A wedding may seem like a videographer’s dream. You’ve got happy people dressed to the nines. You’ve got a gorgeous — or at least decked-out — setting in which to shoot. And you’ve got the kind of real emotion that makes for a genuinely riveting video. All you need to do is turn on your camera and you’re golden, right? Not exactly. While the beautiful aesthetics and joyful atmosphere can get you pretty far, there are some specific steps you should follow to prepare for the big day.

1. Get your gear in order

In terms of gear, the most important decision may be choosing the right lens. This assumes you’re shooting on a DSLR camera — most event videographers are these days. This helpful video by our friends at Stillmotion walks you through which Canon EOS lenses the company uses for shooting events:

Two lens-related things to keep in mind are focal length and aperture. Choose a focal length that is appropriate for the situation you’re in. A wider prime like 50mm, 35mm, or 24mm is most versatile, good for capturing close details and wider shots.

If you know you’re going to be a long way from your subject, choose a zoom lens, or a long prime like a 135mm. Another reason to choose a longer focal length is to increase the shallow depth of field with your shots. An artfully blurred background can help you focus on the important details and give the video a cinematic look. As usual, remember to think about crop factor when making decisions about focal length.

The other important lens element to consider is aperture. Every lens has an aperture range, and the number you want to pay attention to is the smaller one. The lower the number, the wider the aperture, and the nicer the lens. For attaining shallow depth of field and shooting in low light, you want a lens that stops down to 1.8 or lower, ideally. As it gets darker, your lens choices become more limited. Later in the evening, it will be nearly impossible to get a good shot unless you have a lens with a 1.8 aperture or lower.

You might have questions about lighting equipment, and our answer is: leave it at home! When shooting a wedding, you want to be mobile and available to capture those perfect fleeting moments, so you don’t want to be messing around with lights and stands. Plus, using available light is less invasive and produces more natural results.

There are, however, certain pieces of equipment you shouldn’t leave at home. A beautiful shot doesn’t mean much if your footage is shaky, so stabilization is key. Whether you go all out with steadicams, sliders, and tripods, or just opt for a monopod, you’ll want something to steady your hand, especially during a long ceremony or after several hours of shooting.

If you plan to use audio in your wedding video, spring for some real audio equipment. The built- in microphone in a DSLR camera will not deliver the sound quality the bride and groom deserve. It can be nice to capture the vows during the ceremony and the toasts at the reception, so you may want to put a lavalier mic on the groom or the officiant, or, if there’s a professional sound system, you can run a sound recorder like the Zoom H4n through the mixer with an XLR cable. Some videographers attach on-board mics to their cameras to capture audio throughout the day.

2. Develop your style

Oftentimes, your equipment choices will be determined by the style in which you choose to shoot the video. Here’s where your creativity can run free!

Some videographers choose to make a clean, sleek production by using steadicams and sliders. If you choose to shoot this way, you’ll need to make sure your couple has enough time to dedicate to the cinematography team, as these types of shots can take longer to film, and are sometimes planned out ahead of time. Here’s a great example by Joe Simon Films:

Another option is to shoot in a handheld documentary style — try to blend into the background and spontaneously capture the events as they unfold throughout the day. The end result feels more like a home movie, and the intimate and casual feel can be really successful. Here’s a lovely example by Shark Pig:

Typically, wedding videos are set to music, using tight cuts of all the prettiest shots. You may also want to make use of diegetic sound, such as music played during the ceremony. Some people like to use excerpts from the vows and toasts, and others like to interview the couple before the ceremony. The people at The Cana Family do a nice job of weaving interviews into their wedding previews. But in the end, it’s your call. Feel free to think outside the standard wedding video template, like Bayly & Moore, who make lovely stop-motion wedding videos.

3. Get the right shots

Once you have the technical aspects down and your style refined, you can focus on getting all the right shots.

While every wedding is different, there may be some basic moments you need to capture, from the bride putting on her dress to the first dance to the couple’s grand exit. Anticipating these moments and being there to capture them is your job. With this in mind, remember the wedding planner is your friend. Introduce yourself beforehand, get a copy of the schedule, and check back throughout the day to make sure everything is running on time.

A typical wedding video will cover three key parts of the day, and in each part there are some shots you don’t want to miss!

Pre-wedding

Don’t miss:
+ Wearables like the dress, rings, and shoes, before they’re put on
+ Flowers and other decorations
+ For the bride: Putting on dress and shoes. For the groom: putting on cufflinks, tie, boutineer
+ The family hanging out and having a good time

The ceremony

Don’t miss:
+ Walking down the aisle
+ The groom when he first sees the bride
+ The vows
+ The kiss
+ The bride and groom walking back down the aisle together

The reception

Don’t miss:
+ The couple’s entrance
+ The first dance
+ The toasts
+ The cutting of the cake
+ Dance floor moves and merriment
+ Optional: You may want to get shots of people during the cocktail hour, as this is another opportunity to include the rest of the family and guests in the video.

If there are multiple shooters covering the wedding, it’s important to plan ahead and figure out who will be shooting what. This video from Stillmotion breaks down how to shoot a ceremony with three cameras. If you have the resources, it’s helpful to have one camera in the back to get a wide shot so other shooters can focus on getting more creative close-ups.

When shooting with multiple cameras, be sure to communicate! Before you start shooting, synchronize your camera settings, such as ISO and white balance. And if you plan to give the couple a cut of their ceremony or toasts in full, remember to use hand signals when readjusting a shot to ensure continuous coverage.

4. Be respectful and have fun

Finally, remember that you’re capturing one of the most important days in a couple’s life together, so it’s critical to use discretion and be respectful. Smile and go with the flow. Communicate extensively to make everyone — especially the bride and groom — feel at ease.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be less stressed and more likely to have fun at the wedding, and that sense of joy will carry over to your video.