I DIY'd my own wedding video—here's how to avoid my mistakes

Oh the irony. The professional wedding videographer, who is always telling you NOT to DIY your own wedding video... DIY'd his own wedding video. It's almost too ironic for words.

Every bit of it is true, though.

I'm a professional wedding videographer who had to bootstrap his own wedding video.

Why am I confessing this? Because I know that despite wanting to hire a professional, sometimes the situation won't allow a dollar to stretch any farther that it's already been stretched and I believe that knowledge is power. 

By learning from what I did wrong (simply and happily handing our camera over to a good friend and having a sister with a new camera but untested skills take our pictures) I hope to help you have a better experience.

Here's our story.

We were two struggling kids outside of NYC trying to make it on our own—I just started freelancing weddings at the time and my wife is a graphic designer. We believed we could do a good job scrapping together some memories on the world's smallest wedding budget.

Most important to note: we set our expectations appropriately. We did not expect great things, which is good considering that they were far from what we would have gotten from hired professionals.

The day was quite lovely. We had a small elopement at my parent's house and were married in front of the fireplace. My wife, an incredible baker, made our wedding cakes. I set my camera up on a tripod and a friend manned it while I was, well, getting married. 

My older sister just got a professional-grade camera and offered to take our wedding pictures. Of course, professional-grade cameras operate differently than point-and-shoot cameras. Every single shot was a blurry mess.

But, when all was said and done, these two disastrous pieces of media are very endearing to us because they are the memories of our wedding day. Which is the most important takeaway... you will want something to record your memories of that day because even though our wedding was tiny, we still didn't remember much of it.

One of the keys to avoiding total DIY regret is that we were prepared for a home-baked experience.

We knew that by not having full control over our photos and video would make for a less-than professional quality and made sure not to personally be upset at the level of skill that each person dedicated to the experience.

We still framed the blurry pictures (which we had retaken on our 14th anniversary—and again when we recently renewed our vows at a Cape Cod Bridal Show) and we edited our poorly lit, badly shot video into a very short synopses complete with honeymoon coverage (because we had hardly any wedding footage to speak of).

The flubs, as it turns out, are representative of the silliness and antics of our two families joining together that day.

Perfect probably would have been weird (nice... but weird). We re-watch and laugh at the terribleness of our wedding video and how much better videos are now. And recognize the the sweet, sweet irony of our own video having turned out so poorly. But even with that, we like to know that our muck-ups can help couples who find themselves in the same situation we did.

If we had any kind of wedding budget to speak of back then, I would have hired professionals.

If you HAVE to DIY your own wedding... listen, we professionals totally get it (and clearly, some of us have even had to do it ourselves, once upon a time).

 

 

If you have friends filming your wedding for you, you might be interested in reading:

Here are some tips on how to DIY a better wedding video and some important things to expect during the wedding.

First, let's pick our poison. Apple bills the iPhone as a studio in your pocket so let's assume most people will be using an iPhone.

Before you do anything, make sure you have adequate available memory on your phone to capture footage. Video files are very large and they take up a lot of space and you'll probably want them to upload to some kind of cloud service (like Dropbox, which also comes with a free 30 day trial or Flickr which gives you 1 TB of free storage).

Your battery is going to drain quick, so keep that in mind and make sure your phone is fully charged and the battery is reliable, not one that drains to 5% after 20 minutes of usage. Also, remember to bring a power cord because you'll need to recharge since there are no replaceable battery packs.

You do not want to see this message come up when you've got an irreplaceable memory on the line. Anyone with an iPhone knows how frustrating this notification can be when you're trying to capture a special moment.

You do not want to see this message come up when you've got an irreplaceable memory on the line. Anyone with an iPhone knows how frustrating this notification can be when you're trying to capture a special moment.

Things you will have control over as a videographer:

  1. Quality control. You're in luck, you pretty much have a nicer quality camera in your back pocket than I had professionally 16 years ago. Quality-wise you're already ahead of the game. Yay! If you haven't already, take sometime to really familiarize yourself with your smartphone camera because it can do some really cool things with filters, slow motion, and editing. Make sure you know how to get it to focus and how to adjust the exposure.
     
  2. Steadiness. If you want a video that's watchable, you need to make sure you hold that camera steady—all the time. That, my friend, is so much harder than you think it's going to be. So. Much. Harder. You can get a monopod for your smartphone but it's not a perfect solution, you still have to keep an eye out for swaying side-to-side. Practice before the wedding. Often.
     
  3. Shoot a lot of footage. Don't stop filming every 15 seconds. The beauty of crafting a wedding video happens in post production and you're going to need a good amount of footage to edit and that doesn't work well with a bunch of choppy 15 second clips. Long, steady shots. And get that footage up to cloud storage ASAP, you do not want to lose that footage.
     
  4. Sobriety. Be prepared not to drink. Covering a friend's wedding is almost like being a designated driver. You are now responsible for the outcome of this video and you don't want to be drunk, tipsy, or feelin' a little good. It makes you sloppy and causes you to make mistakes. Remember, this isn't about your guest-experience anymore, it's about the couple's wedding memories that they will cherish, literally, for the rest of their lives. No pressure.
     
  5. Editing. When you edit the footage make sure you tell the story the bride wants told and not what you think is personally amusing. Your inside joke is not what they want as a core wedding memory. Unless they've told you it is, then that's totally cool. Otherwise, leave it out. You're looking for romance, touching moments, special moments with family, fun dancing, and an overall joyous feeling.
     
  6. Delivery. How are people going to watch this film? Online? Streaming TV? Blu-ray? DVD? (Yikes) VHS? Think about how you're going to get it from your phone/computer to their loving hands. Standard computers can read but not burn DVDs or Blu-Rays. Thumb-drives are good. Make sure the thumb-drive is blank before you load their movie onto it.

Things you will NOT have control over as a videographer:

  1. Audio. Depending on where you're standing, you might not even get ANY audio. Vows? You won't have them because you'll be seated in the pews. Speeches? Not unless you're standing right next to them, or they'll be really faint. The audio from the DJ or the band will probably blow out and be unlistenable. Be prepared for that. You can invest in a tiny iOS shotgun mic for a few bucks and that will make a lot of difference, they can also get to be pretty pricey so just weigh your options. If you're DIY'ing your budget is tight. 
     
  2. Other guests with smartphones. Unless you're lucky enough to be the only smartphone allowed at an unplugged wedding, other people will get in your way. A lot. Things will get ugly in there when everyone is jostling for a good shot. If you're not experienced, there's a good chance that a lot of your footage will be of other people taking pictures or video of the bride and groom.
     
  3. You'll be surprised when special events happen. Need to go to the bathroom? Want to eat dinner? Good questions... but you're the videographer so before you think of yourself you need to know... Is the first dance coming up? Cake cutting? Parent dances? Speeches? You're going to miss something special and someone will be disappointed.
     
  4. Drunk guests. If you're not at a dry wedding you're going to have to navigate overly friendly and obnoxiously drunk guests. It's not a judgement, it's a fact. You know who loves being filmed? Drunk people. They're going to be attracted to you like a moth to a flame. You will get bumped, your stuff might have sticky cocktails spilled on it.

    Also, your camera will now become the most interesting piece of equipment they've ever seen in their life. There will be conversations about what you're using, how you're using it, and how they do the same thing in their spare time. You will be distracted from important events. Find a way to graciously excuse yourself so you can do your job. They will find you again. Rinse and repeat.

DIYing a wedding video is no small feat to accomplish—at the end of the day, give yourself a good pat on the back.

There's a lot of pressure on the DIY wedding videographer to deliver the best memories of the biggest day of this couple's life. It can be done well but many people are caught off-guard at how difficult the job really is.

Lack of preparation, practice, and skill are what kill a lot of DIY wedding videos. This is why professional videography and photography are well worth the investment.

You aren't just paying for their time at your wedding, you're paying for their years of professional experience, their investments in equipment and education, and the assurances those investments give you that your wedding film will actually be perfect and not a grainy, shaky mess. 

Focus and take your DIY job seriously. A lot of couples wish they hired professionals after their wedding so do your best at making sure you have all your bases covered. This video will be more important to you than you expect.

If you have the means to hire a professional, great! (And if you haven't already poked around, check out my wedding video gallery.)

If this guide sounds like something a friend could use, please share it with them or pin it on Pinterest. You might just be helping another couple avoid some pretty big video mistakes.


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