Ten Wedding DSLR Filmmaking Techniques - dummies

By John Carucci

Using your DSLR to film a wedding usually resides on the opposite end of the creative spectrum from making your auteur film. Here are the top ten aspects you need to consider to keep it lively when capturing this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Have the right video equipment

You won’t be able to make a wedding until you have the right stuff. Here’s what you need:

  • Two DSLR cameras.

  • Varying focal lengths.

  • Proper lighting.

  • A tripod.

  • A professional-quality microphone.

  • Cables, connectors, lens shades, and other accessories.

  • Extra batteries.

  • More than enough media cards.

Anticipate the action before you shoot

If you’ve been to more than a few weddings, you should have some idea how they’re structured, but that basic itinerary often has variations. You need to know these things before you begin to shoot.

Consider the following:

  • Communicate with the bride and groom. Find out what they want and what’s expected of you.

  • Rehearse your shooting: Attend the rehearsal. It takes is a run-through for you to know what’s important at the ceremony.

  • Scope out the location. Do this before you’re actually shooting to get some idea what you’re up against.

  • Follow a script. After assessing all this information, create a rough script to follow on the day of the shoot. You’d be surprised how many small details you miss.


Shoot the necessary moments

Unless someone else commissions you, your emphasis stays on the bride and groom. The party, family, and setting are still important, but only because they support the imagery of the day’s events. Remain open to shooting anything interesting that happens and consider the following as must-haves:

  • The happy couple: Walking separately to the ceremony, walking down the aisle after married, first dance, and cutting the cake.

  • The couple’s parents: Walking down the aisle, entering the reception, dancing with the bride.

  • The family formals: It makes for interesting video to capture the waiting and anticipation.


  • Cultural moments: The breaking of a glass at a Jewish ceremony or hand-washing at a Korean wedding.

  • The guests: Weddings are about more than the day; it’s also a people event where families celebrate. Capture as much of that as you can and don’t forget about the little ones.


Create narrative shots through interviews

Some of the best visuals are those moments on camera when family and friends share their feelings for the happy couple. By talking to everyone from the bride and groom to the maid of honor to childhood friends, you can tell a story that goes beyond the rituals.

Try the following:

  • Come up with valid questions. Although you want folks to congratulate the newly married couple, you also want to delve deeper.

  • Listen to the speeches. Ask the best man or maid of honor more details about a story she shared for the toast.

  • Have an irreverent question in mind. It’s important to seek out those comedic elements.

Monitor your film’s audio

Control the audio like the head bean-counter at an accounting firm’s department of inner operations. Be sure to use a separate microphone for interviews, and let either the on-camera microphone or a separate shotgun microphone deal with ambient sound. Always make sure that audio signals are never over-modulated. Also, use headphones to monitor the audio and make adjustments when necessary.

Shoot plenty of b-roll

The b-roll is made up of the basic shots of all the elements of the day, including the church exterior, interior, wedding reception space, food, flowers, the DJ, dancing, eating, and anything else you may come across. All of these elements help with the pacing of the video, not to mention help cover the event.


Pay attention to focal length

Weddings are an interesting blend of expansive views and detail shots. It’s important to have at least a wide to moderate telephoto zoom lenses, perhaps a 24-105mm, as well as something ultra-wide and another lens in the telephoto range. Close-ups let you capture emotion, which blends nicely with some of the more irreverent content from the party.

Try some film tricks

There’s no reason why you cannot exercise your creative muscle, providing it works with the theme of the video.

Consider the following:

  • Change the pace. Set up the camera on a tripod to capture a time-lapse of people being seated.

  • Make a black-and-white version. You can do this in postproduction after the actual video is edited by making a second copy. If the married couple doesn’t like it, you can supply the original.

  • Produce a consumer DVD. Make a cover and include extras, outtakes, alternative versions, and other videos.


Make it happen with video edits

After you’ve captured everything the bride and groom have asked you to do, it’s time to put it together. Some believe that you should give the couple most of what you’ve shot, so they can finally enjoy the moment. The other idea is to show a shorter version with quick highlights. A fair compromise has you giving both: a raw-ish version of the day as well as an edited version.

For the edited package:

  • Keep the shots short. People get bored when the action doesn’t change after five or ten seconds.

  • Use b-roll for speeches. Now is the time to cutaway to b-roll while the best man, maid of honor and other dignitaries make their toasts.

  • Make a dance montage. This keeps the action moving.

  • Create a shot list. After you understand what you’ve got, you can begin to put it together on paper.

  • Avoid tacky transitions.

Finish the video edits on time

After the stress of the wedding and adjustment to married life, the happy couple wants to finally enjoy their special day via video. Deliver the video as soon as it’s finished. Taking a couple of weeks to deliver it is reasonable, but a month isn’t.