Shooting a Wedding Video? Say Goodbye To the Confusion of Operating Your Video Camera

If you are planning to shoot a wedding video, and your only prior experience with using a video camera is the footage you shot at your three year old’s birthday party, then here’s a chance to quickly and easily learn the most important camera functions and their optimal settings.

1. The on/off function

If you don’t know how to turn your camera on, then you’re out of luck. Different cameras place their on/off power buttons in different locations. You know your camera’s power is on if you see an image in the viewfinder or flip-out screen. Note: Don’t forget to remove the lens cap.

2. Menu functions

There are some settings in your camera that need to be adjusted/set before you videotape the wedding. They are accessed through the Menu button on your camera. These functions and their optimal settings include:

Time/date – Off

No matter how professionally you shoot the wedding, if you leave the time/date function on you will look like an amateur.

Focus – Auto
Exposure – Auto
White Balance – Auto

The only time you need to change these settings to” Manual” is when lighting conditions or picture composition are out of the norm.

(e.g. adjust for exposure: heavily back-lit subjects making them look like they’re in a Witness Protection program; adjust for focus: competing objects in foreground that make your camera continually roll focus back and forth with nauseating results…like looking through your grandfather’s bifocals.

Gain level – 0

Increase gain level only when light levels are low. You should be aware that increasing gain levels will affect the quality of your videotape. However, so does darkness. Increasing gain level may be your only choice in this situation.

Record mode/speed – SP (Standard Play)

Your camera may have additional record modes/speeds including: EP (Extended Play), LP (Long Play) and SLP (Super Long Play) These record modes are designed to extend the record time you have on your videotape. If you find that the wedding is running longer than expected and you do not have additional videotape, changing the record speed to EP, LP or SLP will give you more record time on the tape. You should be aware that using these slower modes will result in some loss of quality.

3. Battery insertion

Become familiar with camera battery insertion. Trying to figure this out in a dimly-lit church during the wedding ceremony is going to spell big trouble for you.

Also, remember to keep track of the remaining power level of the batteyr by observing the battery level display in the viewfinder.

5. Zoom function

Zoom controls on a video camera usually include buttons or slide control marked W (wide) and T (telephoto). You should become familiar with the sensitivity of these controls. This is similar to becoming familiar with the sensitivity of the brakes on a new car.

6. Microphone input jacks

If your camera has a mic input jack, you will be able to plug in an external microphone which will enhance the quality of your audio while giving you more range and flexibility with your camera.

7. Headphone input jack

Plug a headphone set into this jack so that you can check the quality and level of audio you are receiving into the camera while recording or during playback.

8. Videotape insertion

This is something you should know well before coming to the church. Different cameras require specific tape insertion methods. Improper tape insertion can have damaging effects on your camera. If you are unsure, take your camera and videotape to a video camera dealer that can help you with this matter.

9. Tripod

Even though is not a function found on the camera, a tripod is an essential adjunct to proper camera operation. Correctly extending and locking the tripod legs, attaching the camera to the tripod quick-release plate and operating the pan/tilt locks and handle are tasks and skills that must be mastered before attempting to shoot the wedding.

10. View finder or flip out monitor

Older cameras have viewfinders which are used to help you see what you are shooting/videotaping. You can adjust the focus of the viewfinder for your vision by using the diopter which is a small wheel attached to the viewfinder.

Newer camera models usually include a flip-out screen monitor which functions like the viewfinder but with an easier-to-see display. Although more convenient for viewing, the flip-out screen requires more battery power. So if you find yourself running low on battery power, close the flip-out screen and use the viewfinder. (Both will not work at the same time. You must use one or the other.)

Viewfinders and flip-out screens also provide a readout of the status of several camera functions such as Record, Pause, Stop, record speed, battery power level and videotape used and/or remaining. Think of these displays like the gauges on you car dashboard.

11. Record

Just because your camera may be turned on doesn’t mean that you are capturing any video. You must push the Record button if you want to have something to playback to the bridal couple later. Once you push the record button, your viewfinder should display a red REC or red dot indicator, which verifies that the camera is recording. Another indication that you are recording will be a running time code display, also in your viewfinder/flip-out screen.

Just remember, fear and anxiety come from not being prepared. Becoming familiar with these basic video camera functions and settings will help you to be relaxed, confident and looking forward to capturing a once-in-a-lifetime event that the bride and groom will treasure forever.