Present participle: vetting
To make careful consideration and critical examination of something.
Screening Your Wedding Videographer Candidates
When planning for your wedding, you may come to the realization that you would like to hire a videographer.
Videographers are seen as more of a luxury than a necessity, as everyone hires their photographer first.
So how do you screen a videographer to find out if they are the right fit for you and your wedding, especially if you weren’t planning on having one in the beginning and aren’t prepared for your search?
To answer these questions, I have come up with a checklist of items you need to address when vetting your wedding videographer. By going through these steps, you should have a pretty good idea of what service you are buying, who you are working with, and what your final product will be.
Get recommendations from your family and friends
So where do you start when looking for a wedding videographer? It helps to start by asking your family and friends. Social currency is powerful, and if a videographer was good enough to make a big impression on someone you know, then you have a good lead to proceed in the vetting process with.
Another good location to find a videographer is on Facebook Swap Sites. Join your local Facebook Swap Group (or several), and simply ask “Who are some good videographers for weddings?” You are sure to get a lot of feedback. It may help to look around a little on the site first, or people may get a little angry if the question had just been asked the day before by someone else.
The point of this first step is to find someone that people have heard of so you know that you aren’t walking into a scam. There are a lot of great wedding videographers out there. Just ask around!
Make sure you are getting the right videographer
Qualify yourself with basic questions
Before you take your deep-dive into making sure a videographer checks off all the criteria on your list, you should first make sure that you cover the basics.
Some things to ask:
- Do they have your wedding date available?
- Do they travel to your locations?
- Are they within your price range?
Finding out these basics first will save you a lot of time by qualifying your situation with the videographer before going into other details.
Do they provide the basic video services you are looking for?
Now that you have qualified yourself to them (date is open, they travel to your venue, etc.), it is time to start qualifying them to you and your needs.
This is where you ask about their basic offerings, the different packages they offer, what their final product looks like, the quality of their equipment, etc. We will go into each of these areas in detail when we get further down the checklist.
Make sure they fit within your wedding budget
One of the first steps in qualifying a videographer is to see if they are within your budget. I’m sorry if you fall in love with their videos and you MUST have them, but it is important to be realistic. If you can afford the $4,500+ package that covers you from dusk until dawn with 10 cameras and Dolby Digital surround sound, then great! Go for it! If you can’t, it is important to not break the bank or go into massive debt to hire someone above your price range.
Another tip is to budget for the videographer from the beginning. A lot of times brides and grooms think of adding video on as an afterthought when they see they have a little money left in the budget. My advice is to plan for the expense from the beginning, that way you will be able to balance the line item with the rest of your budget from the start, and will be more likely to get the videographer you really want.
Are there initial travel charges, or additional travel charges for multiple locations?
A major extra charge that often gets tacked on with any wedding vendor is travel. Some videographers will charge by distance. Others may charge by driving time. Most will have a set radius that they will travel for free, and then charge for additional time or mileage for any location beyond that.
It may be cheaper to find someone closer to home, despite recommendations from your friends and family.
What is included in the package, and what will cost extra?
When asking about pricing, make sure you are really digging down deep into what everything will cost.
Do you want a wedding trailer included in your final product? A lot of videographers charge extra for additional pieces like this.
Looking for extra copies for Mom, Dad, and Grandma? Again, something that is often an additional charge. Make sure to define what you want before talking with a videographer. Write it down and keep the list handy so you can make sure everything you want is covered at the price you have budgeted for. Also, be open to suggestions for cool add-ons you didn’t think of. Every videographer offers something different, and what they offer may be something that you hadn’t thought of, but want and can afford to have.
Some things to ask for pricing for:
- Extra Copies
- Wedding Trailer
- Vows Trailer
- All Unedited footage on a separate disc
- Quick Change shot (bride appearing in street cloths and transition into dress)
- Extra videography time at your wedding (beyond initial agreement)
Make sure you are getting the right videographer
Find out what their wedding videography style is
There are 2 main styles of video when we are talking about wedding videography: Documentary and Cinematic.
Documentary-style wedding video involves filming your wedding as it is, maybe with cuts between cameras for ease of viewing. This is closer to the raw, unedited footage from your day.
Cinematic-style video involves heavy amounts of editing, transitions, text overlays, filters, slowing footage down, etc. This would be the type of product that a wedding trailer would fall under.
In most cases, you should be able to get both styles. The videographer will film your day, provide the raw footage, and also create a wedding trailer that you can share, possibly at an extra charge for the added work time.
If a videographer states that they are strictly cinematic, they are likely to miss a lot of what is going on as they are going for more artistic shots rather than documenting your day. It is a good idea to go for someone who can do both, although if a trailer isn’t important to you it may work to choose someone who only does a documentary-style shoot.
If you are interested in learning about a few other styles, try THIS ARTICLE.
Ask to call them or meet in person
It is important to set up some kind of meeting with your videographer to make sure they are a legitimate person running a legitimate company. This meeting can be in the form of a phone call, an in-person meeting, or even a Skype meeting.
The important thing is to first verify that they are legit, and then to see if their personality and outlook for your wedding match what you are looking for. It also helps to see if they are excited about working for you and capturing your wedding day.
Keep in mind that some videographers may not want to meet in person if your wedding is farther away. This is to cut down on travel costs and time spent. They should still be willing to take a phone call or meet over Skype though.
Companies that won’t meet, or at least take a phone call, throw up a major red flag.
See if they are full-time or part-time
While it doesn’t matter in the overall big picture, it still may be helpful to find out if the videographer is a full-time videographer or someone who does it on the side.
Part-timers can be just as talented as full-timers if they are devoted to their craft, but part-timers may not have as much time to meet with you or facilitate your calls as someone who is fully dedicated to videography. Keep in mind the level of attention you will require from this vendor.
Ask for their references
References are icing on the cake when vetting your videographer. This tells you that the videographer has established enough rapport with past customers that the customer is still willing to take time to say some good words about their work.
Don’t discount companies that don’t keep a reference list handy, however, as many brides likely don’t want to be bothered long after their wedding about a company they don’t have any further ties with.
Would you want to continually field calls for your wedding vendors to speak praise for them? The people who want to are harder to come by, no matter how good your services are.
What is their booking/cancellation/refund policy?
Get the ground rules up front.
What is their booking policy? Do they require a deposit? Will they hold your day for any length of time without a deposit? When is the deposit due?
What is their cancellation policy? How early before your wedding do you have to cancel to get a refund? Do you get all your money back, or everything but the deposit?
All of this should be spelled out nicely in the contract, but you may have some questions even after reading through the fine print. You need to know exactly what you are getting into when you sign on the dotted line.
No contract? MAJOR RED FLAG! All deals should be made in writing and signed by both parties. Both parties should retain copies of the signed contract as well. Things can and do go wrong. A written contract can save a lot of “he said, she said” if your dispute has to be escalated to the courtroom.
Use Google to find positive and negative reviews
Besides talking to your videographer candidates, it also helps to do a little research outside of direct communication.
Google the business and see what kind of reviews they are getting. Look up their Facebook page, Wedding Wire account, or Thumbtack profile and see what kinds of reviews they are getting from past customers.
Some businesses are also listed with the Better Business Bureau, although this older method of validation has mostly been replaced with social proof from reviews on the sites mentioned previously.
The point here is to not only take the word of the videographer, but see what others are saying.
Look for evidence of past work and successes
Not only should you be looking at external sources to validate a videography candidate, but you should also be searching for their portfolio. See how many examples they have listed. If they only have a few videos to show, either they haven’t been in business very long, or they are only showing their best work. You can ask them if they have more samples, or how many weddings they have filmed.
If they don’t have any videos posted in a portfolio, we have another red flag.
Make sure you are getting the right videographer
Ask for video equipment specs
You don’t need to know everything about the specifications of the videographers equipment. That is their job as the expert.
Despite not needing to know everything, there are still some minimum standards that you should know to meet.
- You want at least 1080p video. This is above 720p and 1080i, and is considered Full-HD video. Anything below 1080p will result in low-quality videos. If you can spring for a videographer that can provide 4k, 6k, or 8k video, then this will result in a higher-quality final product, although will likely cost you a pretty penny more.
- You will want them to provide some type of wireless audio solution. It is very likely that the videographer will not be close to you during the ceremony since most churches don’t allow filming within the alter area, and your wedding party will take up most of the front. This is why a wireless audio solution is necessary.
- Do they have an option to output to Blu-ray? If you don’t have a Blu-ray player then this step may not matter to you. If you do, then you will likely want a Blu-ray option. Even if your video is filmed in 8k video, it will still be throttled down to the 720p quality that is the maximum that DVDs allow. Blu-rays allow for up to a 2k solution, thus provide better, more crisp images.
- Can they handle the type of video you want? Some videographers are able to quickly put a highlight reel together from the first part of your day to show at your reception. Others are able to broadcast live over the internet to relatives who couldn’t make it. Make sure you know whether or not their equipment can handle these tasks if that is what you are looking for.
What lighting options do they provide?
Lighting from a videographer is very different from lighting of a photographer. Photographers only need a quick flash to get their perfect image. Since videography is a constant series of images, the videographer will constantly need to be shining a light to get a well-lit image.
That’s not to say that the videographer will necessarily NEED a light to get good footage. Some can work without light and have cameras that work great in low light.
That being said, there are different light setups that can be used. The videographer can have multiple lights that hit you from different angles, or a single light mounted on top of the camera to generally light the scene. If the latter is the case, see if the light can be dimmed so they won’t be blinding people.
Maybe you don’t want them to be using a light at all because it may ruin the ambiance, be too distracting, or ruin the photographers pictures. Make sure you know the options available to you when hiring a videographer, and let them know what options you want from them.
Ask if they are more up-front and present, or out-of-the-way and hidden
Not only is it a good idea to get a feel for what the videographer’s filming style is, but also what the style of their presence is.
Will they be right up front, directing the show, or will they be a fly on the wall, recording everything while staying out of the way.
Being up front and directing the show is usually reserved for the photographer, because photos take priority over video, so having someone to direct the show may cause conflicting direction on your wedding day. On the other hand, if you are spending more money on a videographer than a photographer, you may want video to be the priority, and want a videographer who will be up front and directing.
Knowing what takes priority will definitely help you in deciding what type of personality you want your videographer to have.
How do they work with other vendors on your wedding day?
Asking your videographer how they work with other vendors will give you a good insight into whether or not they are a good team player or not. You want your vendors to form a well-oiled machine on your wedding day, even if they haven’t met before.
If your potential vendor states that they don’t usually converse with the other vendors, this is yet another red flag. The videographer will need to be in contact with your officiant to figure out where they can be set up without breaking church rules, the photographer so they don’t trip over them or block their shot (and vice versa) while the ceremony is going on, and they should also be conversing with your DJ during reception to make sure they don’t miss the start of any events.
The videographer should be able to tell you their process of working with these other vendors, and maybe give examples of times that their collaboration with other vendors went especially well.
Will they bring an assistant to your wedding to help them?
Knowing whether or not the videographer will be bringing an assistant to the wedding is important because it means that there will be another body to calculate the logistics of for the day. That means and extra body in the church and at the reception. It also means an extra meal that you will need to purchase for the reception because some videographers will have a meal for them and their assistant written into their contract.
Having them bring an assistant is more likely a good thing than a bad thing. Sure you have to buy that extra meal from the caterer, but you are also likely getting 2 angles from 2 different cameras, there is a chance the assistant can get secondary shots while the main videographer is shooting the main events, and there is another creative mind on set to help capture your day perfectly.
It is your decision whether an assistant is a good fit for your day.
Make sure they supply the full footage (RAW footage) from your wedding day
Unless you are really set on only having a creative, cinematic piece created from your wedding day footage, you really want to make sure that your videographer provides the unedited, known as raw, footage in the final product.
They may not include every piece from your day, but you are going to want to make sure you have unedited versions of your ceremony and main reception events so you can look back on the pieces as a whole.
Preferably these pieces will be added to your final DVD or Blu-ray disc in separate, playable menu items so you can pick and choose what you want to watch.
Request a final product demo
One good thing to request is to be able to see a demo of what your final product will look like. If you you don’t have a background in film, it may be hard to image what the final product will come out to be. Requesting to see the final product of one of the videographer’s other customers will give you a better idea what you will ultimately be paying for in the end.
Are copyright songs allowed on your video?
The simple answer is no.
A lot of videographers will still utilize copyright songs on their wedding trailers, but the truth is that this is not legal unless they someone obtain the rights to use the song. Many songs are used illegally to make a better video and to make the customer happy.
The other option is for the videographer to make a version for you with the copyright song, and then make a separate version with purchased stock music to use online. While still not technically legal, this is one way to keep the use of copyright songs off of the internet while still keeping customers happy. You will have to ask your videographer what their policy is on this matter.
Do they have any guarantees included with their work?
Guarantees are the parachute you wear in case the plane goes down.
They are promises from the videographer that they will deliver some form of refund or recreation of the product if something isn’t to your liking.
Some videographers can guarantee your entire payment. If you are not satisfied with how they perform on any level, they will give you a full refund. These guarantees are rare.
It is more likely that there will be a guarantee that you will be satisfied with the final product or it will be rehashed again into more of the version you were looking for. There can also be a guarantee that your final discs will work or be replaced.
If you do find someone willing to guarantee your full amount on satisfied service, you may want to strongly consider them because these guarantees are rare and will take all of your worry out of hiring that videographer.
Make sure you are getting the right videographer
Figure out the turnaround time on when you can expect a finished video product
The perfect turnaround time will vary from couple to couple. You will need to find what works best for you and see if your videographer can hit that mark.
If they have too quick of a turnaround, you may be on your honeymoon and not want to be fielding constant calls from your videographer. You also don’t want them to take so long that you are most of the way to your first anniversary before you get the product.
3 to 6 weeks is a good turnaround time, but again you will need to determine this based on your preference and situation.
With most videographers, your final product will end up on their website and in whatever promos they see fit.
This is just how it goes when hiring people who capture your likeness in video or in photos. Just as you looked for examples of their work earlier, videographers need these promotional materials to show other potential clients that they are getting work and that their skills are improving over time.
With that being said, some may have the option to keep your wedding private. Some may charge you extra for the missed opportunity of promotion using your wedding footage. Others may allow it for free if they have enough samples. Decide how you feel about privacy and make sure you have this agreement in writing with your videographer before you book them.
Do they allow for revisions of the video once you receive it?
Will the videographer in question allow you to make changes to the video or any part of the final product once it is completed? Changes to video take more effort than just fixing the spelling of a word or tweaking an edit. The editor has to go back into the program, make the change, export the new video, and upload the new video file to YouTube (or some other site so you will be able to view the new file).
Despite the time it takes to do so, you should be allowed a change or two to the final video without accruing any additional charges. You should expect more charges if you signed off on the final version and want changes after you are handed the final DVD or Blu-ray. It is on you if you didn’t request a change before the final product is delivered. Be diligent in the revision stage to make sure you get your video the way you want it before final processing is completed.
Be sure to find out what the revision policy is before hiring someone, or this can cause a lot of trouble for you after your wedding.
How is your footage stored for future use?
You get your wedding filmed, make your revisions, and get the final product in hand. Done, right?
But what if Aunt Gena decides she wants a copy and you were only given copies for yourself and your parents? Your wedding was 6 months ago. Does the videographer even still have your footage?
This is one final step to think about when hiring that a lot of people don’t pay attention to. What happens to your footage over time? Can you just call and get another copy whenever you want? Can you get a revision made or a different version of your wedding trailer that you didn’t think about before?
Good companies know that customers will have these issues and will invest in extra storage to be able to keep your files on hand if such a need arises. Be ready to shell out some extra money for extra work though, as the time which you have paid for may be past, and a new invoice will need to be drawn up for additional work hours.
If you used this guide and it worked well for you, or if you feel it needs some improvements in spots, please feel free to shout out in the comments below. I will read every comment, respond, and make sure to use criticism to improve this piece for future brides and grooms!
Make sure you are getting the right videographer