Wedding Photography vs. Videography: An Old and Pointless Debate

There’s never a shortage of drama in the ol’ visual arts industry. The latest soap opera du jour was this blog post by a leading photographer in the industry. I must say I was quite surprised to see it. My first response to it was a satirical post I put up Saturday (check it out if you want a good laugh). Someone anonymously commented that videographers reacting to this must have thin skin. This person is missing the point.

It’s not about having thin skin, it’s about protecting a livelihood. I don’t shoot weddings anymore, but I primarily did for the first half of my career in this business (five years to be exact). It’s already hard enough to run a visual arts business, especially in this economy. Now on top of everything else that makes it hard, imagine having to also fight against other wedding professionals in the industry telling your potential clients that your services are not needed. Brides trust these vendors and so now a whole industry has to prove itself beyond what should be normal.

Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. I know that many officiants in strict, liturgical houses of worship detest professional wedding photography in the sanctuary. Imagine if a well-known and highly respected offiicant wrote a long blog post about why brides should not have professional photography at their services. The photography industry would be up in arms. I have no doubt WPPI, PPA, DWF and many other organizations would go to town. That is one of the reasons they exist, to protect the industry. I’ve seen them write articles and posts in response to blog posts suggesting a bride not get pro photography. The uproar that’s taking place in the wedding video world is the same.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

As leaders in the industry we carry a burden to educate and represent the craft and the business in a way that edifies the industry as a whole, but also protects the interest and well-being of our clients. To that end, there were two huge problems with this post.

  1. Suggesting that a bride use a relative to record vows almost borders on wedding industry mal-practice. One could argue that the vows are THE most sacred aspect of a wedding day. They represent the public promise and oath the bride and groom make to one another. They’re kind of a big deal. They deserve to be recorded and preserved with the same level of care and attention as the visuals, if not more.
  2. That analogy that hiring two visual artists (a photographer and a videographer) is like hiring two caterers is just simply incorrect and shows a lack of understanding what goes into making a wedding film. The best analogy I can think of would be like saying “Why get a cake when you already have a caterer? The guest will probably be full anyway.” Even that analogy is not perfect because neither the cake nor the food (both of which will be going down the toilet in 24-48 hours after consumption) are as sacred as the visuals or audio. But, the point is simple: they are two similar things (i.e. food), but serve totally different purposes.

I know, like, and still respect this photographer very much. This blog post is not meant as an attack. By the tone of their post, my guess is that this photographer experienced one too many unprofessional videographers who were a pain to work with. No surprise there. I have no doubt there are an equal number of wedding filmmakers who have similar stories about photographers. The irony is that this photographer at one point attempted to have a full-time videographer, so I know they understand the importance of it. My guess is that they abandoned it because, as many other photographers adding video to their repertoire have found out, doing wedding video RIGHT is damn hard.

I know from my own experience in the wedding industry, that it is absolutely possible to work well with a photographer. The best videographers in the industry all know to contact all the key vendors ahead of time, introduce themselves, and create a friendly and professional rapport that makes working on the wedding day a pleasure.

In the end, I still can’t believe in this day and age there is any question about the importance and power of wedding video. There has been more than enough evidence to prove that wedding cinematography is amazingly powerful and can be captured with as much discretion and unobtrusiveness as photography. If a bride does not value wedding video, she may tend to hire unprofessionals who don’t know how to work well with photographers. That’s why I encourage photographers not to poo-poo wedding video altogether, but to suggest and refer the top wedding cinematographers in their area.

When you see the work of filmmakers like Joe Simon, StillMotion, Ray Roman, David Robin, Kristen* of Bliss, Steve and Laura Moses, Steve Zugelter, Meg Simone, JJ Kim, Bruce Patterson, Loyd Calomany, Kevin Shahinian, John Goolsby, Ryan Koral, 31 Films,  Dave Williams, Jason Magbanua, and many, many others, I wonder if some photographers are not secretly worried about their photography being shown up. Is that the reason they don’t refer the best; or worst yet, tell a bride to have Uncle Charlie record the vows on a handycam? I’m not trying to be snide, I sincerely believe that could be a dynamic at play here. If not that, the fear could be another expensive visual artist will affect what the bride will spend on photography. To that I say, trust in your work enough to know that the bride will still invest in you whatever she planned. But don’t be a detriment to the most important day of her life by telling her to have Uncle Charlie do anything other than sit in the audience and wipe the tears from his eyes then have a great time at the reception.

Hard Choices

It is my hope this photographer would just retract the blog post. Or change it to reflect the importance of hiring a pro and experienced wedding filmmaker (like the one they refer to in the article). I know it may be hard to make that decision. You don’t want to feel like you were pressured into doing something. I know from experience. There have been a few times in my blogging career where I’ve retracted or rewrote a blog post that later I determined was not in the best interest of the industry. But in the end, I was always glad I did.

This is a blog post that really should go away.

A Note to My Fellow Filmmakers

Finally, a word to my fellow filmmakers and videographers. Based on what I’m reading on forums and the like, I know a lot of you out there are really pissed. I understand. I’ve seen a few colorful phrases thrown around. Please, just stop the unprofessional retorts. You only justify the description and poor image of wedding videography when you react like that. I’m not saying don’t be mad. I’m not saying don’t express your frustration. I’m not saying don’t tweet or Facebook about it. I’m not even saying don’t reach out to this photographer (if done professionally and with courtesy and diplomacy). But if it devolves into profane name calling, even on a forum you THINK is private, it’s just wrong. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t send mean emails to this photographer. All you will do is make them mad and less inclined to listen to you.

Be the bigger person. Make it glaringly obvious to all who see you and your interaction (online or off) that this is a classy industry made up of professionals of the highest caliber.

21 thoughts on “Wedding Photography vs. Videography: An Old and Pointless Debate

  1. Very well written Ron. I particularly like the footnote to our fellow filmmakers. It happens in forums in Australia also. The tone in which you conduct discussion in an unprofessional manner in a supposedly “private” forum does not reflect how professional you appear to be to fellow vendors and the couple on the wedding day.

    Sending rude emails to the photographer in question here will only fan the flame and turn more photographers against us if she chose to post them in a forum. We are creative professionals in the visual medium. Lets keep it professional in our written debate online.

    1. Excellent point about the fact she could post emails. Whenever you send anything into the interwebs, whether email or a post on a “private” forum, do it only if you have no problem with the whole world seeing it. Assume at some point they will.

      Thanks so much for the comment Peter.

  2. Nicely written, Ron. As one who shoots both photography and video (not at the same time, of course), and therefore sees both sides, I’m often shocked at the resentment and rivalry on both sides.

    When I’m shooting photos, do I prefer that there’s no one shooting video? Absolutely. Having two more shooters present definitely makes my job more challenging. However, I keep in mind that if the people getting married have paid to have someone shooting video, then clearly the video is important to them, and it’s my responsibility to them to work together with ALL the pro shooters to be sure everyone has the space they need to deliver the best possible product to the client.

    This should never be an us vs. them mentality. It’s about working as a team to serve your clients.

  3. Here’s my more balanced opinion on this whole thing. This photographer didn’t write this article so they could delete it. That’s like cheating on someone and then saying “forget about it, I was just having a bad day, really, it’s cool!” No. You can’t do that. Secondly, I have to say that wedding videographers are probably the most disrespected vendor at the whole party. The guests don’t care for us, the groom usually doesn’t care for us, I’ve even had people make snide comments right in front of me like “who decided to hire a f’ing video guy”.

    It’s also clear that the photographers don’t respect us. Most photographers (there are some exceptions, but this is from my experience with local vendors) don’t understand what we do. They think we just shadow them and catch the table scraps of their *brilliant* photography, no. In the world of an active and creative wedding videographer, that’s not the point. Then let’s look at the pricing structure of all this. I guarantee that at every wedding the most expensive vendor is 1st, the venue, and 2nd, the photographer. After that, maybe the DJ and the videographer. So really, as a person walking around, the photographer is the highest paid and therefore believes they are in control of everything and that they run the show. If we want time with the bride and groom, or if we want to take them to a location, the photographer dictates that decision and often can make or break the video depending on their decision.

    Let’s also throw in the fact that it takes a wedding videographer atleast twice as long to edit a wedding film, we have to buy music, and we have thousands more invested in equipment. Where a wedding photographer can get away with a camera, some nice lenses (or even some bad lenses from what I’ve seen) and a flash, at the bare minimum. A videographer need’s several cameras, recorders, mics, tripods, lenses, support equipment, etc.

    Here’s what I think needs to happen: photographers need to get over themselves and understand that video is here to stay, and if they keep this BS attitude that video isn’t necessary, then video is going to bite back. In a few years, we will be able to charge the same rates as a photographer, pick up an 8k camera and pull stills straight from the video. I’d be willing to bet that a tech savy photographer is worried about this. Futurist Michio Kaku claims that in the future people will have video frames on their wall instead of prints. I’m inclined to agree with him. Maybe they need to just do the best job they can taking photos and learn to work around the videographer the same way that we have to learn to work around them.

  4. Well said Ron. And yes about keeping it decent.
    I think we are just all fighting for a deserved recognition. We already have to justify ourselves to every other person making films out there “so you do weddings? interesting” as in “that’s because you failed at making feature films, right?”… So now, we have to fight for acceptance within our own Industry.
    There are good and bad pros in every single Industry on this planet. There are bad filmmakers, there are bad photographers. But there are good ones too and when it works, when the team dynamic is happening, when both sides are working together: man it is awesome! And I wouldn’t want to do anything else 🙂

  5. Ron, I’m surprised you would want her to remove the post. It’s a good discussion starter. I imagine this happens more than we think.

    I see it as a big opportunity for photographers. Most in the commercial / creative industry have had to adapt to the developments in technology to stay competitive. Why would photographers be any different?

    They should reach out to videographers and create partnerships which would broaden their client base too. If it’s their client they could essentially direct the wedding, the videographer would be working for them. I’m not familiar with the wedding industry but I’m sure there must be other benefits in working together than apart.

    1. If comments were left open where the discussion could happen on that blog, I would feel differently. As it stands now, it’s a provocative post giving really bad advice and there are no dissenting voices to give a different opinion. Obviously, it’s my opinion that it should come down. I think besides giving really bad advice to brides, it makes this photographer look bad. There’s nothing to gain by keeping it live.

      1. There tends to be an assumption that readers just read one article about an issue and take it as gospel. I don’t think this is the case.

        Any normal person who has these concerns would take the time to research the issue and educate themselves about how best to approach, this is the most important day of their life after all 🙂 If they don’t do that then it’s on them.

        The problem is these days very few people want to take personal responsibility for their actions. The greatest thing about the internet is the availability of information. There’s no excuse for not knowing the different sides of an issue all it takes is a bit of elbow grease.

  6. Pretty much every videographer shooting with DSLR cameras gets in the way. It’s ridiculous….we’ve worked with a couple videographers who had 4-6 people on their team, making it a big ol’ production and they were drawing attention to what they were doing….all….day….long. Stopping the action and having the bride and groom re-do things over and over and over. STUPID. We’ve only worked with a couple of videographers who do good work and stay out of the way. Win/win. The key word is “unobtrusive”. Laying in the middle of the aisle getting a slider shot while all the people sitting in the pews turn and look at you is not unobtrusive. Pushing up close to me so you can get your shot while the groom ties his bow tie is not unobtrusive. Besides…..every DSLR wedding video looks exactly the same. Slider this. Glidecam that. Silhouette here. Extreme rack focus there. Booooooring. We are SO SO happy when we find out there will not be a videographer at the wedding.

    1. Much of what you’re describing happens with photogs too. I know of photogs who have brides and grooms “re do” things. I’ve seen photogs up at the altar getting up close and personal with the floral designs to get creative macro shots. How’s that any less unobtrusive than the DSLR filmmaker trying to get a creative shot in the aisle. It would be one thing is a wedding filmmaker were doing it AS the bride walked down the aisle. But If he’s doing so before the ceremony and not getting in people’s way, who cares if people turn and look. They don’t have to be INVISIBLE.

      Every vendor in the wedding business has their fair share of people who make their industry look bad. DJs who don’t know their system or play terrible music. Wedding planners who run the wedding like Nazis. Photogs who get in the way of videogs. Videogs who get in the way of photogs. As I stated before, top notch pros CAN work together.

      In any case, I would never tell a bride not to hire a particular kind of vendor, particularly one providing a service as essential we video.

  7. Just imagine, one day people will be saying “We are SO happy when we find out there will not be a photographer at the wedding.”

  8. My heart does race a bit when I hear there is to be a videographer. The reason is that sometimes there is only one spot to shoot from and if a videographer or their tripod takes that spot it can have an impact on my product. That said I have found the best way forward is to approach/contact the videographer before the day and chat, meet ask questions. For example, do they set up tripods? will they be standing microphones in front of the BG on the top table, Which side at the front of the aisle will they be working from? Do they like to choreograph the BG etc. What I end up with is a videographer that feels valued and reacts positively. It is my view that if my clients feel that they want their wedding video’d then I respect that and respect the videographers product. I do advise/warn my clients however that under certain circumstances having both can have a negative impact on the final product. For example, very recently actually, the videographer placed a tripod with camera directly in front of the top table and right next to another important table where close family were sat. That had a direct impact on my product as it was very difficult to avoid having it in the shot without extreme angles which were not ideal. Also when I was about the photograph the first dance with all the ambient lighting, the videographer obliterated any ambience by putting on several powerful LED lights which lit up the dance floor like the 4th of July. Again that had a negative impact on my product. I do try to make it work and in the most part it does. I do find weddings where videographers are present are more difficult not for any other reason than sometimes we need the same space and there isn’t much room or for the instances listed above. I may have had an impact on his product as well so it isn’t all one sided. The truth is that clients should be advised that having both is great but they need to understand the possibility that both products can be effected in a negative way by conflicting needs.

  9. And then again, as you mentioned…. Professionalism. That’s the way it does not cause problems and in fact makes it super fun for both( yes, even if the reception was, let’s say, not too full of energy), I had recently experienced both, and when the photog worked with me, not defensive as the other, we had a blast doing our job and even giving each other tips on how to get this, or that shot, then we took turns to let the other have it the best way…. I promise you, that wedding was documented in such a way that I’m sure the newlyweds will absolutely love! having both video and pictures taken.

    Thanks Ron, once again hitting another perfect point!

  10. Good article! Hate to see you’re not doing weddings. I know so many videographers that have quit weddings altogether… too much hassle for the pay. (We’re starting to see professional photographers bailing on weddings too… quite a few in the last 2 years)

    1. I actually stopped weddings as my main focus back in 2007. They slowly trailed off and the last wedding I actually shot was 2010. Technically I’ll still do them if a bride wants. Our wedding work is pretty darn good (if I do say so myself. 🙂 But, when I use the same hourly rates as I charge for the commercial work we do, the wedding rates get into price ranges most couples don’t want to pay. It’s unfortunate because I think it’s actually worth MORE. But, that is the way of things.

  11. Seems like Emilie and team have been working alongside some newbies… or Stillmotion (lol, they posted a blog about getting close in the vows:

    I’ve been working with some great photographers and I always tell them how I’m going to move about during the day and especially at the ceremony. Before I move in, I always look at where the photographer and my second shooter is at. And seeing what lenses they use, I’ll get an idea of their range so that I can judge how close I can go.

    Of course, sometimes there’s just that moment where we both need to get that shot. And when this happens, we shoot side by side, John Woo style!

    We are rolling constantly… we don’t have the luxury of choosing a shot out of 5-10 frames… Nor do we have the time to mask out photographers that get into our shots. Even though I can, hello After Effects!

    I love it when I tell guests that I’m shooting film and not taking a photo. They make a “oops” smile then starts waving. These moments are priceless and I think our couples enjoy seeing these if they make the edit than their guests sitting there posing.

    Hhmmm, don’t more guests have DSLRs and cameras with massive mega pixels now? Heck, I even see awesome photos of my couple’s on Facebook by their friends on the night of their Wedding. These photos are even more candid, since they’re taken from the point of view of the guests. Only photos they’re missing out are the formal photos from the location shoots, Uncle Charlie can go to that too right?

    Surely if we say: “Let your friends take your photos”, couples might actually think of that…

  12. I would also like to add that the photographer/writer of that blog post was very hard to follow as a reader of her blog. She appears to switch audiences mid-paragraph quite often. At one point she will be writing to other photographers, in the next sentence she is writing to the bride and groom, and lastly she will end up writing to the videographer. She really needs to pick an audience for her posts and stay with it. Perhaps her post needs to be divided into three parts, one for brides & grooms, one for photographers, and one for videographers? Otherwise, her blog reads as unprofessional and could cause a bride & groom not to hire her. A good editor, even if it is her “Uncle Charlie” or one of her fellow photographers, could go a long way towards making her blog posts more easy to read.

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