How shooting wedding videos helped me become a better camera operator

I started my professional film-making career 6 years ago shooting weddings, barmitzvahs, parties and other events. It was a great stepping stone that I’m forever grateful for as they helped develop my camera operating skills and led me to shooting with some of the biggest brands and businesses in the world.

Wedding videography is a full time job for many people around the world. I’ve had the pleasure of being part of over 100 couple’s special days and when done correctly it can be a very lucrative career move. I applaud those that sacrifice their weekends all year round. I only ever shot weddings for other people so I can’t talk about marketing or getting clients as this was always done by someone else.

Bride - James Wray Weddings

I don’t shoot weddings any more but I learnt a hell of a lot on the job and thought I’d share some insights as to why it helped me become a better camera operator.

  • Shooting fast and concisely

    The bride only walks down the aisle once. The ‘first look’ from either the groom or father of the bride only happens once. The first kiss as a married couple only happens once. Therefore, it’s very important to know the running order, get into position, and be rolling for these magical moments. You need to get the shot and move on. I now shoot a lot of observational documentaries where moments only happen once and I rarely miss the shot.

  • Using natural and available light

    As a wedding videographer your task is to blend in and capture each and every detail seamlessly without drawing too much attention to yourself. If you suddenly set up a massive 1K light dome during bridal prep then you’re definitely not blending in. It forces you to move around and frame your shots more precisely. I would always kindly ask the make-up to be applied near a window. This meant I could expose for the highlights and utilise the lovely, soft natural light to capture beautiful skin tones. It also allowed for ‘artistic’ silhouettes from time to time. When the parties began in the evening the lighting was usually pretty dark. I would always switch to prime lenses shooting at F1.4 or F2 in order to allow as much light in as possible. As they are fixed focal lengths it meant I had to move around rather than become complacent shooting from one position.

Bride 2 - James Wray Weddings
  • Dealing with a variety of people and personalities

    Mostly legends. Some bridezillas. Some drunk uncles. Weddings are obviously a celebration and most people tend to have a drink or ten throughout the day. After a full day of drinking some people may try and get too friendly. The key is to always remain professional and courteous. No matter how many times I was asked to take someone’s picture (I’m clearly holding a video camera). I always try to be patient with rude people. Weddings can be stressful for the families organising it and sometimes they can get short tempered with suppliers. Always remember to remain calm and be as helpful as possible, they’ll thank you for this later, and may even apologise if they realise they were out of order.

  • Being on your feet for 12 hours and remaining focused.

    Weddings start with bridal preparation which typically starts between 9-10am. It’s called a wedding day because it lasts ALL day, sometimes going on until midnight. Thankfully most venues won’t serve past midnight due to drinking laws and the night winds down. You’re almost constantly on your feet in ‘smart-ish’ shoes which aren’t the most comfortable. I learned to take breaks when I could and have a running order in my pocket so that I didn’t miss a beat.

  • Networking

    I used my wedding shoots as opportunities to network with photographers and other video shooters. We would chat business during breaks and this often led to helping each other get work. I was very fortunate that I was working with people who are at the absolute top of their game because of this I have received tons of work outside of weddings from the relationships I’ve built. I’m still in touch with a bunch of them today.

    I have found that a lot of wedding photographers/ videographers also had other sides of their businesses. This could be corporate work, festivals, music videos and some even working on dramas. Chat to everyone and anyone as you never know where that relationship may lead you.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my 2 years of shooting weddings and parties. I was surrounded by happy guests who had gotten dressed up for the day, and I got paid well for working. I’d recommend any entry level camera operator looking to make some money and develop their skills to contact local wedding production companies and offer your services. I could have shot a lot more weddings annually but capped it at 50 a year in order to remain creative as it’s easy to take on too much and burn out.

All the stills are taken from a wedding I shot on behalf of James Wray Weddings.

I now shoot TV commercials, sports events, travel films and corporate productions for a variety of agencies. I also run my own video production company called Dead Pixel Films specialising in commercial and outdoor adventure video content. Check out my latest project which was shot around Venice, Italy.

I post regularly on instagram so come follow me for more behind the scenes fun. @calthomsonfilm