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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old June 2nd, 2013, 01:19 PM   #1
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Highs and Lows at one wedding

At a typical UK church wedding, I would set up with main camera and tripod in the choir stalls, diagonally opposite the Bride at about 45 degree to the couple. That gives me a good view of both B&G and the guests and is usually the norm at 99% of the church weddings that I film. There is rarely room or permission for a second operator at the ceremony end of the church, although I occasionally use a double mount to get wide angle and close shots.

THE LOWS-
Yesterday after the preps, I arrived at the church early, working on my own and did the usual establishing shots, put a portable recorder on the groom and waited for the Vicar to arrive. On her arrival, she pointed out that I must film from behind a pillar to one side of the church, which was at 45 degrees behind the Bride and about 20 feet away. She would accept no discussion whatsoever and refused to allow a second unmanned camera. I was also responsible for still photographs and she would allow absolutely no photography at all during the service.

After the arrival of the Bride, I moved to my allocated position and waited for the Bride to come down the aisle. I wasn't allowed to move from behind the pillar to get the bride coming down the aisle, but worse was to come. The B&G took their place at the front and the bridesmaids and pageboys took the usual front pew position. The vicar however, asked them to come forward and stand at the front to one side, at a place that was immediately in front of me and about 2 feet from my camera. As they were also on a platform that was raised 12" higher than me, I could see absolutely nothing!

As I only use lightweight gear, the only solution was to hold the tripod over my head looking down over the Bridesmaids and using a wired remote for camera control. It was a nightmare for a 45 minute service, with the only letup when the Bridesmaids sat down. Fortunately, when the vicar had disappeared before the service for a few minutes, I had slipped a spare video camera on a mini tripod into a giant flower arrangement in front of where I hoped the B&G would stand. Luckily my guess was right and on checking today, found I had some great closeup footage throughout the service.

My video cameras also take 13mb stills while videoing, so I was able to constantly take totally silent stills using a remote IR control on the hidden camera and a wired one on the main camera. So one up against the vicar from Hell!

THE HIGHS
I started offering a still photo add on package to video clients a while ago and yesterday's wedding was one of them. The Groom was a farmer and decided to use a gigantic John Deere tractor as the Groom and Best Man's transport to the church. after the Bridal preps, I went to the farm and the whole thing was great fun. But the real cream on the cake for me was that there was no photographer leaping about as I was doing the stills. It was the perfect balance for me of what is best in photos and what is best in video, as I was able to arrange everything just the way I wanted it - Heaven! Although the work load was high, I felt under no pressure as it was all at my speed under my control.

The family were great, I was included in the meal, and at the end of the day the B&G and guests were full of compliments. What more could I have asked for? :-)

Roger
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 01:50 PM   #2
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

From all I have read here the past years it seems UK churches are very restrictive when it comes to what a videographer is allowed, I never have this in Belgium but have encountered it in the Netherlands. I also was told to stand in a position where I could not film a child that was having it's communion, the parents where afraid to say anything and when the ceremony started I moved slowly anyway until I got a view of the kid and luckily the priest did not react. If I was told to move back to my position I would have just packed my camera and tripod and went outside to wait until the ceremony was over.
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 02:22 PM   #3
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

And yet people with camera phones and the like seem to get off with it.
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 02:39 PM   #4
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Roger,
After reading yours and others post about the restriction that are placed on you at the churches in your country (mostly by the vicars who feel they wear the robes of G*d and therefore ARE) I can only say I am so glad I don't work there. I have run into those same types here but luckily not too many especially over the last 10 to 12 years, but still do on occasion and scratch my head in wonderment how they get along in life.
C'mon over here man, you'll feel like you're in paradise! ;-)
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 03:56 PM   #5
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Generally vicars here aren't too bad, it tends to be the restricted space in the Church that is the main problem, However there are a few vicars who seem to have absolutely no interest in the requirements of the couple who are paying a lot of money to the Church for the ceremony. As you say Don, some also seem to feel that rather than offering a welcoming face of religion, they are wielding some sort of omnipotent power that must be obeyed. No wonder more and more couples are choosing a non Church wedding.

Roger
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 04:45 PM   #6
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

You know how the saying goes..."Rules are Rules".

I often wonder how some rules were created. I know firsthand that a lot of videographers and photographers are the reason so many crazy rules are in place.

One example while filming a ceremony in a popular church, the priest explained to us no additional lighting and no flash pictures. Ok, my lights go back in the case.
Five minutes into the ceremony the photographer snaps away with his flash thinking the Priest is not going to get on him until after the ceremony. Well the Priest turned to the Photographer and reminded him of no flash in the church. The photographer in turn says , well just look at all those people in the audience using a flash. Bad, bad response. The priest tells the guy, you don't have to leave but for the remainder of the ceremony I need you to sit in the audience with your mouth shut, and no more pictures from you , period. Ahh man that was brutal in front of everybody, But he brought it on himself.

I think that's where a lot of the rules come from. I remember asking a Priest in a Episcopalian church where can I set up . He said anywhere as long as i can't see you. If i see you, you're in the wrong spot. It was hilarious, but I set up in a stairwell at the back of the altar. I got a decent shot, and besides he gave me my orders in front of the groom, so it was cool.

I learned early on to just laugh rather than fight back. Eventually these guys would come around. I actually made friends with a lot of Priest over time. It's an art to understanding their motivation. They are not mean or bad people but they view their roles and the role of the church much differently then we do and I respect that.. I actually had a well known Priest admit to me that nothing got him more upset then having a photographer or videographer on the aisle when the bride is entering with her father or leaving with her husband. He told me in no uncertain terms that that aisle belonged to them at those 2 moments with no obstructions. Wow, I never knew he felt so strongly about that. It pays to talk below the usual surface.

A wedding is one of those moments where we think we're so dam important, But we're not. the most important thing going on is the spiritual and religious union of these 2 people in the eyes of the church. Capturing that moment is secondary.

What always struck me in most of the weddings I shot was the strong bond between the couple and the clergy and the church as a whole.

my attitude is always "I come in Peace"

But the fact remains, rules are rules.
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 07:33 PM   #7
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Hi Roger

In Perth our 2012 stats showed that out of our local 12,000 weddings here only 32% were held in a Church! All the rest were civil weddings and if you look at the stats between 2008 and 2012 you see a gradual decline from using Churches. Funnily our Catholic Churches have become a lot more liberal and they offer a "no frills" 20 minute wedding without Mass and most are not fussy about camera positions.
Our C of E ones are still a pain in the butt with stuff similar to what you are discussing ..I guess they are trying to get out of holding weddings??

Yep we also have a lady Vicar at our main Anglican Church and she is very strict ..threw a photog out once!! She doesn't allow any guest photos and you stand where she tells you to stand !

Chris
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 07:42 PM   #8
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Unfortunately though Al, when the rules change to suit each vicar, it gets very frustrating. As an example, one local Church has had 3 vicars in 12 months and each one has had totally different rules, ranging from a welcoming attitude to video and photographs to another completely banning any video or photography during the ceremony. I even had one wedding where the vicar was very happy for the couple to be videoed when they booked the church, however the vicar changed before the wedding and the new vicar only allowed video from the back and no photography during the service. the couple were very unhappy and held back some of the Church fee.

There really needs to be a standard practice across the Churches and a code of conduct for videographers and photographers.

Roger
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 08:29 PM   #9
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Roger,
Yes rules changes from church to church here as well. But it is their church, they can make whatever rules they want.

**********There really needs to be a standard practice across the Churches and a code of conduct for videographers and photographers.********

Roger I think what you are forgetting is that video is not part of a ceremony or any religious ceremony. To them a wedding is a religious ceremony that happens to take place in what they refer to as a place of worship, house of God etc... You are a distraction if anything.

They have no obligation to accommodate us. I think building better relationships would really help. But the attitude that they should accommodate us just because we were hired by the bride doesn't fly.
I actually did a couple of charity jobs in a parish where I worked a lot. The gesture goes a long way. I forgot what they call it but my last free job was the ceremony where they introduce new nuns to the church. They asked if I could tape it. I did. Very good for our relationship.

Any good relationship includes something for both parties.
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Old June 2nd, 2013, 09:49 PM   #10
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Sadly it's not just the Church as such or the area it's in...I did a Saturday wedding at a Church I shoot at on a regular basis and the resident priest was away on vacation and the stand in had a completely different set of rules. However they were fair and easily worked around.

I think it was George Kilroy (sorry if I'm wrong) who booked and couple and after speaking to the vicar, she told him bluntly it was a formal service so video and photos were restricted to the bride walking into the Church and then the bride walking out ....that was a little over the top!!

I always, always make a point of attending rehearsals, meeting and chatting to the vicar/priest and that helps a lot. They often treat photogs who just pitch up on the day without even introducing themselves with a more hostile approach that if you took the time and effort to get to the rehearsal and get onto their side! You catch more flies with honey!

Chris
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Old June 3rd, 2013, 05:56 AM   #11
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

I have a very diplomatic and respectful approach to all Vicars and never get angry or rude with them, even the vicar from Hell at the weekend. I don't however support the view that it is their Church and the House of God, therefore we should happily go along with anything they want ( even though I do)

The Church is a place of worship for members of the community and in the UK is controlled by the Parochial Church Council under the auspices of the Bishop. The PCC is made up of various community members headed by the Vicar, and are usually old farts and busybodies who like to feel important by telling everyone else what they should do. The Anglican Church has very clear guidelines and recommendations regarding video and photography of weddings, but Vicars have the final say and frequently go against the guidelines..

There is also massive hypocrisy with frequently quoted lines like 'The wedding ceremony is a solemn and religious ceremony in the eyes of God and not something to be made a spectacle of' or 'I don't want the couple or worshippers being distracted by video or photographic equipment during a deeply religious ceremony. Yet the Vicar will be using a radio mic, frequently distorted or on the edge of feedback, there will quite often be recorded music or ghetto blaster instead of the organ, and pop songs are often used to walk in to. How a videographer in a fixed discrete position is more distracting or disrespectful than that, I don't know. Yet while restricting the ordinary citizen in what they will allow, when big money and publicity is involved, everything is fine, such as Royal weddings, or 'important' people, with multi cameras televising worldwide.

At my wedding last week, where I was put behind the Bridesmaids and not allowed stills, the entire area opposite me in full view of the congregation, was filled with a drum kit, PA speakers, keyboard , mic stands and two guitars, nothing to do with the wedding. When I asked politely if they were to be moved, I was told quite bluntly that they belonged to the church and were used regularly. Ok, that's all right then!! Also that same Church is 100 yards from Ely Cathedral, where the film Elizabeth was filmed a couple of years back causing great disruption for weeks and at great profit to the Cathedral funds.

Let's also not forget that the couple as community members are not there for a solemn oppressive indoctrination, in my experience, they are there because the vast majority think a Church wedding looks nice, it's traditional and they want it recorded so that they can look back on it. The Church in my opinion should treat a wedding including the accompanying professionals, as an opportunity to broaden their appeal to the community particularly at a time of considerable mistrust of the church following years of double standards and disgraceful behaviour.

Just as I am contracted and paid to,supply a service, so is the Church contracted and paid as a business, with the building, the Vicar and the organist hired for probably an hour or so for between 500-1000. Oh yes it is definitely a business, but one that frequently pretends it isn't.

I am not anti Churches or religion, having my own beliefs, but I am against cronyism and hypocrisy! Oh and I still can't find anything in the bible that says 'Thou shalt not have video in a Place of worship'.

Roger
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Old June 3rd, 2013, 10:04 AM   #12
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Roger,
That is one interesting diatribe. While you say you don't have anything against the church, your writing certainly suggest otherwise. I detect a deep seated resentment.
And if the church would subscribe to the same line of thinking about you, I guess their conclusion would be that you contribute nothing to the Church.
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Old June 3rd, 2013, 10:08 AM   #13
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

I feel your pain Roger - IMO it tends to be Church of England vicars as opposed to Catholic or Methodist priests/ministers. I am returning to film at a priory in North Yorkshire where I had a similar horror a few years back - I was only allowed to stand halfway down the church in a side aisle and no extra cameras - no discussion! I'm waiting to see if it's the same vicar - and in this instance the couple were charged a fee to allow them to have it filmed!

Another example is where i was allowed right at the front on the groom's side, alongside the alter step - with no extra cameras and the vicar had the couple literally toes against the alter step - blocked by the groom and best man (who for some reason stayed there for most of the service) the bride is hardly in the video at all!

I don't consider it my job to get into any sort of heated debate with the clergy - i always mention the possibility of restrictions in the church when I meet my couples and If I go to the rehearsal i can make them aware of any prior to the wedding - we can only work with what we've got - if the vicar says NO then that's it! I don't sweat about it any more.

I have heard of horror stories regarding videographers and photographers being shouted, at or even asked to leave the ceremony for moving from their allotted 'spot' - maybe these are urban myths, maybe not, but I've never seen an officiant shout at one of the guests who flashes away during the service - which i see often - food for thought!

Having said that the Catholic priest I had in Harrogate on Saturday was great - could not have been more accommodating :)

Pete

Last edited by Peter Rush; June 3rd, 2013 at 10:39 AM.
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Old June 3rd, 2013, 11:32 AM   #14
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

On the bright side at the wedding I shot last Saturday in a very narrow church I was put in the pulpit which was on the bride's side but wasn't too high so I had a really great view. The photographer was consigned to the back of the church so I shot some stills for him & he made sure not to block the view of my locked off camcorder shooting straight down the aisle from the back.
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Old June 3rd, 2013, 07:45 PM   #15
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Re: Highs and Lows at one wedding

Hi Al

Roger? Deep seated resentment?? That's a little over the top don't you think?

I'm pretty much sure that a nice guy like Roger certainly does not have any such feelings against Vicars, Churches or Religion.

We are simply relating what happens during shoots and the fact that it happens to be a Church that is making our job very difficult is coincidental ....It could be a different venue type but it just happens that the major headaches seem to be Churches.

We do try to be light hearted and friendly here so let's keep it that way

Chris
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