More and more brides today are wanting to have their special day encapsulated in video form.
Naturally, all brides hire a photographer to capture those moments that kids, grand-kids, and great grandchildren will be able to look back on. Photography is a well established industry in the wedding world and brides know what to look for, and what to expect. But wedding films, while truly a treasure and an heirloom, have not fully established themselves in the wedding niche and therefore, brides can be confused about what to expect and what is considered reputable business practices.

Today I want to look at 5 things all brides need to look for and be aware of when considering hiring a wedding filmmaker. These could be the red flags that could save you stress, headache, heartache, and possibly money:

 
 

1. Music Choice.

This seems like a strange topic to start out with, but it will make sense.
All wedding films have music in them. But not all wedding films are using that music legally.
Without getting into the legalities of it too deeply, the basics are this: If someone makes a film (whether for profit or not), and they want to use music in the film, they need permission to put that music in the film from the musician, (unless the filmmaker wrote and performed the music themselves). The musician made the music, wrote the music, paid for the studio time, paid for the promotion, etc... and so they deserve to be paid.

For us film makers, we have 3 options;

  1. Use a resource like musicbed.com to find the PERFECT song to match our films, and pay the licensing fee of $49 to $99 per song to use once (This is what I do).
  2. Pay thousands of dollars (even tens of thousands) to license a song that is very popular that is often heard in movies or on the radio (Not a viable option for most of us).
  3. Download a song for 99 cents that we like (Or that the client has chosen), and put it in the film without paying for the rights to the song (Very, very illegal).

If your videographer says "YES!" when you ask them if you can choose the song, beware; they are likely agreeing to use a song that can get them sued, and your film pulled down off any publicly shared social media or video site. I sometimes send my brides to musicbed.com and show them options. In the end, ALL of my brides for almost 10 years have let ME choose the song, and every bride has been over the moon of my choice. Not all songs fit every story or every couple. A professional videographer can find the song that is the perfect fit. An unprofessional videographer finds a song on iTunes, pays 99 cents for it, and uses it in your film.
Your love is precious, and is to be passed down from generation to generation. If your videographers takes shortcuts to save $49 by breaking the law, what other shortcuts will they take with your story? To me, committing a federal crime to tell a love story is the ultimate irony.
More information can be found here on this topic.

 

2. The no-meeting contract
We do weddings for people all over the country but mostly in East TN, West NC, and North GA. Sometimes I CAN'T meet with the bride due to distance. In cases like this, I either have a lengthy phone meeting (With BOTH the bride and groom) or we try to meet halfway sometime before signing a contract. I do this for several reasons:

  1. To get to know you. I can't tell your love story that is unique to you without knowing you a little first.
  2. To make sure you like me! The last thing you want (And I want) is for you to hire someone that annoys you who ends up following you around for 10 hours on a day that is supposed to be your least stressful and most happy day. If you don't meet your videographer, how do you know this person is going to be nice, fun, and stress-free?
  3. To make sure my shooting and editing style matches your story.

It's no secret that I don't take every wedding that inquires with me. Sometimes personalities do not click, and sometimes a wedding plan isn't going to mesh with the way I shoot or tell stories. However, if the videographer you wish to hire only speaks to you via email or texts, and never offers to meet with you in person before signing a contract (Even if you live in the same town), consider this a red flag. They may not have the same passion about your story that you want your filmmaker to have. Ask a videographer if you can meet with them sometime. Their excitement to meet you will be a good indication that they are the right pick to tell your story.

 

3. The over-booker.
Some wedding filmmakers will book LOADS of weddings per year, sometimes multiple weddings in one weekend. They will brag that they book 60+ weddings per year. When a weekend comes around and they realize they have double booked, they start asking the local videographers in town if they can cover one of those weddings. If no one can, then one of those bride's will not have a videographer that day. They choose which wedding to shoot and refund the other one. Don't be pulled in by the glamour of a videographer who claims they are booked every weekend because they may double book your weekend and run the risk of not having a video of your special day at all. Ask your videographer "About how many weddings to you do per year?" Anything over 40 and there's a good risk your wedding day may get double booked.

 

4. The long edit.
This goes hand in hand with number 3. Some videographers take MONTHS to edit a wedding film (I know one group that takes 6 months to edit a wedding film). This can be due to inexperience, poor time management, or they take weddings every weekend and those edits overlap, causing your film to take 3, 4, and even 6 months to finish. They'll suddenly get on a kick and try to knock out 3 or 4 weddings in a week. You don't want to be one of those wedding edits that gets rushed through. This is the reason I limit how many weddings I take per year (less than 20) so I can focus 100% of my editing time on YOUR wedding. Often times I am done with a film in 10 days. I realize that is fast for the industry and I don't know the "Secret" to me being so quick, but I think one reason is because I don't overbook. Ask the videographer you are communicating with how long they can expect to wait until their product is finished. 8 weeks or less is pretty standard.

 

5. The photographer-turned-videographer
For some reason, there are a handful of photographers who look at videography as "Photography 2.0"; They have the cameras, they know lighting, they know composition, so they feel they can make videos too! They offer photo and video packages which is very alluring to a bride (One less vendor to meet and pay). The truth is that a wedding film is nothing like making a photo album. My wedding films tell a story that no photos can ever tell. On the flip side, a videographer really has no business trying to do photography either. While both businesses use similar equipment, if you hire someone offering you both, they are giving you only half of their time and abilities to each aspect.
I've found that the majority of photographers who offer video services are fairly new to the industry and that inexperience will ensure you get a very average (at best) video. Your best bet is to find the photographer who's style you LOVE, and ask them what wedding filmmaker they recommend and have worked with before. Most of my referrals come from photographers I have worked with.

 

This list comes from being in the wedding industry for almost 10 years. I have heard all the horror stories and seen all the heart-ache because brides didn't do the research or notice the warning signs and red flags when hiring an inexperienced or fly-by-night wedding videographer. Hopefully this list will help you or someone you know as they begin their wedding planning!