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Getting hired to shoot a wedding means your clients are trusting you to capture one of the most important days of their lives (no pressure or anything). When I was starting out as a wedding photographer, I was freaked out about not having everything I needed on hand. What if I had an equipment meltdown? What if the light was horrendous? When it comes to weddings, the what-ifs are endless. Preparation is your best friend. When shooting a wedding video, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of gear you actually need. Here are some of the best items for shooting the big day.
Being the organized photographer that I am, I made a list of all the essential equipment. Over the years, I've added things to the list and taken things off as I developed a better sense of what's truly vital. The list lets me focus on the important stuff, never forget anything, and get the job done without breaking my back lugging gear I don't need.
You can use this list as your packing guide next time you're preparing to shoot a wedding, and eventually, you might find yourself adding and subtracting as your needs evolve — just like I did.
Table of Contents
The most important thing you need to shoot a wedding is a camera. Cameras deserve a post of their own, like what kind of camera is best for a startup company, or the best cameras under $1000, or what questions you should ask when purchasing a camera. The same goes for choosing to buy lenses over cameras. In this post, we will be focusing on the support gear you will need.
As far as cameras and lenses are concerned, just have a backup camera ready. While shooting a wedding video, you should at least have two cameras. Three is the best option, which gives you two to shoot with and a backup.
A third handheld camcorder is an excellent addition if you have the crew and budget to justify the extra expense. Since you will be editing the final product using video from all available sources, it is very helpful to have cameras that capture the same format, are well-matched, and properly balanced.
Wedding days are a bit hectic, particularly if you're solo shooting, so you need a couple of good lenses to give you flexibility with your shots. Starting out, I invested in wide, zoom and prime lenses to ensure I got every angle I needed. Here's how I currently use each:
Wide lens lets me capture the exterior of a venue in a more landscape-style shot; I also like to use it as a backup angle for the ceremony and speeches.
A zoom lens is my go-to on the wedding day, particularly for those key moments like vows, speeches, the first dance, etc. I like to be a "fly on the wall" for my couples, and a good zoom lens gives me the opportunity to stand back while still getting those key close-up shots. If you want your wedding to be the Top Wedding Video of the year, check out our ultimate list of wedding videographers to help you get the polished product.
Prime 55mm is my favourite lens to use for bridal prep; it gives that beautiful, crisp shot with excellent bokeh background.
I use a 24-70 f2.8 lens as my medium zoom, and it's the lens that I keep on my camera most of the time. This focal length is great for wedding portraits and photojournalism, offering both wide and tight perspectives. The pretty wide aperture gives me some flexibility in spaces that aren't very well lit.
These are not as critical for a wedding, but certainly nice to have. The wide-angle can get you shots of architectural details or big groups. The prime lens lets you shoot in dark spaces and gives you dreamy depth of field.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro - This is officially my drone of choice for weddings. While not as small as the Mavic, they fit in a small box, set up in no time, and the video quality is a noticeable improvement. Another amazing feature is adjustable aperture control!
DJI Mavic Pro - If you need something more portable, the Mavic is still a great option. Sure it doesn't have as good quality, but you get a great range, it's less intimidating, and it fits in any camera bag.
Polar Pro ND Filters - Don't fly in daylight without an ND filter. These are great quality and available for any drone.
The tripod is the golden standard of all stable footage. Users think they need that latest and greatest stabilizer toy to get the best footage, but that couldn't be further from the truth. A solid tripod and fluid head will do more for your video than practically any of the following suggestions.
The added benefit is the ability to set up a tripod and let a camera run while you attend to other shots. It also makes a great assistant during the ceremony. You can set a tripod in the back of the venue and just let the camera roll while you work on another camera angle.
A good tripod will save you if you're low on light and just need a little more stability. It's also helpful if you're working in very low light or compositing images together. The light stands come in handy too: You can put your speedlights on them, and they allow you to adjust the placement of the lights. Shoot-through umbrellas are also useful with the lightstands and speedlights when you're doing portrait work.
Now that you have a camera on a tripod recording the ceremony on its own, you will need something to hold the other camera you should be shooting with. One of the best (and often cheaper) options is a monopod.
Monopods are great for a multitude of reasons. They are compact, lightweight, and very versatile. Many carbon fibre monopods can hold an incredible amount of weight. With the ability to quickly adjust the height, you can go from a low-angle shot to a high-angle shot in seconds.
They are also great for maneuvering through crowds. In very limited space, you can still shoot incredible footage and then get out of the way in an instant.
Spend most of the wedding day on my monopod because it gives me the flexibility to move around – then quickly stabilize – to get my keyframes. The tripod is helpful to stabilize during moments like speeches or the ceremony, but if you have just one camera, you have to be nimble but stable, and the monopod is great for doing just that.
These tools are the Steadicam, Glidecam, Grip Handles, Merlin, etc. This category includes pretty much any stabilizer that does not go over your shoulder and does not require battery or computer assistance to operate. Obviously, they are handheld.
Handheld stabilizers are best used during the reception. They capture fantastic dancing footage. You can work your way in and around the dance floor. The handheld stabilizers are also good to use during portraits, as you can follow the couple and photographer as they take pictures.
Also, here's a pro tip: DO NOT FOLLOW A BRIDE DOWN THE AISLE WITH ONE OF THESE! There is nothing worse than a videographer or photographer getting in the way of the ceremony. This is not your moment! Stay out of the way! You are supposed to capture the wedding, not be part of it.
Note that this category did not include 3-axis gimbals. While great for filmmaking and indie productions, 3-axis gimbals are not the best for the wedding video. There are multiple reasons why gimbals are not always the best choice. Based on the size alone, you cannot discretely move around a dance floor with a MoVI or Ronin.
Zhiyun Crane V2 3 Axis Gimbal - My gimbal has gone from something I used to use occasionally to something my camera is almost permanently mounted to. They have a tripod mount underneath so I can easily set these on a tripod when my arms get tired. I prefer the Crane for lighter systems (think Sony A6500)
Moza Air 3 Axis Gimbal - Another favourite and better for larger systems over 3 lbs (A7SII or GH5 with Speedbooster). It also includes the dual handle, which I use all the time.
Manfrotto XPro Monopod - These are great, portable, and less intrusive when working in tight places.
Manfrotto 755XB Tripod - My tripod of choice, these come with a bowl for easy levelling. They are lightweight and stable. Let us help you choose the perfect videographer to help create a Top Wedding Video of your special day.
I was drawn to wedding videography for the storytelling opportunities, and you can't tell a couple's story without crisp, clean audio. That's why early on (before my first wedding!) I invested in high-quality (yet easy-to-learn) audio equipment. Here's a breakdown of what I use when:
Tascam DR-10L: I mic the groom up before the ceremony to capture his vows, and since the couple is standing close together, it captures the bride's vows, too.
Zoom H4N Pro: If there's a sound system at the ceremony, I'll plug my Zoom in as a backup audio source, and I always plug it in (with permission from the DJ) to the soundboard at the reception. I email the DJ ahead of time to determine what cords I'll need just to be buttoned up and prepared come to the reception.
Rode VideoMic Go: I keep the Rode VideoMic Go on my main camera at all times to have a backup during key moments and to capture natural sounds (think: the bridesmaids cheering when they see their girl in her dress!). It also helps with audio matching in post. I use the Plural Eyes software to sync audio, and the Rode Mic ensures I have high-enough quality sound that the software can recognize.
How you capture audio is going to depend on the type of camera you are using. As DSLRs are the most common cameras used to shoot wedding video, you will need multiple audio sources. If you are using a traditional video camera, you may have built-in microphones or the ability to plug in a mic via XLR.
If your camera has a microphone built-in, be sure you have it recording. Even if you aren't planning on using it, it's good to have a backup. Also, it will help you sync the footage when you are editing.
If you are using a DSLR, you will need to attach a microphone to get passable audio. It should be noted that adding a mic to a DSLR still isn't going to be the best option. The cameras were not designed to capture optimal sound. Just use it as a backup.
To capture quality audio while being as discrete as possible, you will need a wireless lavalier microphone. The best option is to attach a lav to the officiant and a second lav on the groom. They can easily put the transmitter in their pockets.
If you only have one lav, the officiant is often the safer bet. They are the ones talking during the whole ceremony. Be sure to tell the officiant they need to be close to the couple so you can pick up the vows.
Don't even try to attach one to the bride. It should go without saying, but there is no way they spent all that money on their beautiful white dress for you to attach an ugly black transmitter to the back of it.
Coming up with a comprehensive plan for recording audio will likely be the most thought-provoking element of your wedding shoot. You will want to capture the good ambient sound of the guests as they "ooh" and "ah" the bride walking down the aisle, or clink their glasses in a toast to the newlyweds. Your onboard shotgun microphone will likely provide adequate coverage of the crowd noise, but a well-placed digital recorder, such as a Zoom H6 or Tascam DR-40 is another good option. In fact, a digital recorder will come in handy in many instances. You can place it on the altar during the recitation of the vows, or on the bride and groom's table during the reception dinner, to capture candid remarks.
A camera slider performs magically when it comes to b-roll. You can easily attach it to a tripod and run around the venue capturing everything from exteriors to table centrepieces. Adding the slightest amount of movement can make footage much more intriguing.
You can slide along the entryway table, capturing the signature book and photos. You can slide into an entryway to help transition from one location to another. You can even use a slider to capture a jib shot. Need a Wedding Video Company for your special day? Look no further, Vogue Ballroom have you covered.
You won't be setting up any three-point lighting during the ceremony or reception. However, you will want something you can use in a pinch. The best option is to use an LED light that you can use on-camera, handheld, or on a stand.
A small LED light is portable and easy to toss in your bag. Odds are you won't really need it until the reception. The DJ's light setup may provide a great look, if not just have a light ready for any low light situations.
My lighting kit is very simple because, so far, I only use it once during the wedding day: the dance floor. I have two lights that I put at different spots on the floor and like to shoot into the light while the couple and friends are dancing to get those striking, cinematic lens flares.
Lighting is a crucial component of any video production. A small light kit like the Impact Qualite 300 2 Light Kit, the Smith-Victor KT750LED 2-Light Umbrella Kit, or the uLite 3 Light Lighting Kit will cover you for most situations. However, a wedding ceremony and reception are not typical shoots. Therefore, most lights you utilize must be carefully placed. Bounce your lights off walls and ceilings where possible, and use softboxes or diffusion when direct lighting is required—these techniques will provide you with ample light.
Quick Release System
Needing to switch between your support gear rapidly, you will need to make the process as easy as possible. Look into using a quick release system on all of your stabilizers.
Don't waste time attaching your camera to different systems. Make sure you decide on a single quick release system, that way you can leave a quick release plate on your camera and just quickly snap into place.
Memory Cards & Case
You will need a ton of memory cards. As mentioned before, shooting a wedding video is just like shooting a small-budget film. Avoid trying to shoot everything on a large card. Having multiple cards may seem tedious, but if something goes wrong, it's easier to lose 16GB of footage rather than 64GB.
You will also want to keep track of which cards you have already used. You can lock SD cards, but you may forget to do so. One of the easiest things to do is putting all your cards in a case in the same direction before the shoot. Then as you use a card, simply put it back in the case upside down or backwards.
You'll need a bag for all that gear. Make sure it's roomy and comfortable enough to haul around with you as you're moving throughout the day.
Batteries (All Kinds)
Have plenty of batteries for all of your varying needs. Camera batteries, AA, and 9V batteries for your audio recorder or microphones, as well as batteries for your lights. If you don't have enough batteries, be sure to set up a charging station so the batteries will be good to go when you need them.
Always bring more cards and batteries than you think you need. I'll typically shoot 50 to 60 GB of images for a wedding and go through two sets of batteries per camera and per speedlight. Make sure the batteries are all charged up in advance.
Here are some essential tools to have in your bag: Gaff Tape, Extension Cord, Surge Protector, Allen Wrench, Screwdriver, Multi-purpose Tool. All of these will come in handy at some point. Make sure you have the right sizes and types of tools for your gear. It'll be hard to tighten a flathead screw with a phillips screwdriver.
Once we've filmed your wedding, the next step is to upload the camera footage ready for editing. We use Apple Mac computers and laptops for this.
One of the safety measures we take on all of our wedding shoots is to take a laptop with us, as well as multiple hard-drives (internal and external). We shoot a lot of footage, with every individual wedding shoot often clocking in at 90GB!! This can be spread over multiple memory cards. To avoid memory card failure issues, we regularly transfer footage onto the laptop and the hard drives to prevent any potential loss of data. This is just an extra layer of protection that not many wedding videographers think to do.
We set up base at the wedding reception location in an area away from the main action of the wedding day. This is perfect for storing our gear and quietly uploading footage throughout the day. Our couples often report not having even known we'd brought a laptop with us because they never see us working behind the scenes!
Beyond editing our videos, a laptop is an essential business tool that performs a range of tasks. Not least of which is running our website and showcase our portfolio of work.
Why a laptop and not a desktop solution? A laptop will allow you to be more mobile – it would be crazy to take a full desktop solution on a wedding shoot! We do, of course, use various computer setups in our studio, including desktop computers and laptops.
My recommendation for a laptop is Apple's MacBook Pro. It's a great intermediate solution and a fantastic piece of kit. Not going to be as powerful and quick as a desktop solution, but if you kit your Pro out with 8MB of ram (most come with 4MB), you'll be well on your way to getting maximum efficiency out of this machine.
Make sure you always keep your lenses and equipment clean and well-maintained. Then you'll be in excellent shape (not to mention panic-free) the next time you're tapped to shoot an event-of-a-lifetime.
With time, you will develop your own methods and style of capturing the wedding day. There are some basic rules, though, that will help you get off to a good start. Early in the day, set and secure any light stands you will be using. After checking the lights and taping down any power cords, remove the heads for safety and keep them nearby for easy setup when you need them. Claim your ceremony spaces by setting up your tripods well in advance. Be sure to have a wide cover shot, high enough to shoot over the audience members when they stand up. Make sure you can always see the bride's face from at least one camera from the time she enters the ceremony until she leaves. Be certain to get cutaways of the parents of the bride and groom, as well as any important relatives or dignitaries. Set up an interview area in the reception space. The parents, best man, and maid of honour are a must!