Modern Wedding Photography

Post Modern Wedding Photography

Why Post Modern?   I believe that we have already gone well beyond the concept of Modern Wedding Photography.  In my opinion, the modern wedding photography era started with the emergence of quality digital cameras.  As a wedding photographer who has spanned both the film and digital eras, I feel like I can speak with a certain amount  of authority on the subject.  With over 1,200 weddings photographed, I have still shot more weddings with film!  I can certainly say that the difference between the film and digital eras are enormous.  I thought it might be fun to explore this in more detail in a blog post.  So here goes……

Great Wedding Photography – Film Era

OK, so I used to photograph weddings with a 2 1/4 Hasselblad film camera.  It was manual focus, manual exposure and the largest film magazine only held 24 exposures.  The biggest challenge in those days was getting the exposure right and producing sharp, well composed wedding photos.  It took considerable skill and tons of practice. Clients were generally pretty happy if you delivered about 500 final photos that were in-focus and nicely posed.  If you caught a few special moments, even better!  There was a certain fear back in those days of hiring a friend or having Uncle Bob shoot your wedding.  Why?  Because of the horror stories  involving amateur photographers delivering  blurry photos or no photos at all!

This fear became relief from clients when  professional wedding photographers were able to deliver  500 +  proofs in a nice preview album.  I am certainly not suggesting that brides and grooms didn’t expect great photos back then.  Yes, even then there was always hope for something better than simply “in focus” prints.  There has always been different levels of wedding photography excellence and most of us strived to reach that type of success.   My point is the pressure was not as great back then and you would be forgiven if you didn’t produce any great shots.  This type of mediocre performance would not place you in the elite division of professional wedding photographers.  But it  would allow you to have a career in wedding photography and make a decent living.

Digital Photography Comes of Age

To avoid boring my audience with a long and tiresome history lesson on Digital Photography, suffice to say that in the late 90’s advanced types of digital cameras were starting to become available.  For those readers who want more details, here is an excellent digital photography history for your perusal.  Exceptional yet affordable digital cameras being made available to the public basically killed the old wedding photography industry as we knew it.  The mystery was gone!  Anyone could now take wedding photos and know that they would at least turn out.  Professional wedding photographers throughout the San Francisco area and beyond began to see their bookings drop!  I actually remember comparing notes with my fellow photographers regarding the number of weddings we had booked for the year.  As each year went by, the numbers went down.  Many wedding photographers closed their businesses.  There were just not enough weddings to go around for all of us because so many potential clients felt confident in “Uncle Bob” shooting their wedding with his cool new digital SLR.

Surviving the Digital Photography Era

For a professional wedding photographer to survive in what I call the Modern era, we had to offer our clients something more.   How did we do it?  Well, digital photography had one major advantage over film…..  You could take all the photos you wanted and it didn’t cost a penny.  This allowed pro photographers to take more photos and as a result, produce more candid photos. Thus, Wedding Photojournalism was born!  Now we could shoot thousands of photos at every wedding and capture all the special moments and we didn’t have to pay $1.00 for each photo (approximate film era cost per photos was always said to be $1.oo each!)   Books were published about this new phenomenon of Documentary wedding photography.   Brides started asking us if our style was traditional or photo journalistic.  I could go into a great detail about all of this and perhaps will in a future blog post, but for the purpose of this article suffice it to say that this was the hot style  in the 1st decade of the 21st century.

Death of the Wedding Photojournalist

What I am about to write will be somewhat controversial among some of my fellow wedding photographers.   It is my opinion that after a decade marked by  thousands of brides having their weddings covered in a purely documentary style the result was considerable disappointment among many clients.  As it turned out, it really wasn’t that difficult to take 3,000 photos at a wedding and catch dozens of “moments.”  In fact, armed with a fully automatic digital camera and about 1 hour of training, virtually anyone could be a wedding photojournalist.  Unfortunately this ease allowed hundreds of wedding photographers to enter the industry with no knowledge of lighting or posing.   Clients soon grew tired of having to wade through thousands of candid wedding photos with no images really standing out.  Did the wedding photographer capture some great moments? Of course they did!    But how were the family photos, how was the lighting, were there any fun poses?  Too often the answer was no!

Wedding Photography as Art

I believe that the post modern era of wedding  photography began in the early part of this decade.  It’s emergence was gradual yet definitive.     We began to approach wedding photography as an art form and not just an assignment.  In fact, we even started calling ourselves artists!  Randomly check out some professional wedding photographer’s websites and you will see that many people have changed  the “About” section to “About the Artist”.   Many  now refer to wedding packages as “Collections”.  If you could still see wedding photography websites from the film era you would not see any of this terminology.

To stand out in the post modern era, wedding photographers need to provide their clients with creative photos with beautiful light and gorgeous backgrounds.  The posing needs to be correctly done and grab the viewers attention.  Do these attributes sound familiar? Of course, it’s some of the same things you hear about other forms of art such as paintings.   Even Pinterest has collections of wedding photos called Fine Art Wedding Photography 

The Post Modern Wedding Photographer

If you aspire to be a professional wedding photographer in this era, you will need to be able to produce creative images with impact and beauty.  You will also need to understand lighting, composition and posing.  Machine gun candid photo shooters are still out there, but they will not be considered in the upper echelons nor will they command top dollar for their work.  In a sense, the industry has come full circle.  As was true in the film era, a successful wedding photographer will need to possess great skill, but with a difference……  The old Technical skill needed to operate ancient film cameras has now been replaced by the skill of an artist!

Living in San Francisco

The San Francisco Life

I am a rare breed, an actual San Francisco native.  I was born in the city and lived there for many years with my family.  Our neighborhood happened to be the famous Haight Ashbury District and I lived there in in the 1960’s during the Hippie era.  I remember walking through the Pan Handle and literally stepping over Hippies lying in the streets as I walked with my classmates to school.   It was quite an experience and a different time.   We used to play outside by ourselves with no fear.  I could walk home from school by myself and we didn’t think it was any big deal.  As a young adult I attended the University of San Francisco, which was walking distance from where I lived as a child.  So what does any of this have to do with wedding photography in San Francisco?  Keep reading to find out….

San Francisco as Inspiration

The San Francisco community fancies itself as an art society.   People here are very in touch with their “right brain”.  What does this mean?  Right brainers are focused on creative pursuits and art.  San Francisco inspires artists to create.  It’s hard to define, but I just know that many of my San Francisco wedding photographers are concerned with providing their clients with more than just traditional images.   They want to use San Francisco as a backdrop for amazing creative and  historic images.  It is easy to do here, because the city offers so much.  Having grown up here, I find myself very in tune with the beauty and history all around us.  We love taking our clients to beautiful places like The Palace of Fine Arts and the Legion of Honor.  We want to show our couples different aspects of living in San Francisco through photography.   When we take couples on a photo tour of the city, we talk about the lifestyle and also show examples.

San Francisco Landmarks

The city has so many amazing landmarks and historical locations to take our couples.   On any given day, you will find many San Francisco residents enjoying the beauty and elegance of these places.  This is part of the San Francisco lifestyle, a very easy going pace when compared to other large cities.  Hanging out in Golden Gate park, spending time by the Painted Ladies or just  walking on Baker Beach.  These activities are all part of how people live in the City by the Bay.  The fact that I grew up here makes me even more motivated to show visitors what a fun place it is to live.

experiencing the San Francisco lifestyle
Experiencing the San Francisco lifestyle

We look forward to sharing our vision of San Francisco with all of our clients whether they live here or are visiting from other countries.

 

 

 

 

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Ideas

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Ideas

We have been photographing weddings at San Francisco City Hall now for nearly 10 years and have learned some interesting ideas and helpful hints throughout this time.  I thought it would be instructive to share some of these thoughts with our readers to help engaged couples planning on getting married at San Francisco City Hall.

  • Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer –  OK probably no surprise that I started with this hint since I am a City Hall Wedding Photographer. However, this is not strictly self-serving.  I would highly recommend that you hire ANY of the top wedding photographers that specialize in City Hall weddings.  Why?  Because the top 10 or so photographers will not only take wonderful photos of your ceremony and formal shots, but they will also guide you through the process.  Over these 10 years I have watched other photographers work with their clients and all of them are happy to help.  Conversely, when I see couples without a photographer, they appear confused and keep doing the wrong thing with regard to activities like the County Clerk ceremony check-in.  Having a helpful professional there to guide you just takes one more stressful thing to worry about on your wedding day.
  • Dress up and Bring Flowers – We often find that brides and grooms are surprised when they see other couples wearing formal attire.  Many of them are disappointed that they didn’t do the same.  I think people that are unfamiliar with SF City Hall don’t realize that people actually do formal weddings there because of the beauty of the venue.  But the biggest issue we see is brides not bringing a bouquet for photography.   The only negative thing I would ever say about City Hall is that the colors are all very monotone.  So even though our photos come out gorgeous with the amazing backgrounds and architecture, SO much is added simply be mixing in a splash of color.  It also gives the bride something to do with her hands!
  • Avoid City Hall Crowds – Yes, it really is possible to have your wedding San Francisco City Hall and not have other weddings and tourists everywhere.  How do we avoid this?  You just need to pick your spots.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to get married and by far the least crowded.  Some people tell me,  “But we can’t get married in the middle of the week, it needs to be Friday to accommodate our friends and family”.    Well if you have ever been in City Hall on “Crazy Friday”, you wont be using the word “accommodate” and “Friday” in the same sentence.  Ask your friends and family, they might surprise you.  Also, if you really want to have the place to yourself, get married early morning (9:30 am slot) or later (3:30 pm slot).
  • Consider a Reserved Ceremony – Obviously one of the big draws to having your nuptials at San Francisco City Hall is the low cost.  Under $100 to get married in this beautiful historic building.  However, the rules state that you should only bring 6 guests.  Yes, most people ignore these rules, but you are still limited and the more people you bring the more others are disrupted.  Reserving the Mayor’s Balcony or the 4th Floor North Gallery only costs $1,000 and pretty much guarantees you privacy and 1 hour of no crowds.  Get married on a Friday, who cares now!  You have your own space, they rope if off, and even set up chairs for your 40 guests.  In addition, your wedding photographer now has at least one location to get great shots !Reserved Wedding at San Francisco City Hall

Fun Wedding Dress at City Hall

 

We photographed Cheri and Wesley’s San Francisco City Hall wedding on 10/13 and had never met them prior to the wedding.  When I arrived at City Hall, I contacted Cheri so we could meet prior to the wedding.  During our phone conversation Cheri told me:  “Dont worry, you will recognize me, I am pretty sure that I am the only bride in the building wearing a dress with black and white polka dots!”

Polka Dot Wedding Dress at SF City Hall
Polka Dot Wedding Dress at SF City Hall

Cheri’s attitude matched the fun in her dress and we had a great time at their wedding.  Wesley and her came all the way from Alaska to have their nuptials at one of the best wedding venues on the west coast.  They talked about the affordability and historic beauty of city hall and how they really wanted to have their wedding here.  They chose our City Hall Tour Package which provided them with 4 hours of photographic coverage and 3 locations in San Francisco.  They choose to go to the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge and we finished up at Ghirardelli Square.

Fun Wedding Dress at the Grand Staircase
Fun Wedding Dress at the Grand Staircase

The weather was gorgeous in typical October “Indian Summer” fashion in San Francisco.  We drove the couple to each location and had a fantastic time.  We love it when our clients choose the San Francisco Tour package.  It’s affordable, fun and you really get to know the client.

Cable Car on the Powell Street Line
Cable Car on the Powell Street Line

 

City Hall Wedding at the Mayor’s Balcony

Lacie and Brad had already eloped in Europe but wanted to still have a marriage ceremony in the US for their family and friends.  They booked the Mayors Balcony so they could fit a large amount of people and have them seated comfortably.  The cost to reserve the 2nd floor Mayor’s Balcony is only $1,000 and you get to have it for a full hour.

Since this couple had already been married, they did not want or need an extensive photo shoot of the 2 of them.  They were mostly interested in family pictures and wedding party shots.   So after a wonderful ceremony, we started in on our extensive list of Family Photos and everyone really enjoyed getting together for them.  Its nice when people genuinely seem to like being involved in group photos, it makes it much easier also!

Across the building shot at SF City Hall
Across the building shot at SF City Hall

After completing the family photos we did a large number of wedding party shots.  We did all the girls and all the guys and then paired each of them with the bride and groom.  They were dressed in matching outfits so this particular city hall wedding really resembled a large formal wedding.  After completing this portion of the festivities we took this attractive couple on a mini tour of San Francisco City Hall.  We still needed to get at least a few shots of them together.

Fish Eye Lens Wedding Photography
Fish Eye Lens Wedding Photography

Family Affair at SF City Hall

Another fun wedding today with Deb and Bart.   The 2 of them made the trip to San Francisco City Hall all the way from Boise Idaho.  Even more impressive was their children who basically came from all over the USA and even the world to watch their parents get married.  After a fun filled ceremony and photo shoot at City Hall we decided to head to our pre-planned photo tour starting at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.  We obviously could not fit all 5 of their kids in the car so we had to meet them there.  When we first arrived at the Legion of Honor we noticed that it was getting foggy so decided it would be best if we went right into the Golden Gate Bridge photos that we had also planned to do.  We took them to the 17th Hole at Lincoln Park Golf course which is a little more than walking distance from the Legion.  The Tee Box here has a nice view of the bridge so we rushed down there to get our shots before our opportunity was completely fogged over.

Spinning Bride at the Golden Gate Bridge
Spinning Bride at the Golden Gate Bridge

After completing our wedding photography at the 17th Hole, we headed back up to the Legion of Honor to wait for the kids.  As it turned out, they were actually waiting for US at the Palace of Fine Arts.  Deb and Bart have no idea how they ended up there, but it was clear that we needed to change our plans and get back in the car.  After a nice shortcut through the Presidio we finally met up at POFA in San Francisco.  The kids had purchased some Champagne and we were able to get the awesome shot below:

Champagne Toast at the Legion of Honor
Champagne Toast at the Legion of Honor

 

2 Men and a Baby

One of our favorite City Hall Weddings this year!  Today we photographed the wedding of Steve and John with only 1 guest……  Their 5 month old little girl.  We met the 3 of them in the hallway directly outside of the County Clerks office to assist them with their Ceremony check-in.  After a brief meeting with their officiant we all headed up to the Rotunda to celebrate their marriage.  One of the most fun things about the ceremony was that the Deputy Marriage commissioner volunteered to hold the baby while John and Steve exchanged wedding rings!  This great idea helped create this classic photo that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

City Hall Ceremony with Baby Watching
City Hall Ceremony with Baby Watching

Once the ceremony was completed and the marriage sealed with a kiss, we took the happy couple around the building to take some photos.  We incorporated their daughter into some of the early photos, but it wasn’t long until she had fallen asleep in her baby stroller.  We took advantage of this lucky break to get some really nice poses of the couple, taking them on a tour to many of our favorite picture spots.  We ended our shoot at the city hall sign out in front of the building.  Perfect timing as the baby woke up and joined the couple for a posed shot in front of San Francisco City Hall.

city hall sign with baby
city hall sign with baby

Busy Week at San Francisco City Hall in the Heat

We had quite a crazy week at city hall!  Besides photographing 5 beautiful couples in only 4 days, we also had to deal with record temps!  On Friday San Francisco hit the 103 mark which was an all-time record.  We were lucky enough to have booked a wedding on that day and got to experience the incredible heat.  Fortunately, City Hall is slow to heat up and also slow to cool down.  Often the day of the heat wave, the building never gets up to unbearable temperatures, but watch out for the following day!  If the famous San Francisco fog doesn’t roll in, the building will heat up like an oven.  All of that concrete and marble tends to hold on to the heat, but the whole process takes a while.  Thus, we really had our hottest shooting day at City Hall the following days after the heat wave.

 

I have to say that our couples all handled the heat very well and were good sports.  Some of the guys with their tuxes were clearly suffering a bit, but they never let their bride see any extreme discomfort.   We purposely tried to keep our normal shooting pace slow, to keep everyone cool.  I have a tendency to walk fast through the building, but not this week!  It was a relief on Thursday to leave city hall and head out to the Palace of Fine Arts.  We had a feeling that once we got there, it would be cooler given its proximity to the Bay.  We were not disappointed when we were greeted by a nice cool breeze.

 

With so many weddings this week to talk about, I will end this post here, but promise to pick it up again tomorrow and talk about some of our other couples for the week.  Thanks for listening!

Australian Couple Weds at City Hall

Georgie and Keron traveled clear across the world to get married at San Francisco City Hall. They have no friends or relatives in town, nor have they ever been here before.  They just noticed online what a beautiful wedding venue city hall is and decided to elope.  They rented out the entire Mayor’s Balcony so they would have privacy and not have to worry about tourists wandering through their ceremony.  It is rare that couples do this, but we have seen it before and it can be a great idea.  Even at $1,000 (the cost to reserve the Mayor’s Balcony for 1 hour) having your wedding at City Hall is a bargain!  Where else can you have access to this beautiful old building; choose from some of the best wedding photographers in the San Francisco area; and also have your own intimate wedding ceremony?  Pretty tough to find, especially in the Bay Area.

 

After the ceremony we took Georgie and Keron throughout the city hall building to make sure we made their trip from Australia a memorable one.  They booked our Golden Gate Package so we had plenty of time to tour around the building and take some great photos.  One of our first stops was the 3rd floor on the north side of the building.  The light there at mid day is amazing, it’s like having your own photo studio at city hall.   Artists understand that northern light is preferable due to its softness and mild intensity.  We took the photo below with minimal lighting, just mostly using window light.

 

After spending more time in the building, they wanted to go to the Golden Gate Bridge (who doesn’t?).   We drove them there in our car and the weather was amazing.  We chose Crissy Field on this particular day since the air was relatively clear and the bridge was in plain site with no fog getting in the way.   We put them on top of one of the little mounds of grass and got this amazing shot below.

Wedding Photography at Crissy Field
Wedding Photography at Crissy Field

Up in the City Hall Dome!

Toni and I were offered the unique opportunity to go up in the dome at San Francisco City Hall.  We were photographing a wedding at city hall and we were up on the 4th floor.  We were talking to one of the event staff while he was putting away chairs and he asked us if we wanted to go up into the dome area.  We of course said yes and proceeded to climb the spiral staircase that takes you up near the top of City Hall.  It was an amazing experience!  The view from up there was incredible, like nothing we have ever seen before.  Our couple enjoyed it as well.  We took just a few photos since we didn’t have much time.  This particular day also happened to be one of the hottest days in the history of San Francisco, so it was pretty hot up there, but totally worth the climb.

It just goes to show you how just being friendly to people that you work around can pay dividends.

Columns in the upper dome
Columns in the upper dome
Bride and Groom in the Upper Dome
Bride and Groom in the Upper Dome