Most of the weddings I film feature confetti, which is always fun and can make for spectacular shots without much hassle or expense for the couple. All you need is a decent quantity of petals and something to put them in! Confetti is equally popular at grand luxury weddings and more modest celebrations. If you’re getting married, include confetti if you can!
I’m going to talk about the filming part. The confetti throw is one of those key parts of the day that couples will want to look back on, and it deserves to be captured well, even if there’s not much time to prepare (often the case!). The confetti throw tends to happen soon after the ceremony. Emotions are running high, everyone is cheering and excited, and needless to say it’s a shot you want to get right. So if you’re capturing the confetti throwing, whether you’re a professional wedding videographer, a wedding content creator or a guest who just wants to grab some cool shots on your phone, read on.
A clip from Jenny & Edd’s awesome wedding at Cripps Barn:
These are not rules!
With anything creative, you should experiment and do your own thing. I’m going to talk about what works for me as a wedding videographer, but something I always tell up-and-coming videographers is there is no such thing as a foolproof plan. With every aspect of filming, you have to be flexible and think on your feet. Don’t be Michael Scott! Consider the light, architecture and the people around you and adapt to the environment. This comes with experience, but the bottom line is don’t stick to one plan of action just because you’ve always done it that way.
Most important thing – communicate!
If you’re hired to capture the wedding, find out in advance what the plan is for the confetti and other key moments, then you can plan accordingly. Above all, coordinate with any other camera people (wedding photographers, videographers, content creators – and their teams) so you all get what you need. As a wedding videographer I always ask the photographer “How do you want to do the confetti? Up close and walking backwards or from a distance?”. This covers the two most common ways of capturing the moment, which I’ll discuss below. I don’t dictate how to film the confetti, because the photographer has to nail the shot too and I can adapt to their plans. Instead, I get their input and we work together, usually standing or walking side by side to avoid getting in each other’s shots. Once you’ve agreed on a plan, try to stick to it!
What actually happens during the confetti throwing?
Usually the guests form a tunnel, and the couple walk through it, with everyone throwing petals at them as they pass. There are alternatives to petals, like paper, rice, plastic (yuck!) or bubbles. Sometimes the couple stands still and confetti is thrown over them, typically when a luxury wedding venue has a grand staircase so all the guests can throw the confetti from above and appear in the shot.
The confetti throwing generally takes place either:
1. In the aisle
As the ceremony ends, guests throw confetti while the couple walks down the aisle. Either packets of confetti are left on every seat, or at some stage before the ceremony ends the confetti is handed out to guests. If the couple is about to leave but someone forgot to hand out the confetti, I would personally speak up. This is exactly what happened in the example above, from Mili & Sam’s luxury wedding at Claridge’s Hotel, London. If me and the photographer had stayed quiet, there would be no confetti shot from this wedding.
2. In a tunnel of guests
At some point between the ceremony and the meal, usually very soon after the ceremony ends, a tunnel of guests is created for the couple to walk through, like the above example from Kate & Jack’s stunning wedding at Hedsor House. There may be baskets of confetti, so guests grabs handfuls before lining up, and usually the photographer arranges everyone in two rows ready for the couple to appear. When the couple comes out of a venue or church directly into the tunnel, it looks great on film and makes for a dramatic moment.
3. Standing in place
When a venue has a feature staircase or balcony there may be opportunities for a dramatic confetti shot without a tunnel. In the example above, from Rhema & Theo’s gorgeous wedding at One Great George Street in London, the couple walked down the grand staircase, then all the guests surrounded them as confetti was thrown from the balcony above. One Great George Street is the perfect luxury wedding venue for this particular confetti shot, given its unique architecture. Other venues that are famous for the static confetti shot are Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire and The Elvetham in Hampshire, both with impressive staircases. You may think that a shot of the couple standing still would lack drama, but it can look beautiful, like snow falling.
Context – film the confetti before and after!
Try to get some short clips of guests grabbing confetti. This adds context to the scene. A hand diving into a basket and pulling out petals, followed by a wider shot of someone doing the same thing would cut together well and that’s probably all you need. If the confetti is handed out in the doorway of a church, look at the light, as you may have a nice silhouette on one side and pretty, dramatic light on the other. Then after the confetti is thrown, you may get some magic, especially if it’s windy. Is the confetti blowing on the ground, over people’s fancy wedding shoes, are guests pulling it out of their hair, are the couple brushing each other down? All these “aftermath” shots can be unique and interesting. Confetti blowing down a London street? Reminds me a little of the bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty. I’ll have some of that 🙂
Filming the confetti – static camera
A static camera is usually handheld but you may prefer a monopod. If you’re a guest or content creator, you probably want to film from a fixed position in the crowd. Assuming there’s a wedding photographer and videographer working, staying out of their way will be appreciated! You may also favour a static position as a wedding videographer, with guests in the foreground adding interest to the shot and giving it depth. If you’re static, and there’s a good distance between you and the couple, you can use a longer lens (like an 85mm) for a dreamier depth of field, and there’s the added bonus of filming more discreetly, not being so visible to the couple or their guests. If the photographer favours a static position, letting the couple come towards them, then I would adopt the same tactic, filming handheld and not moving. Another reason for filming handheld would be if the route is too precarious for you to walk backwards, like this example from Cara & Ed’s fabulous wedding at Exton Park. 35mm lens, handheld.
Stuff to consider with static positions: it’s a less dynamic shot, as you’re not moving the camera, but you can more carefully adjust your composition – as well as your exposure if the light changes rapidly. Your view might be blocked. So you’ve got the perfect artsy framing of the couple walking towards you, then the second photographer appears out of nowhere, or the main photographer who was right next to you changes their mind and runs forward to get a cool shot, or a guest steps out and blocks your view, or the hands that were providing foreground interest suddenly turn into a child being lifted off the ground to get a better look. Ugh! Consider using a wider lens (like a 35mm) and get ready to move if you have to. As the couple walk past, you can film the back of them too and as I discuss later, having a nice second angle can really elevate the film. Finally, a static shot where the couple is walking towards you requires a good control over focus. You can either manually focus or use tracking – these days many cameras have excellent continuous auto-focus, which is what I use.
Filming the confetti – moving camera
A moving camera is usually on a gimbal, but you can also film handheld while walking, especially with advances in post stabilisation. My default option is walking backwards with a gimbal, facing the couple, side by side with the photographer. In the old days, photographers would tend to shoot from further away and stay mostly static, because cameras were slower and auto-focus more primitive. Now the trend is to get in closer and move with the couple. On the video side, this gives you a dynamic shot with constant movement, and even if someone steps in front of you, your view will only be blocked for a second. It’s a safer shot in terms of visibility.
I used to use an ultrawide lens (18mm) which is a safe (and boring) focal length, but I now I’m on a 35mm and much prefer the look. If the autofocus tracking on your camera isn’t reliable then pre-focus and maintain a fixed distance from the couple as you move, which is what I did in the example below from Emily & Richard’s amazing wedding at Bruisyard Hall. If you want a quick and easy second angle, halfway through the shot you can duck out of the way and grab a rear view of the couple. Some people walk backwards while shooting handheld – try it and see if it suits your style. And if you’re really brave, you could add a mini drone to the mix – just keep it high enough that it doesn’t cause a distraction, and try not to crash it into the crowd, hmmkay?
The downside of moving the camera: when you’re on a gimbal, it’s harder to control framing and exposure. Sudden light changes are a nightmare! You are also more “on display” which for many of us is annoying as we’re trying to be as discreet as possible. And it does take a few moments to set up the gimbal, so think about that in advance and make sure the gimbal is well balanced to avoid last minute panics. One of the main things to bear in mind is your own safety and that of anyone behind you, if you’re walking backwards. What I do is hold the gimbal with my right (dominant) hand, and have my left hand outstretched behind me to feel for anyone in my path. You need to especially watch out for kids and older guests. Seriously, be safe and considerate.
Get that second (or third!) angle
The most gorgeous confetti shot in the world may still be a little dull if you show the whole thing from one angle without cutting. When you add extra angles, it gives the scene more dimension and a chance to reveal the shot from a less obvious viewpoint. You can also condense the confetti part or maybe remove that one moment you’re not happy with, without any jump cuts, just by switching to another view. This is harder to achieve when the confetti happens as the couple walk down the aisle at the end of the ceremony, but at least try to get a wide and a tight shot. Or let the couple walk past you and film something from behind them too. Brides and grooms put a lot of thought (and money!) into their attire and this is a great opportunity to show how they look from behind, how the dress flows, how the veil catches the light, all that good stuff.
Worm’s eye view
What I like to do for confetti tunnels, even when filming solo, is to drop a second camera down low on a mini tripod for a “worm’s eye view”. This is a dramatic angle and a fun shot. I use an ultrawide lens, focused 2 or 3 metres ahead, and tell the couple to walk past it on either side as the shot begins. Often the bride’s dress flows over the lens, which is a cool and natural way of revealing the scene. You can then tilt the shot in post so it tracks the movement of the couple, like this example from Carmen & Ricardo’s gorgeous wedding:
If the couple start off inside, you may also be able to use this shot as a silhouette (expose for the sky), which might be the best angle of all. Quickly check the framing and background to decide whether a worm’s eye or higher position works best. One of my favourite rear angle confetti shots is this one from All Saints Church by Fulham Palace. The doors opening and closing combined with that contrasting light which began as a silhouette to subtly reveal the scene, plus the reflections either side of the door – all that was a lot more interesting than my gimbal shot!
The Tech bit
Changing light. Whenever you’re filming a moving subject outside, you have to anticipate changes in light. The sun may suddenly appear from behind clouds, a tree may cast a huge shadow, or especially with confetti shots, the couple might transition from inside a building to outside. So be ready! If the couple are standing in the shadow of a doorway and are about to walk into the sunshine, expose for outside and allow the couple to appear from the shadows, which is actually a beautiful shot. Don’t expose for the shadows or as soon as they step into the light your image will be blown out. Remember, if a bride is wearing white that will be super bright outside, so be conservative with your exposure. Be ready for the unexpected, with your hands on the shutter / ISO controls so you can quickly adjust.
Cranking the shutter. There is an old school of thought that shutter speed should always be exactly twice your frame rate, so if you’re filming in 50p, you have to stick to 1/100s shutter speed no matter what. Most seasoned wedding videographers will tell you not to worry about that, just treat it as a minimum shutter speed but feel free to go as high as you like. I use an ND (neutral density) filter but if I have to crank the shutter to 1/2000s it’s totally fine. Honestly, this is not something to lose sleep over. Wedding films are a balance between cinematic and practical and I’m certainly not going to sacrifice my shallow depth of field for more motion blur. Crank that shutter!
Frame rates. If you want to slow the footage down in post, use a high frame rate like 50p or 100p, assuming your final film will be 25p (the most common frame rate for wedding videos here in the UK). Personally, I film in 50p all day long to keep things simple, even though I rarely use slow motion these days. Switching between frame rates throughout the day is a pain and inevitably leads to mistakes. In theory you can “fake” slow motion in software through frame interpolation, but don’t try this with confetti – the scene is too complex and you’ll get all kinds of weird artefacts.
Audio. Use the cheering sound in your wedding film! Even if you’re a slow motion fan, natural audio can enhance the experience, depending on the vibe you’re going for. On-camera audio is fine (it’s what I use) but do make sure your audio levels are low enough to record all the cheering without distortion.
Confetti shot: Final thoughts
Be safe and considerate to everyone around you. Look at what the environment offers, and take advantage of your surroundings instead of repeating the same shot at every wedding. For example, is there elevation so you can capture on overhead view? If you have a second shooter, maybe they focus on crowd reactions, or parents or kids, or maybe they have a gimbal and can perform a tight tracking shot from the side, like a Hollywood dolly shot? Once you’re decided on your primary shot, the safe option, get that second angle! Extra angles don’t have to work, you can try something new and take a chance. And remember, you probably don’t have to show the entire confetti scene so if someone does block your shot or you mess up exposure, don’t panic! A few seconds of magic is all you need. Oh, and finally, do remember to press the bloody record button!
If you want to ask me any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help 🙂 Cheers!