Choosing a wedding videographer should be a fun experience for you. Sifting through each videographer’s portfolio of videos, finding the ones that touch you emotionally, and narrowing down your selection shouldn’t be a stressful process. However, once it comes time to interview your potential videographer, you may find it very difficult to ask useful questions. Let’s be real, unless your job is sourcing production companies for video projects, how in the world are you supposed to know what to ask? We’ve been filming weddings for years, and in our experience, most couples have no idea where to begin. Not knowing what to discuss isn’t a fault on them; it’s our job to educate and make sure they’re comfortable with their decision. With that considered, we thought it would be helpful to put together a list of questions to guide the conversation. The goal here is to provide a basic understanding of why you ask specific questions and to pick up on any red flags that might pop up. Keep in mind, this is not an all-inclusive list, but will help you get the conversation flowing. Here are 10 questions you need to ask your wedding videographer.
Question 1: Is this your full-time job?
Okay, this may seem like an odd question, but you must ask it for a reason. There’s nothing wrong with a videographer filming weddings as a side gig, almost everyone in the industry starts this way. Typically the wedding season is short, tied to specific months throughout the year, and almost always on the weekend. With that considered, it’s reasonable that someone could hold a 9-5 job while still being incredibly productive as a wedding videographer. However, what you want to look for is how they treat the business. If this isn’t their full-time job, then a specific response you want to be cautious of is:
“I do it on the side as a way to make extra cash,”
On the surface, this may seem harmless and come off quite reasonable. But I challenge you to think of anything you’ve ever been passionate about and have dedicated your time too. Most people who are passionate about something aren’t doing it because it “pays more.” Getting paid to do something you’re excited to do is a perk, but not the sole purpose. Another concern is that if they’re doing it to make some extra cash, what’s to say they don’t switch to something down the road that pays more? If money is the driving factor, it tells you that they may not put their entire effort into this, and only looking to get paid. So, if that is indeed their first response, I’d chalk it up as a red flag. A more reasonable answer goes something like this:
“I’m looking to grow my wedding video business as a way to make a full-time living.”
This answer sounds nearly identical, but with a significant difference.
When your videographer responds with a future state in mind, it shows that they’ve at least dedicated themselves to growing their business. And if they plan to grow their business, they likely want to have happy and satisfied clients. If they do a poor job, they may stall their growth and maybe destroy their business as it stands. When your videographer isn’t full time, you want to see that they are hoping to one day make it a full time living. It shows that they will put forth more effort to ensure a quality product is delivered, because there’s more on the line than getting a paycheck from you.
Question 2: How long have you been filming weddings?
Asking your videographer how long they’ve been filming weddings serves a couple purposes.
- What their experience is with weddings in general
- What their experience is with actually filming weddings
Let’s cover the first point to understand what we’re looking for here. Weddings are fast-paced events that require many people to work together in unison. If your videographer is new to the industry, then the odds are that they haven’t developed a process that allows them to work efficiently throughout the day. We were in that exact situation during our first year filming weddings. Even with a schedule (which rarely ever goes as expected), we would regularly fall behind. It seemed we were never in the right place at the right time, and were frantically running around trying to catch up. We also didn’t communicate effectively with the DJ, Photographer or Coordinator. We would follow people around and hope for the best. Now that we’re more experienced, this is no longer an issue for us. Understanding the flow of weddings allows us to confidently say we’ll capture all of the most intimate moments.
The second point is to see what their technical capabilities are with the actual filming portion. With less overall experience filming weddings, it means they’ve run into fewer complications. Every wedding is unique, and each one comes with its challenges. The benefit of someone with more experience means they’ve probably made more mistakes. Mistakes can be gut-wrenching, but making them is when you’ll learn the most significant lessons. We’ve made plenty of them throughout our years of experience, but with each mistake we’ve made, we’ve discovered solutions. Now when those challenging situations arise, we’re prepared. If your videographer is inexperienced, they may encounter a job they aren’t prepared for and won’t have a solution. It could be something as simple as not having the appropriate connections to record audio, or not bringing lights to an outdoor evening wedding. What you get with experience isn’t a better product in all cases, but the security that your experienced videographer is ready for any number of complications.
Question 3: Will you be the person filming my wedding, or is it outsourced?
You need to understand up front who will be filming your wedding. There are three types of videography companies you’ll come across during your research:
- The videographer you speak with is the one shooting your wedding
- The company you’re talking to has a team of hired videographers that film your wedding
- The company outsources people to film your wedding.
The first two types of companies are what you want to choose. In most cases, you’ll work with a company that falls under the first option. The videographer is the lead director that will be filming your wedding. They may hire a second shooter, or even have a dedicated 2nd shooter that they work with at all of their weddings. What’s important here is that you know you’re getting the person who’s created the videos you’ve loved in their portfolio. We highly recommend you go with this option because it provides consistency. The work you’ve seen is likely what you’ll get, and there’s no guessing involved.
The second option, while less common, is also a good choice. You will be hiring a company that will be sending their own, directly employed, videographers to film your wedding. The key here is that the company is using employees that are on their payroll. This means that you will get trained videographers to film your wedding in specific shooting styles. They will also be using equipment the company provides, and they’ll be trained to use the equipment properly. It also provides greater consistency that the videographers will show up because they’re employees of the company and not acting as a freelancer. Overall, it will ensure greater consistency.
The last option, we would encourage you to never, ever use. These are typically cheaper options, but it’s because you get what you pay for. The way companies like this make their money is they delegate everything out to freelancers at incredibly low rates. Some of the people they hire may not even know how to use the equipment properly. Sometimes the freelancers are asked to use their equipment, which can ruin any consistency of the final image. Lastly, when they hire the freelancers, they do it at incredibly low rates. This is how they make their profits. The biggest concern surrounding this entire method is, will the videographer even show up? We cannot stress how many times we’ve seen someone frantically trying to find a last-minute videographer because one of their shooters no-showed on them. In fact, and no exaggeration as this happened, as we were typing this blog, we got an alert of someone looking for a wedding videographer for a wedding… TOMORROW. Avoid this type of company at all costs.
Question 4: Have you shot at this venue before?
Asking your videographer if they’ve shot your venue is an excellent question. Keep in mind, regardless of their answer; you shouldn’t make a decision based on this alone. We find that most of our weddings we film are at new venues that we’ve never been too. The benefit of this question isn’t to eliminate a vendor, but to solidify your decision. If they have filmed at your venue, it means they’re familiar with it. They likely have an idea of the best places to get the prettiest shots and can provide reliable feedback with their experience. You can also ask if they would show you any of their videos that they’ve shot at that venue. While it won’t be the same as what you’d get for your wedding video, it’ll at least give you a good idea of what to expect.
Question 5: How do you interact with the other vendors?
The vendors at your wedding are all equally important. Something that cannot be stressed enough is that each person involved has a job to do, and they must do it well. You want to be sure that whoever you choose knows how to work with each vendor attending your wedding effectively. For example, to record the toasts during dinner, we’ll most likely need to work closely with the DJ to record audio from their soundboard. If we’re not working well with the DJ, it can lead to a poor experience for both parties. We also need to work closely with the photographer to ensure we’re both getting the shots that we need. What you want to avoid is finding someone that demands they get what they need, and aren’t willing to compromise or work effectively with others. On the opposite spectrum, you don’t want to get a videographer that is too passive and doesn’t get the shots they need because they’re intimidated by the photographer. Photographs and videos are both equally important, and the goal is to ensure both get the shots they need without getting in the other’s way. The only way to do this is to act as partners and not compete against each other. We encourage you to have your videographer, photographer, and DJ speak before the wedding date so that they can get to know each other and plan things out accordingly.
Question 6: How many people will be filming during the wedding?
There isn’t a lot to discuss with this question- it’s more a rule of thumb. You can get a fantastic video with one videographer, and many companies offer a cheaper package that only comes with one person. Even though we acknowledge you can receive a great video with one shooter, we highly encourage you to get at least two. No matter how you spin it, a single person cannot capture all of the moments from multiple angles. With two people filming your wedding it allows them to capture all of the most intimate moments from various aspects. Even if a single shooter claims they’ll use multiple angles, it means they’ll have unmanaged cameras that they cannot monitor. Our rule of thumb is at minimum two videographers, up to 150-200 guests. If over 200, you should consider asking if they can provide a third shooter. Anything over three videographers though is a bit too crowded, so keep that in mind.
Question 7: What are your back up methods (during and after the wedding)
This question is one that we rarely ever receive, but you need to ask it. Backups are vital to prevent losing footage from your wedding. For example, when it comes to the ceremony, how does your videographer capture the audio? If they tell you they record the sound from the DJ’s soundboard, what happens if his audio fails? We’ve been at many weddings where a microphone stopped working, or a soundboard stopped playing. Maybe it’s as simple as a microphone having a bad connection, and it cuts in and out during the vows. A backup would allow the videographer to capture the audio in case the first option fails. If your videographer doesn’t capture any backups, either with audio or video, your putting everything into that one method working correctly. If it fails, you lose it, and there’s no way to get it back. From experience (going back to mistakes we’ve made), we always use backup recorders. Sometimes we’ll use as many as 3-4 different backups. And believe it or not, we’ve had as many as two fail for various reasons outside of our control. If your videographer isn’t prepared to capture backups during your wedding, it should be something you consider in your decision.
The second thing to consider for backups is how they store the media after the wedding. Your videographer will save your wedding footage on either a hard drive or a solid-state drive. The issue with these is that hard drives are known to fail more often, but if they do, you can sometimes recover the data. Solid-state drives are less prone to fail, but if they do, you cannot recover anything at all- it’s gone. What’s important is to ask if your videographer uses any redundancy methods- which is when they put a second copy of all the data on another storage device. This way, if one fails, they have a second copy.
There is a difference between backup and redundancy that I want to explain for a quick second, and your videographer should use both. Redundancy is having a backup copy on another storage device, but at the same location. A backup is another copy at a completely different place. Backups are essential to protect yourself from situations that can be disastrous. Maybe someone breaks into their home and steals their computer, or perhaps their house burns down. I know those may sound extreme, but if they don’t have a backup somewhere else, your stuff is gone. And from personal experience, we one time had a backpack stolen from our car that had an audio recorder in it. We didn’t have a backup. It was gone forever. LUCKILY, it didn’t have anything of value on it, and it wasn’t a big deal, but since then, we always have backups and redundancy.
Question 8: What equipment do you use? (lighting, cameras, audio, etc.)
Asking your videographer about their gear is less important than you might think. Technology moves fast, and new stuff is coming out daily. The camera doesn’t make the shot look great, its the eye of the artist. With this in mind, there are still certain things you should know.
- What do they use to record audio?
You’re looking for them to tell you how they record their primary audio sources, as well as what they use for backups. For example, their primary recorder is on the DJ’s soundboard, and they have a backup microphone clipped on the person speaking.
2. Do you record in 4k or HD?
Frankly, this is less important, but it’s still nice to know. 4k provides a cleaner image and has more definition. 4k technology used to be out of reach for most videographers, but we’re noticing a transition to 4k in the industry rapidly. To put it in perspective, we only film in 4k.
3. Do you use lights when it’s dark?
All cameras need light to produce a great image. When we first started, we used cameras that were great in “low light,” and we didn’t use lights. However, when we finally tried using lights, it improved our images to the point where we always use lights when it starts to get dark. They aren’t distracting and make the image look significantly better. You should be asking if they use lights and if so, how they set them up. We’ve found that using spotlights have been the best bet- because we can set them up far away from your guests while still getting the use we need out of them. We also only use battery-powered lights, so we’re not running extension cords throughout your venue, introducing a potential tripping hazard.
4. Do you have tripods and stabilization?
Every videographer should have some form of stabilization and a tripod for their camera. Not every shot needs to be on a tripod, but if they don’t use any stabilization, be prepared to have an incredibly shakey wedding video.
Question 9: Do you have references?
This question is designed for you to find out if they have any happy past clients. Now we don’t provide actual references to our couples who are considering hiring us. This isn’t because we don’t have happy customers, but because out of respect, we don’t want to keep bothering them by speaking to strangers about their experience. However, we do have many reviews (all perfect by the way) that are available on the internet that we can provide. If the videographer doesn’t have any positive reviews, and isn’t willing to give references, that would be a concern. Unless they’re brand new and communicated that to you, any wedding videographer with worthwhile experience should have some form of reference they can provide.
Question 10: What is the delivery time, and do you have an agreement?
Lastly, probably the most critical question to ask is when will you receive a final product and if they have an agreement in place. Discussing contracts can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. Having an arrangement in place protects both you and the videographer. You need to read through the agreement and understand what you’re signing. There should be a few things in the agreement:
- Final product delivery date
- Payment Schedule
- What the video will include
- What happens if there is a dispute
- Product delivery method
- Who owns the footage rights
- Termination clauses
These are just a few things you can expect, and isn’t meant to be an inclusive list. The role of the agreement is to manage expectations and provide a path to dispute any breach of contract. From our experience, we let our couples know that we will have all products finished and delivered within 120 days. We always aim to complete them ahead of schedule, but no longer than 120 days. We’ve heard horror stories of people not having an agreement with their videographer and taking longer than a year to get their video.
We hope that you found this information helpful. Keep in mind, these are not all of the questions you should be asking, but we thought it would give you a good start. Some other bonus questions to consider are:
- Do you have insurance?
- What additional services do you provide?
- What’s your style of filming?
- How do you choose the music?
- Will your video be a feature or a highlight?
Let us know if we missed anything; we’d love to have a conversation with you. And if you’re considering a wedding video, reach out to us and see if we might be a right for you.