Interestingly, even though there are more expenses involved with wedding video production, rates for a good wedding video track pretty closely with good photography.
The reason a perception exists that wedding videos should be cheaper than photography is that there is a bigger glut of new videographers out there than there are new photographers.
To make it in photography, one generally needs some training background as well as a lot of experience. And the cost of cameras and lenses used by good photographers is relatively high.
Yet somehow newcomers to video feel they can get away with little training or experience. HD video cameras can be obtained for much less than the cost of a quality SLR, and many editing programs (such as iMovie) are free.
This is the YouTube generation and many of these new videographers are simply from the School of YouTube. And it’s not a very good school.
Anyway, let’s get back to costs.
Costs and Quality
In both videography and photography, you can consider that there are broadly 5 different classes of product available:
(the following rates are summarized arbitrarily from a search of websites and blogs on the subject)
1) FREE (Uncle Joe films or photographs your wedding).
2) BASIC (generally new, un-seasoned and unestablished videographers and photographers establishing their portfolio). Rates: £350-£550
3) PROFESSIONAL QUALITY. Trained and experienced professionals who know what they’re doing and can competently produce a quality product that won’t disappoint. Rates: £650-£1100
4) TOP PROFESSIONAL QUALITY. Two factors influence this category: 1) specialized expertise gained from long experience in a particular genre, 2) equipment. By equipment is meant not only top quality cameras, but specialized camera support systems similar to that used in Theatrical Film productions. Rates: £1200-£2500
5) UBER PROFESSIONAL QUALITY. This refers to famous photographers who can charge whatever they want (typically in the 10s of thousands of pounds) and who are booked solid years in advance. I’ve not yet heard of videographers having achieved this status, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
The Difference Between Videography and Photography
There is a difference. I say that because some videographers in the BASIC category as well as the PROFESSIONAL QUALITY category spend too much screen time shooting inanimate objects which they must think is “arty” or something.
Let the photographers do that.
Video is about capturing motion and telling a story.
And the fundamental conventions of that subject have been developed over the last 100 years. There are lots of books and texts on the subject and whatever has been written about cinematography is equally applicable to videography. It’s simply a different medium.
To give a perfect illustration of what I mean, please click on the video below. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. Just watch the FIRST SHOT and see the choreography of motion and emotion that unfolds in the first 20 seconds.
And that’s the sort of thing a good videographer captures and puts into your wedding video.
A photograph can’t do that.
So What About Video Costs?
I mentioned above that more expenses are involved with video. If nothing else, those costs involve the hiring or paying of additional cameramen.
You simply can not produce a professional film of a live event with a single camera. That’s what Uncle Joe can do (bless him). He’ll have to be zooming in and out and all over the place to get everything and it will make you dizzy. And he’ll miss half of it in the process.
In the PROFESSIONAL QUALITY category you will generally find that the company will provide at least two cameramen. That’s bare minimum. Better still is two cameramen and a 3rd unmanned camera shooting a wide shot of the church or ceremony.
Now assuming one camera is in a fixed position and assigned to the actual ceremony full time, the second cameraman is free to shoot alternate angles of the ceremony, shoot from 2 or 3 different positions in the venue to provide different viewpoints, and also shots of various of your family and guests. All that, done to a plan based on having attended the rehearsal, and with the footage from the unmanned 3rd camera, it is possible to produce a very professional video edit.
So, for about the same cost as a professional photographer, a professional videographer will automatically also be incurring the costs of at least one if not two additional cameramen.
Then to produce the video, he will have to import and synchronize as much as 4-5 hours of video (or more), in addition to separate digital audio recordings from devices placed on the groom or pastor (or both) and often one at the podium where speeches are made. Then he has to organize all of it in the editing program (electronically label everything) so it can be found when needed in the edit. Once edited, the sound has to be mixed, music added, titles, etc. And this generally takes about a week full time for a given wedding.
You can start to see that at a rate of £950, with cameramen expenses taken out, the videographer is making probably less than £100/day to produce a wedding video.
And this is assuming that it is a professional who will go the extra mile to make sure it is something you will love and he will be proud of–as opposed to some sort of assembly line throw-it-together edit which wouldn’t be professional anyway.
A Little Story
I was actually prompted to write this article after a recent series of emails with a prospective client, a lovely girl who is trying to nail down all the major vendors for her wedding next year.
I wasn’t able to come down to her budgeted cost. She was so persistent that I almost considered a compromise, but first asked her where the wedding was to take place. It turns out to be a huge beautiful church, almost a small cathedral.
I knew at once that I’d need a 3rd manned camera during the ceremony and told her so.
She protested, explaining that there were only 130 guests and that the wedding was to be held in a certain portion of the church.
Then I realized what she didn’t understand.
It wasn’t me trying to jack up the price.
It was me knowing by long experience that in a large beautiful venue like that, you can not cover it with one fixed camera on the ceremony (which is a must!) and only one other to shoot the various angles around the church (from the back to the front, from the front toward the back, audience shots, family shots, bridal entrance, etc. One guy running around like a maniac trying to be in all the right places at the right time during a fast moving ceremony 1) couldn’t do it, 1) would be a distraction.
You split the task between two cameraman who can each have one or two different spots to shoot from at different times while still giving full coverage from various angles of the ceremony itself. And its’ all done according to shoot plan which is worked out during the rehearsal which is attended by the primary cameraman.
You can get away with two cameramen in a typical smaller church or venue, but in a large one with scope and grandeur, you’d be silly to not have at least 3 cameramen in addition to unmanned cameras.
Look at it this way: The location you’ve chosen is obviously an important and significant part of this very special day. You’ll expect it to feature as the backdrop to your wedding. Yet you’d be disappointed if so much time was spent on the church that you couldn’t see yourselves during the ceremony, and you’d be disappointed if so much footage was on the ceremony or flower arrangements that you never get to see the church, and you’d be very disappointed if the ceremony footage was always the same camera constantly zooming in and out on you….
The art of cinematography and videography has much to do with the seamless integration of multiple viewpoints from multiple cameras. Two cameras can be made to look like 4 or 5 cameras if one has the freedom to change position. Three cameras can be made to look like 6 or 8 when two have the freedom to change position.
A good editor puts it all together so seamlessly you’re not even aware of the cameras. Instead you’re given the best possible opportunity to re-experience the event.
And a good videographer will automatically do all this without you’re having to ask.
So in considering costs, don’t expect a professional video for less than £650 which is probably border-line for professional quality anyway.
And don’t expect one if the videographer only uses one manned camera.
And don’t use price as the only gauge. Look at their work!
Are they being glorified still photographers or calling attention to their marvelous qualities with fancy camerawork,
or are they capturing the essence of the wedding, cherished moments and emotions that bring tears to your eyes every time you watch?
Is the editing style seamless (you don’t even notice it because it flows so smoothly from one shot to the next) or is it distracting with dated electronic transitions and effects?
You do get what you pay for. But just like anything else, there are those who will charge you more than they’re product is worth.
You’ll know by their samples if they are good enough for your wedding.