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What are Best Ways to Approach City Hall Wedding Photography?
Challenging Lighting at City Hall
One of the trickiest things about taking pictures at San Francisco city hall is the lighting. Depending upon where you are in the building, the lighting can either be amazing or extremely tough to deal with. For example, the Mayor’s Balcony is difficult because just about any angle shooting away from the balcony towards the rotunda involves heavy back lighting. The Mayor’s Balcony is not only fairly dark, but everything around it is bathed in natural light. There are only 2 lamps on the balcony, and they are meant to light the entire section. We often see amateur San Francisco city hall wedding photographers attempting to shoot their subjects by the railing without any professional lighting or even an on-camera flash. Ultimately this frequently leads silhouette images or blown out backgrounds. Another challenging place to shoot is in the Rotunda area where the city hall ceremonies occur. The predominate light in this area is from overhead. So, if you shoot in almost any direction your subjects will have “raccoon eyes”. If you are taking pictures in the Rotunda, position yourself with your back to the Mayor’s Balcony and you will get some nice light. If you have flash, use it! We bounce our flash off the neutral walls at San Francisco city hall for a more natural look. This keeps your photos from looking “flashy”. We frequently see other photographers taking pictures of their couples on the Grand Staircase with no off-camera flash because there is generally sufficient available light to obtain proper exposure. However, upon closer inspection you will see that the brides and grooms have dark eyes and ruddy looking skin from the difficult overhead natural light. Using some soft lighting coming in from the left of right will rectify this problem and is the best solution to obtaining great images.
City Hall Crowd Control
We jokingly refer to this as crowd control but there is some truth to this city hall wedding photography challenge. The fact is that San Francisco city hall is a public building. Every single person in the building has the same right to be there as you. Yes, even if you are getting married! The best way to handle this simply is to go where people aren’t. It sounds simple, but virtually every non-professional wedding photographer we see ignores this advice. They spend the whole photography session on the Grand Staircase as though this was the only place in all of San Francisco city hall for wedding photography. The fact is, there are 4 floors that ALL have great backgrounds and architecture to explore. As you take your couple around the building, keep your eye on the Staircase so when it clears off, you can run down and get some pictures. Meanwhile, you might find that there are some very nice other locations to photograph. You may even discover that some backgrounds are even better than the Grand Staircase. The best San Francisco city hall wedding photographers understand this and utilize all of the building’s amazing features.
Leave the Family Behind
We often see amateur city hall wedding photographers taking their whole wedding party around the building with them when shooting the bride and groom. This is not a good idea for several reasons. Most importantly, it may make your newlywed couple inhibited as they pose for their city hall wedding pictures with an audience. Inevitably, some of the relatives will shout out suggestions and make comments. This is distracting to the wedding photographer and the subject. The other issue is that the family and friends will get in the way of your backgrounds. You will spend more time trying to move the group then actually posing the couple. Ask the Wedding Party to either wait in the Mint Cafe or just in a neutral area somewhere. (UPDATE: At least for now, the Mint Cafe is no longer an option for your family and friends to hang out. We are hoping it will reopen soon since it closed for Covid-19) It will make your San Francisco city hall wedding photography session go much smoother. Please keep in mind, we are not suggesting that you don’t include your family and friends in the photos! We just want to make sure it is done with the above aspects in mind. In fact, we often incorporate them again towards the end either in front of the Grand Staircase or outside by the City Hall sign. We know family is important to our couples and we want to handle this the best way possible for all concerned.
Timing is Everything at San Francisco City Hall
I understand that not everyone can control the timing of their San Francisco city hall wedding photography session. There are many factors that get in the way, most importantly the time of the wedding ceremony. Also, many couples are restricted because of work schedules and cannot choose the best days of the week. However, if some of these things ARE in your control, then by all means choose the best times of the day and best days of the week. Avoid Fridays, if possible, because of extreme city hall crowds. Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the best days of the week for less people. If you have control of your booking time, then try for early times or late. There will be less people and especially tourists at those times. NOTE: The tourist traffic is actually down at this point because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, but there could still be some disruption when the larger groups enter the building.
I try to remind all of my future city hall couples to bring a floral bouquet for the bride. The colors really add so much to the rather subtle tones of San Francisco city hall. It also gives the bride something to do with her hands! Some of our best city hall wedding pictures were created with gorgeous flowers being part of the mix. We also will sometimes present wedding pictures to our couples that are primarily Black and White, but with colorized Flowers. This can be seen in the photo below.
Top Rated City Hall Wedding Photography
There are quite a few San Francisco city hall wedding photographers currently booking weddings at this amazing venue. We have been around longer than most and have achieved some very high ratings on Yelp and Google. However, high ratings do not tell the whole story. Each Bride and Groom should choose their favorite wedding photographer based upon how the style and pricing fits their own preferences. I have provided this helpful technical guide to help you find a great wedding photographer. It is truly difficult to determine which company provides the best wedding pictures because it is a matter of personal taste. Despite the fact that we have earned some high reviews, we would encourage you to look at other City Hall wedding photographers before making this all-important decision. We would rather you choose us based upon your own perception of our high-quality wedding images and not online reviews. We want your business, but it is more important that you find the best San Francisco city hall wedding photographer for YOU! Only you can make this decision after checking out a broad range of other companies. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our well-established service.