Looking for a wedding videographer in Los Angeles for your wedding day, but not sure who to hire? If you’ve spent any time on bridal websites or done your share of internet searches, you know there are HUNDREDS of options, if not thousands. So how do you know who to trust with the most important day of your life? How do you know when that low price offer is legit, or to good to be true?

Well, while there is no definitive answer to any of these questions, with a little insight from someone on the “other” side, hopefully this will at least help narrow your search.  And while this could I’m sure at times be perceived as self serving, I’ll do my best to be as arbitrary as possible, and give my assessment based on hundreds of weddings and other events filmed over the last 15 years.  I’ll also reveal some little known facts that couples may not be aware of, but probably should be.  Where to begin…

(I’m going to assume this is the bride to be reading this for literary sake, based on the fact that first contact is made by the fiancee 90% of the time)…

So he just popped the question, and after all the excited phone calls to friends and family, after the social media explosion of pictures of the ring and the aftermath, after the celebration, it’s suddenly time to plan the wedding you’ve always dreamed about! Now what?

Well, for many of you, you started long before it became official. Every friend, sibling, cousin, aunt, boyfriend’s sister’s wedding you’ve been to, you’ve taken mental notes. So while you may not have a complete list of vendors, you’ve certainly remembered the ones that you really liked, but since these are the obvious first choice, I’m gonna assume you’re reading this because this doesn’t apply here.

When friend/family referrals aren’t an option, how do you decide who the best is once you found a few you like online?

First of all, I’ve had so many meetings with couples and they’ll pull out a list of questions. I love these. The problem is, they are usually cookie cutter, and don’t do anything to weed out truly inexperienced vendors. While it’s nice to be assured that each videographer will bring backup equipment (which some do NOT do btw), and that they are using a solid brand of wireless mic, these don’t show competence and or experience; which is where questions should be geared. Before that though…

How important is price? If budget is a concern, make a list.

On it, answer these questions… (If money is no object, feel free to skip to the underline below, although these questions will still be helpful, as they will quicken your chats with prospective vendors.)

Do you want Bridal prep coverage? You getting ready, from hotel/venue arrival until you begin the walk down the aisle. Same for your fiance, which will most likely require a 2nd videographer (though these days two videographers is becoming the norm, and for good reason, which I’ll get into later).

How much coverage do you want of your ceremony? Added cameras can give amazing close ups and angles, but are they necessary? Are you getting married at a church where movement will be restricted?

How many hours of coverage do you need? When will your reception start/end? Is there a gap between your ceremony and reception?

Do you just want a video that will let you relive your day in a professional package, like you’re watching a live broadcast? Maybe you want a storybook, cinematic style montage that uses music and select live audio to package your entire day into a stylish 3-5 minute edit? Or perhaps a longer 10-20 minute short film?

Some places only offer one type of edit.  Some are willing to edit to any length you’d like.  The biggest factor here is TIME.  Certain edits take more time to complete then others; hence, ALL of these factors can drastically alter price, so in today’s world of ever exploding wedding budgets, it’s good to know what you want going in, so that your expectations can be in line with your finances. Now, all that said, my best advice is this, especially if you aren’t sure about some of the above questions…
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Once you’ve compiled a list of potential videographers in your area by countless internet searches and reading reviews on bridal sites like The Knot and WeddingWire, it’s time to watch videos (if you haven’t already).

One thing to be aware of, always make sure what you are watching is a good example of what you’ll be receiving.  While it’s more a thing of the past, some places only post a select handful of videos, which are compilations of their absolute best material, and created for the sole purpose of impressing you.  This used to be because uploading video content required a lot of space and it was simply easier; now with sites like YouTube and Vimeo, having a vast array of video content available for prospective clients to see should be a no brainer.  Anyone without a vast selection of video samples available should raise a red flag.  Some may password protect their videos, at the behest of their couples, but they should be available upon request.  Another thing to confirm is whether or not the videos you are watching on their website are comparable to what you’ll be receiving  with the package you are interested in.  Sometimes the low price offer you see quoted doesn’t apply to the amazing cinematic montage you just watched…

Before I divulge any more advice on searching for the best videographer, I think it matters to tell you a little about my philosophy.

Despite the statistics and fact that not all marriages last forever, I certainly expect them all to, and because of that, I appreciate being granted access to such an important day in the lives of every couple I work with. I feel it’s an honor, and it’s certainly a pleasure to get to work on such a joyous day where (for the MOST part), there is nothing but good vibes, smiles, and happy tears. So that said, I look at each couple, almost immediately, as friends. I mean, if your at someone’s wedding, you should be friends right?  That said, I realize some people like to keep business, business.

What I’m getting at is this, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, especially when dealing with companies with commercial space and top rankings on google; MAKE SURE you know who will be filming your wedding. There are some companies that have a solid group of videographers, but you should meet them before hand, and know them by name.  I have known reputable companies with lots of great reviews on popular wedding sites that have hired freelance shooters on craigslist the same week as the wedding!

There were times when I would have an open weekend, no plans, and decided I’d like to make some extra money. I’d jump on craigslist, and there’d be quite a few wedding video companies looking for a videographer to film a client’s wedding THAT weekend. And usually, they were offering an amount so low that only inexperienced shooters would accept. This still happens, and more frequently than you’d think, so be aware that if you hired a big company and don’t know who your videographer is, there’s a chance that the company you hired doesn’t know yet either.  There are a lot of people in Los Angeles that own video cameras, and many people have no idea just how difficult it is to film a wedding, but figure they might be able to make some extra money by responding to these ads.  Most companies (hopefully) realize this, but they don’t always, and sometimes it’s just a matter of them overbooking and having one of their main shooters become unavailable- forcing them to scramble to fill the position.  Horror stories you hear about with awful vendors, are often the result of sub-contracted work if you ask me.  Many of the photographers I’ve worked with in Los Angeles are working on a contract basis, under a much bigger, well known company, and they are often found in similar fashion.  Most of them are fine professionals, but as I said, you should know that they may not be AS experienced as a companies reputation may have lead you to believe.

Quick story. I remember showing up at a wedding I was filming for a high ranked videography company one time and the bride called me by the name of the company owner, who she thought was going to be the one filming. I smoothed it over, and in the end, she had nothing but great things to say about her video and the experience, but still; I didn’t feel keeping a couple in the dark about who would be filming their big day to be good practice.

Besides the main shooter, most weddings are now filmed on DSLR cameras or better, which require more manual control, but provide a much cleaner, richer image than HDV video cameras; so to get optimal coverage, two shooters are pretty much the standard.  Ask about the second shooter.  Experience? Are they always a team?  Can they handle solo in case of emergency?

On Bended Knee Films A-Team
(Pictured above: Jeremy Dayton, Owner On Bended Knee Films, along with 2nd Shooter, Drea)

Anyway, back to questions…

To find the best videographer for your wedding, you’re going to have to meet potential candidates in person.

Ask to see a finished product; a DVD, Blu-ray or finished files digitally. Watch more than just the highlight reel. Ask to watch the first 5 minutes of a ceremony in a venue similar to yours.  if you want multiple cameras; ask to see full coverage of a similar wedding using that many cameras.

Come up with hypothetical worst case scenarios and throw them at a potential videographer, then ask them how they’d handle it?
I.E. DJ’s mic goes out. No sound. Video mic goes out. What then? It rains? Camera during first dance… Certain venues bring with them different potential pitfalls, such as wind, sand, street noise, lack of space (for tripods)…etc.

Ask about their PREFERRED style.  Most can and will adapt, like myself.  Some prefer the fly on the wall approach, while others are used to being up close and personal, and value getting the amazing creative shot like a “filmmaker”, over subtle authenticity, like a “documentary filmmaker.”  Both have their place, but in my experience, less is more, especially in creating an environment where both videographer and photographer are able to get what they need without stepping on one another.  (I hear horror stories about videographers from photographers all the time!)

Last but not least, and something most do instinctively, but make sure you feel at ease with them.  Price and other factors can cloud this point at times, but it’s extremely critical to finding the best videographer for YOU.  And always remember, as you are interviewing us, we are also interviewing you.  We’re all created differently, and sometimes two otherwise great people don’t mesh for some reason.  They are extremely rare, but there have been times when I could see the writing on the wall, and decided to make myself unavailable for a date.  As long as there is mutual respect, it simply comes down to personality though.  Doesn’t matter how fantastic a cameraman or editor someone may be, if they are bothering you on your wedding day, the resulting footage won’t be as “happy” as it should be.  Smiles should be reinforced from every direction and then some, and you can’t put a price on that.

And one important tidbit, price is ALWAYS negotiable. Vendors that don’t list prices on their website, like to keep that flexibility, and exploit the theory of ‘perceived value’ to it’s fullest. It’s natural for wedding vendors to fluctuate prices throughout the year, especially as our calendars start to fill up, and our remaining days not yet filled become “more valuable.” This increase in price, while perfectly acceptable to the vendor, and maybe deserved, doesn’t represent and added value to your money, you’re just gonna have to use more of it to book that particular vendor. The only thing to keep you from overspending in this way is not shortcutting the selection process. Take time to thoroughly search vendors nearest you, as well as cities close by, and before you look at price, look at quality. Or, if it’s all about price, look at price, then quality, and then crosscheck if the “value” price includes the “quality” you fell in love with without an additional charge.  The highest price doesn’t guarantee ANYTHING.  The inflated cost could be a result of advertising costs, business location rental, “name value,” or a handful of other things.  I’ve filmed major events for some very high profile celebrities, but don’t advertise that as some sign of credibility.  Working at home, which many videographers do, allows for greatly reduced cost due to a much lower overhead.  The “perceived value” of a company with a commercial building and big sign outside won’t mean anything when your grandchildren are watching your first dance 30 years from now.  In addition, many “featured” vendors on bridal websites pay a hefty fee to do so.   Not that this is a bad thing, just another thing to be aware of.  Cost is all relative to perceived value.   Believe your own eyes when you see a video you respond to.  And if the creator behind it meshes with you, there’s a good chance you’ve found your ideal candidate.  If the price is right, you absolutely have.

So, as this is getting a bit lengthy, to recap…

Decide what you want in your video.

Ask friends/family for referrals.

Google. Bing. Yahoo. Search the internet.

Read reviews. The Knot, WeddingWire, Yelp…

Watch videos. Decide what style fits your taste/budget.

Define your budget.

Ask the tough questions.

Make sure you know who will be the ACTUAL day of Videographer on your wedding day.

Go with your gut.

This is the biggest day of your life, so this shouldn’t be treated strictly like a business decision. Money is obviously a very important factor, but that’s true in most aspects of life.

When you’ve found someone you feel is a good match, don’t be afraid to ask them to match your budget with whatever package you’d like. Packages are usually flexible, as are prices, but if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Fridays and Sundays, as well as off seasons dates (November-March) are usually more flexible.

Most popular lists will go over the same principles: budget, style, compatibility…etc.  Hopefully the perspective from the vendor’s side of things will make the process even just a bit less exhausting.

One last tip.

Regarding referrals. Be it from a vendor you’ve already hired, the venue, or a planner. I think it’s a good idea to ask the referrer how many times they’ve worked with the person they are referring. You want to make sure they are referring them for the right reasons, and not simply as a way to pad their pockets.   I had a wedding planner let me know she was referring me a client, and then let me know what she expected in return.  I was a bit shocked, but apparently it happens more frequently than I would have thought.  Most vendors will simply refer other vendors that they enjoy working with and respect the work of.  That kind of team mentality will permeate on your wedding day creating an atmosphere where you truly get an amazing collaboration.  If the motivation for a referral is compromised, so is that added benefit when hiring vendors who already know one another and work well together.  Venues especially charge a hefty fee to anyone wanting to be on their referral list.  And asking that question won’t necessarily tell you anything, as noone would admit to referring someone for selfish reasons, so you’re gonna have to trust your intuition.

And with that said, best of luck in your wedding planning. There is a LOT of competition in Los Angeles between wedding videographers, and sometimes the disparity between their online videos is miniscule, so the process of finding the best one and in your price range isn’t going to necessarily be easy. As I’m sure you were with your significant other, you waited for the right one; the same should hold true for your Videographer. You CAN find everything you’re looking for within your budget if you look long and hard enough. The best videographer rates don’t always mean less quality either. Remember “perceived value” and how it affects what you are paying.

Now. Just take a deep breath. Set aside a block of time each day; maybe 15-30 minutes each morning and or night, and make that your “study” time.

And feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I’d be happy to help in any way, whether you are my client or not. A wedding video is something that will hold and preserve that moment of two becoming one in a way that no other medium can; and future generations of your family will benefit from the effort you put into finding one that will deliver the wedding video with the most value possible.

Good luck and God bless.

Jeremy
jeremy@onbendedkneefilms.com