Guide-for-the-Bride: Is Your Wedding Cinematographer Doing Things Right?

Like the entirety of an unforgettable wedding, the whole of a cinematic film is formed by the seamless interaction of many diverse parts, firing on all cylinders.

If the framing of a shot is superb, but the subject out of focus in a key moment, the shot is going to the trash bin. Wedding cinematography, like other portions of filmmaking, and many other art forms, is an all-or-nothing pursuit, where everything must work, or nothing works at all.

But even when things work, they can work better. The premium talent in the wedding cinematography industry doesn’t distinguish itself by doing the basic or essential. It sets itself apart by doing things that most other vendors in the field simply aren’t doing. And those things are often the difference between your wedding film looking cinematic, or not.

Here’s what to look for, and ask your Wedding Cinematographer, to find out if they’re just fitting in, or doing the things needed to make your work (and therefore your wedding film) stand out cinematically:

1. Are they shooting with the best codec?

Resolution isn’t everything. A Wedding Cinematographer can shoot in 4K in one shot, and then shoot in 4K again in another, but this time in a more compressed codec (in Lehman’s terms, the video file format being chosen), which will do injustice to their high resolution choice, as their footage will look lower quality, due to the higher compression of the codec used in the latter. So, don’t get too bogged down in whether your Wedding Cinematographer chooses 1080p, 4K or something else, resolution-wise (although those have some importance, too). Ask them, more specifically, if the codec they’re using will hold up, through the endless battering in quality that your wedding film will go through down the workflow pipeline, or when compressed, re-posted or shared online.

 

2. Are they using lenses that produce that extra “texture?”

High-quality lenses are a given. If a Wedding Cinematographer’s lenses can’t optically reproduce images at a premium level, they have no business in the industry. A better question to ask instead, is: do their lenses produce something special in the image? A softness that’s dreamy and angelic? A color reproduction that brings a vivid touch to the visuals at hand?

 

3. Are they shooting log, or baked-in?

Without getting too technical, shooting “log” is comparable to shooting in-camera with your settings largely muted. Contrast low, saturation low; essentially as blank as a visual canvas can get, within camera. Shooting “baked in” is just about the opposite, and, as you can imagine, a handicap when you need to manipulate an image later, as most color, contrast and other visual elements will already be set, and will tend to destroy an image if tinkered with too extensively.

The flexibility to go significantly further up the realm of cinematic possibilities is only found with shooting log. If your Wedding Cinematographer appreciates that fact, and puts it to use, you’ll have yet another cinematic tool on your side, when you receive the finished product.

 

4. How are they making light and shadow work together?

There are certain interactions between light and shadow that have come to be regarded as central to a “cinematic look.” These interactions evoke the deepest emotions of cinema, and should be well-known to any Wedding Cinematographer well versed in the craft of producing cinematic imagery. Among these, one can find:

– The use of silhouetting the subject of the frame, to create a moody dynamic.

– The use of soft lighting on a subject, to evoke elegance and balance.

– The use of less commonly employed colors, like cyan and lavender, for instance, to bring out more emotional intensity.

– Framing a subject under an intense, single beam, to increase dramatic impact.

 

5. Are they color grading in a way that enhances elements in the frame cinematically?

Simply put, color grading (the process of tweaking color, contrast, exposure, and other visual elements after editing has been completed) is where a professional can set themselves apart the most. The possibilities in color grading are seemingly endless, as color palettes can be manipulated and complimented over a very wide gamut, and where a creative professional (in this case, your Wedding Cinematographer and/or their Colorist) chooses to land in this gamut will say a lot about their knowledge of what does and doesn’t produce a cinematic image.

Generally, a few common “do’s” in producing a cinematic color grade include:

– Finding a complimentary set of colors as the foundation of your final color palette on screen (teal shadows/warm midtones or slightly blue shadows/neutral midtones are favorites of many professional Colorists).

– For wedding films, lifting (brightening) your shadows a tad bit more than usual, slightly reducing contrast, and keeping saturation levels near normal (this replicates the look of old film – but not in an excessive way).

– Keeping highlights (the brightest parts of an image), at balanced levels. Few things look as unprofessional and “video-y” as bright parts of the frame being so bright that you can’t make out detail in that part of the image.

 

So there you have it. An easy-to-understand Guide-for-the-Bride on how to keep your Wedding Cinematographer’s cinematic game in check. 🙂

Stay tuned for our next Guide-for-the-Bride in a few weeks, where we’ll be covering the best ways to have a productive and enjoyable working relationship with your Wedding Cinematographer.

– Andy

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