This short blog post is going to run counter to everything you have read and heard about San Francisco city hall wedding photography. All we ever talk about as wedding photographers at this venue is how to avoid the crowds with the obvious intent to NOT have people in the background of our photos. While there is some merit to this, I am going to discuss a different approach. Yes, SF city hall is a public building and the tourists have every right to be there even if they sometimes seem to not notice that they are in the way. My brides and grooms are always asking me the best times of the day to avoid people and also the slowest day of the week at city hall. I certainly understand their concerns and I do try to accommodate their wishes. No matter what day we are shooting and how crowded it is, we always strive to obtain some nice images with no people in the background. Over the years, we have learned various angles and techniques to avoid background tourists and other brides and grooms. We can normally position our couples to make it seem like they are the only ones in the building. This is our goal for every wedding we photograph at San Francisco city hall. To deliver photos with no strangers in the background, just the bride and groom and their families. But there is another option for some of your photos…
Love the Crowds at San Francisco City Hall
Let’s instead talk about loving the crowds at San Francisco city hall! No I have not gone nuts, but recently something happened that made me think. We were in the middle of a wedding photography shoot and suddenly got disrupted by a protest march. Normally the reaction would be for me to take my couple and go somewhere else to avoid the noise and the people . But the groom had different ideas…. He wanted a photo of him and his wife right in front of the protest gathering. In fact, when I took the picture he raised his fist as though he was part of the protest. I have to admit that this picture turned out great and was not only fun, but also instructive. Sure, the goal is to get creative and romantic photos in this great building. But why not get some pictures that show very clearly that this is a public building. In some ways, it makes perfect sense to document the things occurring on your wedding day. Being a city hall wedding photographer is all about helping the couple make memories. One could argue that these memories should be real. Why not show the crowds to some degree, this is part of the memory. When I think about it, I see lots of crazy and fun things that happen every day we are at city hall taking pictures of our newly married couples. It can be fun to incorporate them into the photography session. What kinds of occurrences do we see on a regular basis? Here is a list:
- Quinceneara Photo Shoots – These brightly colored 15 year old girls come into SF city hall with their photographers and take over certain parts of the venue. Their photographers often take way too long on the Grand Staircase and bring large lighting equipment. We avoid them as much as we can, but their relatively slow photographic techniques can become annoying.
- Protest Marches – San Francisco city hall is a popular place for protests and at times they come in the building. Even if they don’t actually enter city hall, they can often easily be found right outside at the entrance. They can certainly also be heard whether inside or outside.
- School Tours – City Hall is “invaded” quite frequently by mobs of school kids touring the facility and learning about government. Depending upon their ages they can be an unruly bunch!
- Dramatic Portrait Shoots – Professional photographers will often take their subjects to city hall to get photos. The subject matter can range from ballerina dancers to people dressed as animals. We have seen it all. These can be fun to show in the background at times.
- Service Dogs – City Hall allows Service dogs to enter the building with their companions. Sometimes causing some pretty crazy moments as the dogs react to their surroundings. Inexperienced service animals can get scared and react while in the building.
- Political Speeches – Yes, San Francisco city hall attracts and arranges for candidates and politicians to come in the building and make their case. We have seen some of these rallies partially take over the building. Obviously, this happens more during election season.
- International Tour Buses – We never know when one of these busses will arrive at SF City Hall, but they can sometimes bring 50 or 60 guests into the building. Mostly Asian tourists travel this way so we pretty much know when they arrive. Again, this is happening less because of Covid-19, but is sure to pick up again in the future.
There are many more examples, but you get the point. Rather than trying to always avoid these things, we can sometimes use them as a backdrop to our wedding photography shoot. Putting the couple in a natural setting and showing what was going on that day can add yet another memory to their special day. The humor in the situation will also help the couple not feel so unhappy about the disruption. We will still get their great romantic pictures, but we will also add a little fun! Thus we turn a potential negative into a positive. Either way, you WILL receive photos with no strangers in the background.