What is ‘wedding cinematography’?

Surely a cinematographer is a very important person on a real film set?!  Also called a Director of Photography (DP) They are solely responsible for how the film looks.  They are in charge of all the lighting, sets, cameras and lenses and (in celluloid film shoots) are the only ones who have any idea how shots look until the film is processed and viewed the next day!


kinema “movements”, graphein “to record”


The word ‘cinematography’ has been used by wedding film makers for over 5 years now.  Understandably, people in the narrative movie making business are slightly offended that the word has been bastardised in this way.  The knowledge and pressures are of absolutely no comparison!  But now that the word is quite commonplace in the wedding film industry, it would be difficult to exchange it for another one and there has to be a distinction between videography and cinematography.

Videography, as I perceive it, is to capture everything that is happening to document a graphic memory with nothing (or little as possible) left out.  Cinematography is to capture artful moving images with the sole purpose of sculpting a graphic story – the editor’s (in most wedding shoots the same person) artistic, personal impression of the story.  Different cameras and equipment are required for each discipline and everyone has to be clear as to which service will be performed well in advance.

For videography an easy to carry (shoulder mount), easy to focus (smaller sensor) camera that captures A LOT of footage (higher compression) is required.  This camera will be ready for anything all the time and shouldn’t miss a trick!  Even with little or no notice of events.

For cinematography you need a camera (and other equipment) that is going to give you the best image for the story you want to convey.  Usually MUCH larger sensors that give you much more control over depth of field are used, but these are much harder to focus and extra skill and equipment is required.  Extra equipment is also required to perform cinematic moves such as dollys, jibs and steadicams.

On a side note you may think that such equipment is cumbersome and imposing, but due to the smaller size of the cameras this equipment is often much less imposing than a large shoulder mounted video camera.

More importantly than this is the shooting style.  Proper screen direction and editing techniques have rules that require the cinematographer to capture some situations on two, three or four cameras and planning is required.  In a wedding situation this is often (in my case always, unless pre determined) the ceremony, the speeches and the first dance.  These events will have a separate audio system in place to capture the dialogue, music or ambience in the best way.  A videographer will be ready for anything and in a lot of cases the onboard camera microphone will be good enough.  Being ready without notice is more important than quality.

So to summarise – I apologise to the narrative movie industry but we wedding folk are kind of stuck with your word, sorry :-/  and when you are looking to have a wedding or other event captured, you have to decide between videography and cinematography.  In both cases, be absolutely clear on what you are getting.




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