Don’t Let DIY Wedding Videos Hijack Your Memories

I was browsing the internet today, as many of us tend to do, when I stumbled upon one of these websites offering cheap HD  videos.  I had never even heard of this service before, but  my curiosity soared as I quickly realized that this was a wedding videography service.

Would this be the end of my career as a videographer in the wedding industry?  Will this company do to us what Netflix did to Blockbuster?

Spoiler alert:  The answer is a resounding, ‘NO’.

First, let me explain the service.

On their homepage the first thing you see are the words, “Finally easy and affordable wedding videos!”  Crap.  Just HOW affordable are they gonna be, and how bad is this going to be for my business?

Well it turns out, not as affordable as I would have expected.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s cheaper than hiring most professionals, but not by a lot.  Also, remember, you get what you pay for.  More on that later.

So here’s the breakdown.  For $500 they ship you 5 HD cameras for you to put out for your guests or family members to use to take video of your special day.  You ship the cameras back after a week and the footage is hosted on their site for a year.

First, let’s talk about the “HD cameras.”  On their website it looks like their cameras are a bunch of cell phones, however upon reading their FAQ section, they reveal that they have “upgraded” to ipod touches.  This is hysterical to me, since those hardly even qualify as HD cameras.  But what is terrible for the consumer is the fact that people who don’t know how to use these cameras.  If you hold the camera vertically the image comes out as a narrow sliver of video with giant black bars on each side.  It looks ridiculous.  If you turn the camera horizontal, then you get your typical wide screen looking video we are all used to.  Some of the samples this site had to showcase had a mixture of both, so it constantly switched back and forth.

So what do you get after that for your $500?  Well, basically just the video you recorded.  They say they will edit it for you, but that will cost another $200-$350.

This first site got me wondering about other such sites, so the search was on.  Sure enough, I found a handful of other sites identical to the first, but not any better as to what the customer gets in the end.  Some of the cameras are different, some a little better, but the end result is still going to be disappointing, especially considering how much money you are still dishing out.

With each site you are looking to spend between $850 to upwards of $1450 for the camera rental and editing they do for you.  This is also assuming you don’t break or lose the camera they send.  Yes, you would have to pay for a replacement.

This is not the “huge savings” they try to tell you it is.  Like most businesses, there are a range of pricing options.  Some wedding videographers charge  $3,000 (or well over that) for full wedding coverage and editing.  But that isn’t everywhere.  It depends on the city or town you live in, it depends on the experience of the videographer, it depends on the equipment they have and the time they put into the project.  Charleston videographers tend to be in the mid to upper $1,000 to lower $2,000 range.  There are several, however, that you can find who will charge less than $1,000 for endless hours of shooting and editing with better equipment.  Also, YOU don’t have to worry about recording the video yourself and someone who probably has a lot more experience using video cameras would be capturing these moments in time.

The other problem that is often overlooked, until the video comes back, is the sound.  These small handheld cameras will offer the lowest quality of sound.  Don’t think that’s important?  Well, unless you just want to watch people standing for 15-30 minutes of the ceremony without hearing a word, then no, it isn’t important.  But if you actually want to hear what the officiant says, the vows, the singing, the readings, and any other sounds that come from the couple getting married, you will almost definitely not be able to capture that using the DIY camera equipment.

The only way you will hear even a little bit of what is being said is by either standing right next to s speaker (assuming they have a microphone up there) or by standing 5 feet from the couple as they are getting married.  Even then, you’ll still pick up plenty of background noise.  Most of the weddings I shoot are outside, so the wind would be a terrible annoyance.

Friends or family members would have to be tasked with shooting the video all day, and would not get to fully enjoy the wedding and ceremony.  You might think you could, but trust me, it isn’t the same.  Put down the camera for a few hours and you will feel freed by its absence.  Some people might think, “oh no, I wouldn’t have just 1 or 2 people shooting my video, I would put the 5 cameras on the tables for the guests to shoot!


Each camera only shoots about 1 hour of video.  That means you are only going to get about 5 hours.  5 hours might be long enough for your ceremony and reception, but only if you are shooting with 1 camera at a time.  Thus, the reason you would have to designate 1 or 2 people to be in charge of the taping.  The other problem with putting cameras on the tables and letting the guests try their hand at a little cinematography is, there is no guarantee they will pick up the camera and shoot anything!  They might not get the key moments you want, like the toasts (which you probably won’t hear anyway because of the horrible sound), or the cake cutting, or the first dance, or the departure.  The last thing you want to do is spend hundreds of dollars on cameras that are never used.

So lets sum up.

1)  There are several websites that offer an affordable alternative to the professional wedding videographer.  The cost is, in many cases, not a ton cheaper, and you have to worry about lost or damaged cameras and having to pay to replace those (which would put you well over the cost of a professional).

2)  You are putting these cameras in the hands of people who are not trained with video cameras and do not know how to get the smooth fluid shots that professionals can attain.

3)  You are also asking people who should be enjoying the party to do this job for you, and probably for free.  If not free, add another cost to the video.

4)  The sound will be very poor, if not non-existent.

5)  You have a very limited amount of hours recording on these cameras, unless you pay more to get extras (roughly an extra $100 per camera).

6)  Not only are the camera operators untrained in the art of shooting video, but the cameras themselves are well below the standards that ALL professionals would use.

In conclusion, if you can’t afford a professional videographer, and this ipod touch/cell phone quality video is acceptable to you, have your nephew shoot the ceremony and reception on his cell phone and edit it with some  free software.  You will get the same result.  They don’t know how to edit?  Hire a college kid for $100 to do it.  Again, you’ll get equal quality at a MUCH cheaper price.

But my advice?

Don’t diminish your memories with this bottom of the barrel video service, just to save a buck.  You will regret it in the end.  When your friends post their beautiful highlight reels their professional videographer put together, you will envy the story it tells and kick yourself for not doing the same.


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