How to Become a Better Wedding Filmmaker

January 30, 2020

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Mentioned in this episode:

Mentioned in this episode:
YouTube Videos:
– Cinematic Lighting Techniques by Parker Walbeck
– 5 Ways to Instantly Make Better Videos by Peter McKinnon
– Visual Storytelling 101 by Film Riot
– Cinematic Gimbal Movements by Market Walbeck
– Shutter Speed for Video Explained by Matt WhoisMatt Johnson
– Establishing Shots Tutorial by Matt WhoisMatt Johnson

Episode Transcript

You are listening to episode 8 of the Level Up Your Wedding Film Business Podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about how you can become a better filmmaker so that you can continue to grow in your business.

I’m your host, Taylor Petrinovich, and at the core of this show I want you to feel inspired to take your business to the next level, and I want to give you tools and practical advice to help you along the way. Let’s Level-Up together.

Today, as I’m recording this episode, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. day. And as I’ve been scrolling Facebook + Instagram, one of my favorite quotes of his keeps popping up. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” During the Civil Right’s movement, this inspirational message meant something very specific, and it was an amazing message. But, the meaning behind it can hold true in so many different areas as well. Specifically, we can apply this concept to our industry – wedding filmmaking.

It’s really important for us, as wedding filmmakers, to keep pushing forward. In our businesses, and specifically with our skills as filmmakers. Because everyone else around us is constantly learning and growing, and if we’re not, then we might as well be moving backwards.

So it’s important to keep moving forward.

Last episode, I talked about the 4 things you should do before raising your prices. The first thing on that list is to hone your craft. Become a better filmmaker, become a better editor, and become a better storyteller.

But it all starts with filmmaking. Because without the right raw materials – aka your footage, you really can’t make something out of nothing in the editing room. I truly believe that no matter what level you’re at, there is room for improvement. I don’t think there is a destination, we are just all on a journey towards becoming better, at all times. 

In my eyes, there are 3 areas to improve in as a filmmaker that will really help the overall quality of our films. 

  1. Technical skills: lighting, composition, movement, and how to use a camera properly

  2. Anticipation: knowing where to be and when on the wedding day. And knowing where to look for specific emotions and actions that will really add to your films.

  3. Interactions: knowing how to interact with a couple on their wedding day in a way that helps them feel comfortable, so that they come across as being comfortable on camera.

You can be a good wedding filmmaker just by knowing how to do one or two of these things well, but I really believe that it takes all 3 to be a great one.

First off, let’s talk about technical skills.

Technical skills

These are the actual skills that you use while filming at weddings. So, to start, knowing how to use your camera properly is important. That’s square one. Make sure you know where all the settings are, what they mean, and how to manipulate them in a way that suits your current needs at any point on the wedding day. I’m talking about shutter speed, frame rates, aperture, ISO, white balance. If you aren’t sure what those things mean, and how to use them on your specific camera, now you know what to look for on youtube.

Beyond that, it’s important to know a bit more about the artistic elements of filmmaking. Things like lighting, composition, and creating cinematic movement both with your camera, and in the frame. There are so many free videos on YouTube about all of these things. I think that a refresher on each of these elements is a good idea if you want to enter the wedding season fresh and with a creative eye.

I have a few favorite videos that I’ve watched several times on YouTube, so I will link those in the show notes for you to check out if you’re interested.

Another great way to learn how to use these strategies and skills is by watching other films. It’s a great idea to watch other people’s work with an analytical eye. Watch for ways they use light in their films. Watch for ways they compose their shots, and find clips where you like what they did, and where you don’t like the way they composed a shot. This will give you ideas for your own films, and will help you hone in on your own style.

Some of my favorite wedding filmmakers to watch are:

White in Revery

Matt Johnson

The Film Poets

Forestry Films


The second part of wedding filmmaking is knowing how to anticipate key moments and emotions. A great place to start is with the timeline. Make sure you get the timeline for the wedding day from your couple before the wedding so that you can make a game plan for yourself. It’s also a good idea to include an area on your questionnaire for the bride and groom to fill out information on the key members of the wedding day: so their parents, grandparents, siblings, the bridal party, and any other really important people. Knowing who is important to the couple will let you know who to pay attention to during emotional moments.

A big thing that will really make a difference in your films is to slow down. Slow down your pace on the wedding day. Get out of checklist mode during the important moments. Keep your eyes open, and be aware of what’s going on around you. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in your own work on a wedding day, but I promise you, if you aren’t aware of what’s going on around you, you are going to miss out on some huge emotional, unexpected moments that will be gold in your films. These are moments that can’t be scripted, and can’t be done again. They are real and raw, and it’s our job to be aware enough in the moment to capture those golden moments.

A big key moment on the wedding day is when the bride gets dressed, and looks in the mirror for the first time. There are so many emotions going through her head. Shit just got real. She’s just a few hours away from marrying the person she loves most, and it’s almost game time. She might cry. She might look to her mom or best friend for love and encouragement. And that mom or best friend might have tears streaming down their faces. These little moments are really easy to miss if you’re focusing on checking everything off your list. Keep your eyes open, keep your head up, and pay attention to the people in the room.

You’re at work, but they are about to embark on the biggest journey of their lifetime. This is a big moment for them, and there are going to be lots of emotions to capture, if you know where to look.

So my advice is to just slow down and take it all in. Don’t be in such a hurry to get on to your next task, unless you absolutely need to.


The third thing that will help you become a better filmmaker is the way you interaction with the couple on the wedding day.

Remember: they are nervous. They are excited. This is one of the most important days of their lives. So be sure to honor that, and be the type of person who contributes to their overall experience on the wedding day, instead of taking away the magic with negativity and being in total business mode. 

Being a positive, calming presence to the couple is going to make a huge impact on your film. If you are a ball of stress, your couple will pick up on that, and the way they hold themselves and interact with one another is going to seem stressed as well.

There are a few main parts of the day where you, your demeanor, and the way you interact with the couple will make the biggest impact.

The first is when you greet them when you arrive. I’ve mentioned this before on the podcast, but be sure to greet them with a huge, warm smile, and put off a calming presence. If you enter the bridal suite looking frazzled and stressed, that can rub off on the bride and put her on edge with you. Even if you are frazzled and stressed, don’t let that show.

Another key moment to make sure you interact well with the couple is during the bridal prep shots. If you do any sort of directing during this time, make sure you lace in a ton of compliments and encouragement. So if you tell the bride to walk up to her dress and touch it, while she’s doing that, give her affirmations. Tell her things like “oh yea, that looks great. Now do it one more time so I can get a different angle,” or “oh I love how you did that, you’re a natural.” Just be super encouraging and light. Try not be be too serious and business-like. That will make her super uncomfortable.

For most people, being on camera feels really weird. And being directed by someone feels even weirder, so being really positive and encouraging goes a long way. She’s much less likely to look stiff and awkward if you’re giving her encouragement. That will help her relax, which will translate a lot better to your film.

The same goes for groom prep. I think that a lot of the time, at least in my experience, the groom is a little less willing to open up. So it’s especially important to keep the mood light. I really like to distract him from what’s actually going on while I’m shooting. So while he’s straightening his tie or adjusting his cuff links for me while I shoot, I’ll be telling him things like “oh my goodness, I just finished shooting with Jessica and she looks absolutely amazing. She’s so excited to see you. You are going to be blown away by her dress,” or things like that. I try to keep the focus on the positive anticipation, because usually that will make the groom smile and just be in his own little world. And it looks really good in the final film.

The next really important moment to be sure to interact well is during the couple portrait time, or the romantic session. Again, most people feel really awkward on camera. They might be stiff, have really strained expressions on their faces, or just might be overall awkward.

I have one thing that I do to try to keep the mood light here. It’s super awkward, and super embarrassing, but it works like a charm. The first chance I get to direct when I’m alternating with the photographer, I say this to the couple, “ok, now I want you to look at each other and laugh,” then I follow that up with this insane, maniac kind of laugh. Ok, this is super embarrassing, but I’m going to do it for you guys so you can see what I mean.

[[Maniac laugh – you are going to need to listen to the episode to hear this gem]]

Yeah. It’s insane. And the couple is so caught off guard that they can’t help but to bust up laughing. And that’s my goal. I don’t care if they think I’m a weirdo from that point on, because it’s totally worth it to me to get those great, authentic laughing shots.

Then for the next 20 minutes or so, that becomes an inside joke between me, the photographer and the couple. We will laugh and joke about it during the rest of the romantic session. I think it does a great job at breaking down a barrier, if there is one.

I’m not saying you need to laugh like a maniac like me. I actually didn’t create that intentionally, I just did it out of desperation with a particularly stoic couple when I first started out, and it just kind of stuck. And now I do it every single wedding.

So just find something that can help lighten the mood with your couple, and help them feel loose and comfortable.

This is a great time to continue being really encouraging. As you’re going through poses, don’t just tell them what to do and be silent for the next 15 seconds. That can be really awkward. It’s great to follow up your direction with feedback for the couple, just like before during bridal prep. Tell them that they are doing great, that what they’re doing looks great, that they look like models, whatever. The point for you is to help them feel confident and comfortable, otherwise they will look awkward and stressed in your shots.

Being a better filmmaker isn’t just about what gear you use. It’s not just about the technical aspects. It’s also about keeping your eyes open and catching those impromptu, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. And it’s about keeping your couple feeling calm, confident, happy, and comfortable so that you keep them looking great in their film.

I hope you guys enjoyed this episode! I’d love to connect with you and keep the conversation going. What do you think makes a good filmmaker? I created a brand new instagram page dedicated to this podcast, and I’d love to connect with you on there, you can find me @thelevelupco

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Thanks for listening.