I learned some hard lessons about hiring a videographer in 2022 for our wedding. A friend who’s getting married asked for advice. Here’s what I shared.
Communication is Key
Our photographer pulled in his favorite videographer. The photographer was excellent so we extended a lot of trust.
I initially called the videographer and inquired about his workflow before signing the contract. I saw his Vimeo page and the work he posted. I inquired about his recording techniques, the gear he uses, and so on.
I distinctly remember asking if he would record and sync audio from the mixer during the wedding. He seemed to downplay the importance of it (“shotgun mic would be good enough”) and I deferred…what a mistake that was! More on that later.
After about ten minutes, he said he had to go and that I should route future details through the photographer. It seemed like he did not wish to be directly contacted. Overall we did not hit it off like two videographers connecting to each other.
In retrospect, I should have seen that the videographer didn’t understand what was important to me. Maybe he didn’t take me seriously. I knew I had qualms about moving forward, but I didn’t know how to go about it.
Could I do it again, I would not have let what I knew I wanted be downplayed so easily. I also would have asked better questions such as:
- How do they record in multicam and how do they sync the angles?
- Who are the people that will be filming? (Are they a tight knit team or more like a body shop?)
- Do they keep some cameras rolling the whole time?
- Will you be onsite? If not, what is your role?
- What other types of events have you filmed?
If the answers were not satisfactory or it seemed like he was not really listening to my asks, I should have had the confidence to walk away and politely share that I’m looking for a higher standard.
In the end, they were largely going to do what they always do: a lather-rinse-repeat wedding job. It didn’t matter that we politely informed them (from the very beginning) I was a freelance videographer too or that I shared my site with him. I’m a “kid” getting married after all, and they’re the “experts.”
Highlight Videos are not Everything
I really wanted to delegate and find a professional. Trust others. Find good talent and pay for it. It’s your wedding after all.
The editing sucked. How else can I say it?
- Fast, jarring pans
- Cuts between cameras that jump forward/backward in time
- Out of focus subjects
- Boomy audio not synced with the mixer
- A curious, pervasive fuzzy quality in the edited videos (more on that below)
I sincerely do not believe the folks who edited the videos would have watched them if it were their own event. The job was perfunctory. They obviously claimed otherwise.
“Can all these be better? Yes, absolutely. But is it horrible and not even worth watching? I disagree with that.”
From this, I realized editing is inherently subjective and thus difficult to shape. This is especially true when the other person sees their many years of experience as a reason to remain rigid.
“We’ve done hundreds of weddings, and we have not once received remarks like this. We understand everyone has different expectations,” BUT [insert statement that negates everything that came before the word BUT].
It was a way of invalidating my concern in a pseduo-democratic fashion, a tactful way to make you feel like you’re the one with the problem.
As a reader you may say, “Krishna, surely you reviewed their work before hiring them. Didn’t you know what you were getting into?”
That is the realization: I didn’t review all their work. I only reviewed what they shared…the highlight videos posted on their Vimeo page. These looked good, and we also saw one of our previous friends hire them. However the highlight reels offered very little insight into how they record/sync footage for the ceremonies.
When making highlight videos, you don’t sweat what you don’t record, only choose the best parts, and create something nice for 15 minutes. That’s entirely a different product from recording a two hour ceremony in multicam.
If there are multiple work products you are paying for, ask to review examples of all of them. If privacy is a concern (reasonable), ask if you can request permission from one or more of their recent clients.
Raw Footage is Great, if it’s Recorded
To some extent, I reluctantly anticipated the quality of the edited videos would be a gamble. Turned out it was, but I made peace with that.
As part of the contract, I had the foresight of requesting raw multicam footage of the events on a 2 TB hard drive provided by me. I specifically recall confirming that the space would be more than enough.
Can you believe it? The cameras weren’t even recording the whole time during events. Like even when people are talking. I synced all the raw footage provided (PluralEyes ftw) and there are parts where only one camera is rolling. We paid for it, and we didn’t get it.
What’s worse, sometimes the single camera went out of focus. I specifically cited an example where a camera goes in and out of focus eight times within 45 seconds, so I can’t edit around it. Was the cameraman learning on the job or something? An out of focus camera, with no secondary angle, is not acceptable.
Again, would this have been a problem if it were footage for a highlight video? Not at all. Just snip-snip, edit around it, and no one is the wiser. Sadly for me, there is no way to salvage those moments now.
It’s clear to me now that filming concerts gave me a completely different mindset for shooting in multicam. Every moment is precious. These people didn’t know or care how to shoot in multicam. What I didn’t realize at the time of talking to the videographer was that his downplay of recording audio from the mixer indicated a more serious lack of expertise in syncing multiple angles of video together! People tend to downplay what they don’t know/find important.
At one point they argued that it takes up a lot of space to keep the cameras rolling the whole time. Isn’t that what they’re paid for? They didn’t record audio from the mixer for the main wedding ceremony either, and that is peanuts in storage compared to video. The most rational explanation is that someone forgot—or thought they knew better.
If you request multicam, ask if they will keep the cameras rolling the whole time. Find out how much DELTA there is between what they always do vs. what you’re asking, because otherwise the person you hire may just wing it. If they downplay or minimize the ask, it might be because it cuts into their margin and they need to hire more people, or they don’t know how.
Timespan of Project Files
I also asked for the project files as part of the contract. We signed on it. Then afterwards…
“Sorry, the software we use creates really big project files. So we delete the project after every export to make edits faster and save space.”
You mean to say you delete the project even before the client has received and approved the work? That’s dumbfounding. Then they patronized me with the most brilliant editing advice I have received.
“I am sure you can easily load edited videos in Premiere Pro and replace any shots you want with raw files he provided.”
THAT gave me real insight into their editing process: if you ask for a change, they must re-ingest the H264 export (which is already compressed), chop it up, do whatever, then EXPORT and compress it again. No timecode, no real syncing. This is why somehow, mysteriously, the edited videos were not as crisp as the raw footage.
What do you do if you’ve trusted someone with your contract and they don’t fulfill it?
Nothing, really: it’s extremely disappointing to have asked for something, paid for it, and have it ignored.
“You definitely held us at the highest standards, and I am extremely sorry that I couldn’t meet the expectations.”
This is another clever way of shifting the responsibility and making it about “me” and “my standards.” I think the lowest standard was they film and capture all the raw footage. They signed on it, and they didn’t do it.
I always considered myself a passionate amateur until this point, but now I realize how wide the spread in “professional” really is.
Another friend told me the other day that she never even got her edited wedding videos, just the raw footage. It seems the norm for a lot of wedding professionals is to be paid in full on the day of the event, leaving no accountability. It might have been tricky, but respectfully negotiating different payment terms is something we should have done.
I hope these reflections are useful to anyone who may be looking to hire a videographer on their own. I wish my future self advice my former self on what to look out for and what questions to ask.
It really hurts to be minimized and taken advantage of. It leaves impressions that remain etched for a long time. One of the most insightful commentaries of this is Dave Chappelle: Unforgiven | Exposing Comedy Central at 2:20 where he describes how a grown adult stole a joke from 15 year-old Dave Chappelle (warning language). I know it will be a continous practice to internalize and overcome this. I know it will make me a better person.
For now, I have what footage I have. I will be creative, work out of happiness, and make the best of it. Our wedding was magical, and I will make something magical to share to with those I love.
Update: One Year Later
It’s true that I have not yet re-edited the videos. Each time I tried to start, the negative feels were just too strong. That is slowly changing though.
What I have observed about myself is that I have become more confident about my own abilities. Not in a way that puts others down, but in a way in which others cannot put me down so easily. I trust and value myself in a way now that I may not have been able to otherwise, and I share that value with others.
That’s a pretty nice wedding gift from the universe.