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


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Old September 18th, 2014, 06:23 PM   #1
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First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Hi everyone,

New to the forum but finding it super useful for gather info ahead of my first wedding shoots in a few weeks. To set the scene, I'm shooting two weddings on consecutive days, both free of charge so that I can build experience and generate a few portfolio films to gather paying jobs. Aim is to output a highlights film of 5-8 minutes, but also aim to capture ceremony and speeches in full so that I can offer these as paid services moving forward.

I will be shooting these weddings solo, so eager to understand how to get best coverage of ceremony and speeches with combo of active and static cameras. My gear (mostly mine but some borrowed) includes:

- Canon 6D
- Canon 5D Mk ii (borrow from friend)
- Canon 550D/T2i
- Canon 50mm 1.4
- Canon 24-70mm Mk i (borrow from friend)
- Canon 10-22mm, 18-55, 55-250 (all EF-S mounts and only compatible with 550D)
- Benro Monopod
- Miller Tripod (borrow from friend)
- Sony Wireless Lav System (borrow from friend)
- Rode Videomic Pro

I'm looking at using the 6D as main active camera so with monopod and 50mm, this should cover almost all of bride/groom prep, and similar set-up will be main camera at reception.

Additionally, looking to purchase Zoom H6 for audio as well as perhaps a Rode SmartLav+ or Zoom H1 and wired lav for additional micing of groom or celebrant during ceremony.

A few questions I have are:

- With 2-3 cameras, what would be suggested camera set-up at the ceremony?
- Would the 55-250 kit lens on 550D be sufficient for static shots as my wide shot down the centre aisle for the majority of ceremony?
- In your experience, can the close up over the grooms shoulder of the bride's face be locked off once ceremony starts, or will I need to man this camera? Ideally would like to be roaming with 6D to get more creative shots, but could check back regularly to ensure bride close up was composed/in focus.

ANY and ALL ADVICE is greatly appreciated!
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Old September 18th, 2014, 06:59 PM   #2
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

1. Lots of ways you can do it. Here's one. One of the cameras: leave wide the entire time, framing up entire stage area. Don't touch it. Other cameras... During processional, one camera on groom, one on bride. During ceremony proper, one close-up of speaker, one cutaway. During signing: one wide, one close-up. During recessional: both cameras at end of aisle, one wide, one close.

2. Everything depends on layout. If that's a 1.6 crop factor, then you've got 88-400. That seems too tight for me, but everything depends on layout. You'd be safer with the equivalent of 24-70 full frame.

3. You're imagining they walk up the aisle, they stand facing each other, and then they stay there for the rest of the ceremony? Well, just depends. What if they walk around? What if they sit down and stand up again? What if the priest positions them in a different way (I had one priest have both people facing the audience for vows recently)? What if... Short answer: "closeup" and "unmanned" in the same sentence is normally a recipe for trouble, but maybe you can get away with it.
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Old September 18th, 2014, 09:24 PM   #3
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Adrian is right. More detail is needed to know what to do.

First, plan your audio well. We use 3 pocket recorders and/or lavs to cover 1) the groom to guarantee the vows, 2) lav on the pastor for most of the service goes to aisle camera, 3) the readings or ambient noise

The camera's will depend on the kind of shots you want to deliver. Do you want faces coming down the aisle? Close-up shots of each the B&G during vows? (we use 50-250mm on crop factor for the vow closeups, btw).

For camera placement, your church's layout and it's rules matter. Here in the U.S., many/most churches have a center aisle and outside aisles. My wife and I will have:

Camera A) a center aisle camera in back, that is the primary coverage. During the processional, it's pre-focused on the groom/pastor action, and framed wide enough to see the guests on either side.
Camera B) in the outside aisle, up front, next to the front row on the bride's side (the left, when looking from the back). This gives you a clean look at the groom during the processional (medium shot) and the vows (tight, over her shoulder). My wife man's this, and will also get parent faces and such during the service.
Camera C) opposite side with a clean look at the bride's face, tight during the vows. During the processional, I'll have it on a monopod, and crouch up front (bride's side) to get the wedding party and the bride entering, then retreat once she's up front, and walk around the back, to get to my tripod on the other side.
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Old September 18th, 2014, 09:28 PM   #4
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

you have three cameras to look after, but you mention one tripod! you'd probs need another one.
also remember the 5D has a 12 minute video limit, it's easy to forget!
I use a mixture of DSLR and video cams, I always have spare everything, thats cards, batteries, cameras, audio, lens and so on..

Regarding the layout, the only way to determine this is, if at all possible visit the location, talk to the celebrant, consult with the B&G attend the rehearsal if there is one, you can check sound and lighting conditions at this time also, ask where the readers are going to be? find out as much as you can of the sequence of events as possible, theres nothing worse than something taking place that your unaware of and maybe having the cameras in the wrong position etc.
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Old September 18th, 2014, 11:07 PM   #5
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

I asked the very same question on another video forum quite a long time ago and the first reply I got was

"Run, run as fast as you can from doing weddings" Well, I never ran and I survived too.

Only basic hints I can offer are, like Adrian says, have one camera running all the time, high up on a lighting stand (at least 7' up in the air) ...Trust me that will save your bacon if something goes wrong at ground level...it's high up enough so people cannot block it and although it gives a wide view you will thank yourself when you have issues. I have a little GoPro on a lighting stand and I have often reverted to that during editing when the photog decides to block your camera during the vows!

As Rob says audio is VERY important ...don't neglect it ..you can have stunning shots but if your audio sucks the whole video will be a disaster so make SURE to attend to that side of the wedding. Recorder and lavs on the groom (as you are using DSLR's) and if it's a Church you need another setup on the lectern that they will use.

Chris
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Old September 19th, 2014, 12:43 AM   #6
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Appreciate the feedback guys. Lots to think about.

I should've mentioned that I'll have another tripod available, so can have two locked off cameras n tripods and one monopod during ceremony. Also, i'm looking at renting a Canon 70-200 II IS 2.8) as a tele lens for my 6D.

Re: camera placement it seems my plan needs to be:

Camera 1 (6D with 70-200 IS on monopod): Filming over groom's shoulder as procession happens. Then roaming to get tight shots during vows (switch sides and reset cameras 2 & 3 to avoid 12m recording itme issues). Reaction shots of crowd where possible.

Camera 2 (550D w/ 55-250mm on tripod): Located on brides side to capture groom reaction and hand-over. After start of ceremony this will need to be re-composed over brides should

Camera 3 (5D w/ 24-70mm on tripod): wide shot to capture procession arrival, then repositioned in aisle as couple shot during ceremony.

Camera 4 (GoPro high up on light stand as safety cam) - thanks for the tip, Chris!

As for audio, I'll look at wired recorders for both celebrant (and their reading mic setup) and groom as well as H6.

Thoughts on this setup?
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Old September 19th, 2014, 02:34 AM   #7
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Hey Mitch, what I actually think (this is just my opinion, and I don't know anything about your abilities): keep it simple. Maybe shoot with just two cameras and the GoPro and that's it. Pretend the GoPro isn't there as a safety net. Have at least one camera getting a good shot at all times so there's no gap in coverage. Don't worry about doing anything fancy for your first wedding -- just get through it without dropping the ball on anything.
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Old September 19th, 2014, 02:44 AM   #8
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Yeah

I agree with Adrian too! I still keep it simple with 2 cams and the GoPro ... As Adrian suggests just forget about the GoPro footage ..it might be awesome or it might be rubbish but at least you have it if you need it!

I just have one cam on a tripod on the groom's side so it favours the bride and that records the entire ceremony as a fairly tight shot concentrating on the couple and officiant. My 2nd cam is on shoulder and I use that for all guest cutaways, wide shots, reaction shots including bridal entry and the register signing. That also keeps it simple. I think you will be chasing your tail trying to run 5 cameras!!

Chris
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Old September 19th, 2014, 07:54 AM   #9
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Totally forgot about the 12 minute time limit! We have Magic Lantern installed on our 5d Mark ii, so it hasn't been an issue since we bought it. I presume that would be an option on the 6d and T2i as well.

Mostly just plan for the kinds of shots you want. You need one "safe" camera that will give you a shot no matter what. Which camera this is might change during the ceremony, but usually its the rear aisle cam. Your monopod camera will obviously have to be your mobile cam. Your other locked off cam could be another safety shot. rear camera is wide. other locked off camera is off to the side getting a 3 shot, so it feels closer, but is relatively safe.

Just remember to try and follow the 180 degree rule. If the groom will be on the right side of the frame in one camera, have him there in all 3 cameras, if possible. Especially if you'll be cutting back and forth between two views (like we do for our vows).
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Old September 19th, 2014, 08:57 AM   #10
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

I was caught out recently with the 30 minute limit on a 5D Mk III, who'd have thought that someone could waffle on for that long???
anyway

If your not experienced in live event shooting, keeping it simple is really good advice.

your layout will still depend on the location, some are better than others, remember to take into account when the congregation stand - might have an impact on camera placement.
my worst was one where the officiant was up against a wall, with a table in front of him the B&G seated in front of the table under a decorative arch made up of white painted saplings/twigs ( think it's called a wedding arbor ) absolutely no room to place a tripod at any angle, lesson learned always have a lightstand with a small camera!
A good one, was two weeks back, where i had a camera locked off looking over the shoulder of the registrar (who asked where should she stand) the view took in the B&G, the complete bridal party and their families and friends which complimented the other two cams on either side.

Sometimes things work out great, other times not so good!

I usually take two or three clips of the crowd and use as required.

I dont have a 55-250mm but i know from experience that the IS on my 24-105mm has to be turned off if tripod mounted otherwise you can get micro-vibrations in the image, check if you need to do that with yours, the 55-250mm wouldn't be a great low light lens so you might need to do some test shots with it to see what ISO you need to get adequate IQ. The 70 -200mm f2.8 is excellent, I always use it for the speeches

as the guys have pointed out DO have a safety cam up high, it can be a life saver! remember there'll be a photographer(s) wandering about trying to occupy the same space as you!

After the shoot upload your footage from your cams/cards and store on at least one external storage device, a third is even better!! depending on how many cards you have ensure you have full backups before formatting for the next day!
Along with a backup strategy, I have enough cards that i can leave the RAW footage on them until after editing is complete, this way you wont fail at the last hurdle by losing clips from a HD failure, file corruption etc.
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Old September 19th, 2014, 09:34 AM   #11
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Sorry I keep posting, I keep thinking of more...

Sometimes I'll have two cameras with me, right next to each other, one wide/medium, the other tight. Usually it's a first dance or speeches. Then camera 3 will be far enough away to get a different angle, and set wide enough its safe, or set to get guest reactions of events.

That 50-250mm will only go on your T2i, so ISO noise is a concern. To get super close during a ceremony though... man, it's nice to have that reach. I hope it works for you.

Have more batteries and cards than you think you'll need. Right now, we have battery grips, and 8 batteries total per camera. If we work the next day, the second the first batteries get used, they're charging.

For cards, we copy them straight to two different external hard drives. When it's all done copying, I check them and see that they look good (both of them), and then I'll format the cards in camera to clear them.

For pocket recorders, say the date and name of client first thing into the recorder for EACH time you hit record. No problems later about whose wedding the sound file belongs to.
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Old September 19th, 2014, 11:34 AM   #12
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Something not directly related to "how to" but non-the-less very important:

Don't underestimate how tiring it can be to shoot a full day. Take that into account when shooting your first day because you have it all over again the next day.

Many of my colleagues don't accept bookings on two consecutive days for that reason, especially if both are full all day shoots.

It gets easier with experience because there is much less stress to wear you down once you are comfortable with what you are doing, but it can still often be very physically demanding. Everyone reports that whether they are 25 or 65.

Make sure you have backups of backups, that you get everywhere with plenty of time to spare, that you get a detailed timeline from each couple so you know for sure what is happening and when, and that you carry energy snacks and drinks - don't assume you will be fed and watered just because it was agreed. Oh and possibly pain killers in reserve for the 2nd day - its surprising how you can seize up :- )

Pete
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Old September 19th, 2014, 01:31 PM   #13
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Also, make sure all your cameras have the same picture profile when shooting, this will help you in the post. Always check your exposure, the asterisk button in your camera is your best friend, it's better to under expose than to over expose.

Always check your audio, sometimes Magic Lantern disables audio if you are in the wrong setting. Bring a power strips with multiple plugins so you can charge 2 batteries at the same time. And lastly bring a lot of mints and bottled water.
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Old September 19th, 2014, 03:25 PM   #14
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

What worries me most here that nobody else seems to have mentioned, is the logistics involved in setting up all that equipment and moving it from place to place, all on your first solo wedding shoot.

The thing is that the wedding isn't going to wait for you to faff about with your equipment and things can happen quite quickly at most weddings. It can be quite stressful making sure you don't miss anything with just one camera to handle when you have no previous wedding experience. Trying to manage the sort of set up you are talking about on your own, strikes me as a nightmare scenario to put you off for life. I would seriously consider doing your first few weddings with one main camera and a GoPro for backup as has been mentioned.

You may well be able to manage the number of cameras you mention for the ceremony if you set up in advance, but it is the time taken to break everything down and load it up that is the problem. While that is happening, the wedding will be continuing and you will be getting nothing. Get used to the pressures of a wedding first, then add cameras if you feel you need them as you gather experience.

You may worry at the moment about having enough cameras to get the right angle or cutaway, but you are more likely to miss something very important whilst breaking down and setting up, which is much more difficult to explain to the Bride than someone walking in front of the camera.

Roger
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Old September 19th, 2014, 10:01 PM   #15
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Re: First Wedding - advice for a solo shooter?

Roger, Excellent points!! I have gotten used to the routine of the "Break Down" that I had totally forgotten about that!! One other thing...take a 3 x 5 index card and make a list of all of your gear that you used for this shoot. Nothing worse than having to drive back to the ceremony site to get than recorder left on the lectern.
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