Starting out as a wedding videographer can feel very daunting. I should know beings as my first venture into the wedding video field was a near-disaster.
Hard to believe that I made it past that first shoot.
The point of my story today is to give you an insight into my first experience, and how I worked through what seemed like career-ending mistakes at the time.
Hopefully by the end you will see that things can and will go wrong, but if you keep a cool head and some honesty about you, you can make it to that second shoot.
*Be sure to check out the bottom of this article to see the final product from my first wedding shoot!
Booking My First Wedding Video Gig
Getting my first wedding video gig was actually pretty simple.
I only started doing wedding video because someone I had college classes with asked if I filmed wedding videos. I had an extensive educational background in film, but had never been paid to do any filming.
I set a low price of $250 and told her that I could film her wedding.
The only problem was that it was June when she booked me, and her wedding was in October. Being hard up for rent money at the time I couldn’t really afford to wait until then to get a good example, and wedding season would be pretty much over for the year, so a lot of opportunity would be lost.
So I set out begging on Facebook wedding groups, trying to get anyone to book me for $250.
I didn’t have any examples, and it’s hard for people to trust an unknown to film their (probably) only wedding day.
I finally got someone to agree, but they wanted to meet me first to check me out, and wanted to pay with check in person.
I agreed, but when I showed up to the meet spot, they were still on the fence about hiring me. I’m pretty sure now this was a bargaining tactic, but at the time I just needed money.
I agreed to film the wedding for $150. It was set for the end of July.
I would get my example video to show others sooner rather than later.
Missing Key Video Shots
When the day of the shoot arrived, I was nervous.
People usually only get 1 wedding day, what if I mess it up?
I went into the church and immediately found the bride and took some shots of the women getting ready. I then got some shots of the decorations and the outside of the church, B Roll stuff.
This is when I noticed that the groom was the brother of my boss at my full-time job, and that he was in the wedding party. More nerves.
And then the time of the ceremony came.
Nerves at a new high, I decided to stay out of the way of the photographers and stand with my camera off to the side.
Now keep in mind that I am using a 1080i camera that records to mini DV tapes. Talk about outdated.
The bridal party walked in, no problems filming there!
But what happens when the bride walks in?
Everyone stands up, and Justin misses the shot of her walking down the aisle.
Finally people site down and the only issue I have from there is having to switch tapes in the middle of the ceremony. Not good.
The next major shot that I missed was when we got to the reception hall.
The wedding party entered via the main doorway, and I was waiting for the bride and groom to waltz in.
That didn’t happen.
Instead what I see is everyone standing up and looking behind me.
Apparently there was another entrance to the building and they decided to come in and go up some stairs to a second floor balcony.
Shoddy Video Equipment
So not only did I miss important shots of the wedding, I was also working with subpar video equipment because it’s what I had at the time.
I mentioned earlier that I had a 1080i (yes, not even 1080p, which is bad enough), and it recorded on mini DV tapes. The reasoning behind this was that I used Final Cut Pro to edit, and at the time if you didn’t live record your video to the computer, you would have to spend 5 to 6 hours rendering the footage to make it editable.
Only being able to record on 60 minute tapes during a wedding is not a good way to film. There were a few events, including the ceremony, where I had to switch tapes in the middle, missing a minute or 2 of key footage.
The camera was also a few years old, and so the batteries weren’t super reliable. They only lasted a little over an hour, and so I had to switch batteries in the middle of one of the reception dances.
Again, not good.
And if all of this doesn’t sound bad enough, I noticed at the beginning of the reception that the supports on the inside of my tripod legs were broken, so there was nothing stopping it from opening up completely, except for carefully placing the camera down.
There were pieces hanging from the tripod, obviously broken. It was embarrassing.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the photographers for the wedding were the biggest video/photo company in my area. They noticed my tripod issues and had a little laugh during dinner break, but overall I was thankful that they were understanding and tried to give me some uplifting words to get me through the rest of the night.
My Takeaways From This Experience
Needless to say, I recovered from the disaster that was my first wedding, and even managed to impress the bride with the final product due to my editing skills.
More importantly though were the lessons that I took away from this experience. I would like to share this experience with you so you don’t fall into the same mistakes. Avoiding any pitfalls you can early on is helpful.
- Swallow your pride and film whatever wedding you can get your hands on to get started. Having an example to show people makes your selling life 1000x easier. People need to see samples!
- Don’t skimp on the equipment. Get the best camera that you can for your money and learn how to really use it. Avoid recording on tapes, as digital is much easier with the right editing program. Make sure you have batteries that hold a charge, and a tripod that functions without a fault.
- Remember that the audience stands for the bride. Also remember that they stand for the bride and groom during the reception entrance. Find ways to work around this.
- Talk to the bride or groom periodically to make sure you aren’t missing any surprises. After this I would ask on my info gathering phone call if there were any surprises or anything out of the ordinary I should know about. I used the secret balcony entrance as an example every phone call to let the new bride know I needed to know everything in order to be in the right spot to capture it.
- There is always editing. My footage sure wasn’t the best, but the bride loved what I did with it in the editing room, and the final product I put together saved me in the end and lead to a ton of referrals.
There are more lessons from this first shoot than I probably even know about that helped guide me to a better product in the future. The important thing is that you keep learning as you go.
Sure my stomach was in knots the entire day, and only grew worse with each new disaster, but you have to push through like I did. Take my advice, and your first wedding shoot is sure to be levels above where mine started out.
In case you were interested, here is what I came up with for the final wedding trailer: