiant) worked with me to reenact the vows (vocals, that is) in a quieter area. I then picked up some ambient sound from the areas and brought it WAYYYYYY down, placing the vows over the top and audible. Lip Sync? you may ask. Yeah, there’s that: one couple & minister locked and loaded, watching the original while doing VO and tagged it perfect; other couple, especially the minister, lip sync challenged, so after a few unsuccessful takes, they agreed that I had plenty of B-roll and some of the main cam, along with cam C footage to do a really sweet montage treatment that took focus off the lips and on the ceremony. It worked. Certainly worth the trouble for me and the couples, to try this.

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