5 un-sexy questions to ask before you hire a wedding videographer
You want a videographer who will capture your love story — someone who can create a video that will still make you ugly cry when you watch it 50 years from now.
What you don't want is a videographer who will lose your footage, get caught up in a legal dispute or spend your wedding day so focused on technical issues that you miss out on the best moments.
Luckily, you can learn a lot about your videographer by asking the right questions before you hire them.
Having filmed weddings for a while now, I've realized how important it is to ask your videographer about their process and what goes on behind the scenes.
That way, you can decide whether you can trust them to film your wedding — a day that only happens once.
Question #1: How many audio sources do you use for the ceremony?
Why this matters: In five years of filming weddings, one of the biggest lessons I've learned is that Plan A only works about half the time.
If a videographer has no backup plan for capturing an essential part of the wedding day, you’re playing with fire. And nowhere is this more relevant than with audio.
Any wedding filmmaker worth their salt will have at least three audio sources to capture your vows during the ceremony.
I can’t tell you how many times an audio recording has come back unusable, for reasons totally out of the videographer's control. It can be echoey or fuzzy, or sometimes a cord came unplugged and there's no recording at all. Imagine if that was the only audio source?
We also attach a recorder to a line from the DJ’s soundboard. And sometimes we’ll hide another recorder somewhere at the altar for good measure (under a bush, on the podium, etc.).
We choose not to mic the bride because we’ve found it can be difficult to hide wires under a dress without being invasive. It's easy to hide recorders in the groom's and officiant's jackets. The bride’s voice is captured with the mics attached to them. It always works.
All that to say, if your videographer uses three or four methods to record your ceremony, you can be sure one of them will work.
Bonus audio question: Do you use wireless microphone packs?
If a videographer relies heavily on wireless audio packs… again, playing with fire.
There are so many things that can interfere with wireless audio (weather, cell phones, airplanes flying overhead). We use fully wired packs that require us to sync the audio with the video later.
More work? Yes. But, it’s that much more dependable.
Question #2: Do you have your FAA Part 107 Airman Certificate (A.K.A. Drone License)?
Why this matters: This question really only applies to you if you’re interested in having a aerial footage at your wedding. But if you are, then definitely read on.
The FAA Part 107 Airman Certificate (easy to remember, right?) is the name of the license that is legally required for a business to fly a drone in the United States.
If a filmmaker wants to fly a drone as part of a business transaction, then they're required by law to read a government handbook about airspace laws, air traffic control procedures and meteorology and then go to the airport, pay a fee and pass a knowledge test.
In the future, the laws might change to make flying drones more accessible, but for now it’s just the way it is. And any filmmaker who offers drone footage but doesn’t have their license is saying that they are planning to break the law at your wedding.
While a videographer could probably get away with breaking this law 99.9% of the time, every once in awhile the FAA makes an example out of someone and slaps them with a fine. And the wedding film they were creating gets tied up in a legal dispute.
Our answer: Yes, we're licensed. We don't break the law when someone's wedding is on the line.
I’ve taken the test — and yes, it was a pain. But I passed, and now I don’t have to worry about any potential legal trouble or getting fined thousands of dollars by the FAA.
And more importantly, my clients don't have to worry about losing those sweet aerial shots that they thought they were getting in their film.
Question #3: How is your wedding footage backed up?
Why this matters: This goes hand-in-hand with my mantra: “Plan A only works half the time.”
Digital video files are like any other file. They need to be stored on drives. And I’m sure you’ve heard stories about computer hard drives failing or becoming “corrupted.” Maybe it’s even happened to you.
It’s a real threat that can happen to anyone at anytime with no warning — that’s just how computers are. Not to mention that drives could always get lost or stolen.
This is why I believe any filmmaker should have your wedding footage backed up on at least two separate drives stored in separate locations.
This will significantly reduce the likelihood of losing your footage to a damaged, lost or stolen drive.
Our answer: Our clients' wedding day moments are incredibly important to us, so we make sure nothing can happen to them.
We keep all wedding footage on our office server and we have two additional backup drives — one stored at an off-site location and the other locked in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
Question #4: How many shooters would be at my wedding?
Why this matters: If you hire a solo shooter, then you're taking on quite a bit of risk.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, there are a ton of moving parts when creating a wedding film — and with that comes lots of potential for error.
If anything weird happens at all — a camera dies, a tripod gets kicked, or two important parts of your wedding day happen at the same time — then a solo videographer is forced to choose between addressing a technical issue or focusing on your day.
If everything is going smoothly, then a solo shooter is going to be fine. But who wants to roll the dice?
A team of two or more videographers has the capacity to focus on the priceless moments of your wedding day, while managing the inevitable technical issues that pop up. Not to mention, having two shooters will make for much better all-around coverage of your wedding.
Our answer: We always, always, always send two shooters to a wedding. It's like insurance — you'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Question #5: Do you license your music?
Why this matters: Here comes another legal answer. Any time a videographer uses music in a film, they need permission to use the songs. So unless your videographer has composed and/or recorded the music themselves, they need to obtain a license.
There are several proven ways to do this that work really well — and they all cost money. Any videographer who cuts corners here and opts not to purchase music licenses is running the risk of incurring a fine and having the video banned by some of the biggest online video platforms like Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook.
Our answer: We want every client to be able to share their wedding video with friends and family, without having to worry about it getting taken down by a major video platform, so we license our music.
We have accounts with several independent music licensing companies and we’ve never failed to source great soundtracks legally.
That's it! While it's always wise to come up with some of your own questions as well, these five questions should help you to quickly find out if a videographer will be able to dependably deliver — or if they're cutting corners and putting your wedding film at risk.
Owner of NW Creatives