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

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Old November 1st, 2005, 05:08 AM   #1
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Ceremony Blues

All was going well until the ceremony, all packed tightly into the reception tent due to very rainy weather. Things happened fast as they entered, but I missed the ceremonial footage due to people that remained standing, my poor position, and tables were placed so close together that no one could move, including myself. I was wondering if anyone has experienced this and if reaching out to the photographer for still shots of the ceremony would be "proper". I'd offer to pay for the raw shots if she asked (not sure how much that would cost), but I wanted to know people's experiences with such an idea. This was a one-camera operation and pro-bono so I can practice. The Bride's requirement was simple - a short music video of the reception/ceremony highlights. I know it's "free" for her, but I want to make an impression and get more referrals from what I come up with. I know I'll probably want to do maybe one or two more weddings to apply lessons learned, but any tips to salvage this would be great. I really think the first draft cut is good considering the weather, but missing something - the ceremony itself! Thanks.
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Old November 1st, 2005, 06:54 AM   #2
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knock on wood ive never had this issue, but i did a jewish wedding where the dome thingy (i cant remember what its called) was very loose and about to collapse.. in the end 4 of the biggest buggers ive ever seen ended up holding it up.. worse than this.. on the left and right of the unit the parents stood... behind the rabbi was a mob of people, and behind the couple, well u couldnt see their faces, so i ended up going so damn close to the dome and proceedings and i slowly nudged one of the dome holders until he moved out of my way, while i continued to shoot.

I didnt lose anything major.. nothign that cant be fixed with alot of slowmo, coz u could hardly see the rabbis mouth from that angle, i was behind him on a 45degree angle. but still it annoyed the crap outta me..

another time i did a shoot in a dome church.. now with these, u can either get the bride or groom properly.. never both, coz theyre facing the centre, which means i could oly stand to one side... i couldnt stand anywhere else to get a good shot... so in the end i missed out on the brides face as she said her vows. Also the distant was so far away from anything, that even at full zoom, it didnt have that intimacy which i love to capture...

see in my contract i clearly state "tripod safe areas" and if they dont give me that, thats their problem... Im covered...
i do what i can do to get teh job done, but in teh end, theres really only SO MUCH we can do without busting our balls..

like i always say, until the public is educated on what we do and how we do it, and more importantly the VALUE of what we do... video will always be a final thought to any wedding event.... sad but true.. but its also the reason im migrating back to photography... yeah i can easily make 12k in one month which i do quite regularly, but the shit i have to put up with (from wedding clients), plus the stupidly long hours just doesnt cut it for me anymore..

When u consider a client is willing to pay up to two to three times as much for photos, and when u consider the cost of equipment vs Video equipment and editing time, its really a no brainer... but more importantly than this, is the fact that 80% of weddings will have a pro photographer.. while only 20% will have a pro video... the odds are stacked against us, and justifying high amounts of cash to potential clients is becomgin harder and harder.. not coz of the work.. no, they love the work.. its jsut that people dont WANT to spend that much...when they could pay a lil extra and have afew hundred extra photos... this is how its seen in the real world...

anyways ive slipped on a tangent there, but whatever u do, do ur best and make sure ur clients know it...
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Old November 1st, 2005, 07:09 AM   #3
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If anything be glad that this happened on a 'pro bono' wedding.
Do you have ANY footage that you can salvage?
Or at least any audio?

I would go through your footage and see what you actually have to work with.
If you really have nothing, then perhaps talking to the photographer is your only option. You may want to discuss this with the bride first, letting her know what happened and propossing your solution (never tell a client about a problem without first having a solution for it).

I would take this experience and learn from it.
On a paying job you really have to do whatever it takes to get the shot.
It can be incredibly tough in certain situations, and it's always a tough balance between staying out of the way and getting the shot...but if it comes down to it getting the shot is more important in my book.

I once did an outdoor wedding where a wireless mic died on me.
Everything was fine until about 2 minutes before the vows, suddenly I had no audio... a complete nightmare. I had no choice, I picked up my tripod and moved as close to the couple as I could. I got some odd looks at the time from people in the audience, but I got some salvagable audio and the couple never had any idea that I was that close (I think I was about 3 feet from the bride at that point). Probably the worse day of shooting I've ever had.

Point is do whatever it takes, because you can't take it again.

As for your predicament, take stock of what you did get and see if you can do anything with that. If you got any footage at all then slow mo is your friend... hopefully you at least picked up the audio. I've found in my experience that audio is more important to people than anything else...
You can have the best shot in the world but if they can't hear the vows, they're not happy.
Luis Caffesse
Pitch Productions
Austin, Texas
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Old November 1st, 2005, 07:21 AM   #4
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Never experienced anything like your nighmare, but just this past weekend in a reversal of your situation, I bested the official photog, heh, heh.

In my rule book, anything is proper. You can ask the photog, but I'd say don't count on getting much, if anything, for free. The fact that you have no footage makes his/her photos even more valuable.

You might have better luck tapping into the friends & family networks of the couple...putting out a plea to both sides for pictures or video taken by guests. Everyone who was there experienced the same miserable conditions so they should be understanding and happy to contribute. Be sure to let them know you'll add their names in the credits at the end of the video.

If you can get several candid shots of the ceremony taken at different times and from different angles, you could turn that into something really unique. Think positive.

Regarding my good fortune, I always show up at rehearsals, invited or not, so I knew exactly how the ceremony was going to be performed. The photog positioned herself where she usually did in that church with that minister. Until the ceremony, she probably thought I was stupid for having two cameras set up where I did. But, I got the ring exchange in detail; she got teriffic pictures of the minister's face and the couple's butts.
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Old November 1st, 2005, 10:07 AM   #5
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I have two favorite places to set up for one camera weddings.

Flank the officiant opposite the bride if you're allowed on the alter, under the Huppah (Jewish wedding).


Front of alter (front row) opposite the bride.



Both will usually give you a great shot of the bride and a profile of groom. Depending on the rules of the officient/house one of the above is usually available. You're often close enough to get good audio even if the wireless takes audio hits or fails.

But things can go wrong even there.
Huppah/Alter CROWDED with people. People shift position into the clear path I had. I try to tap someone in the "party" to move but if people keep shifting I'll dismount from my tripod (which can go about 6 feet 4 inches) and hand held over my head. Shakey but I get the shot and I can angle down to get hands if needed.

I've also had situations where flowers on the Huppah hung down and blocked part of the groom's face.

Two officiants and major height differential. I shot a Greek Orthodox wedding with two officiants. I was to the flank of them accross from bride. Problem was the couple were on a lower level AND the bride was like 4'10" and the groom and officiants were 6' and taller!

In short, carry a tall tripod and go hand held when needed.

Bogen 3021 tripod can go to almost 6'4" (what I use). There's also a 3046 which can go to about 7'10." There are others that can go over 7' too.
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Old November 1st, 2005, 10:25 AM   #6
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Thanks everyone for some great advice! I got a lot to think about and some work to do, but I think I can manage something that's client-ready. Good thing this is "practice" and that the bride understands that from the beginning.
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