Everyone wants photos of the Grand Staircase at San Francisco City Hall. It is the central theme in this amazing building and so consequently every bride and groom wants their photo taken there. Obviously this presents a massive problem….. Not only do all 18 couples who get marred at city hall on a daily basis want there photo on the Grand Staircase, but the tourists love to hang out on the stairs and take their own photos. It can be a huge challenge especially on Fridays to get a nice image with the Staircase not completely covered by other people. Friday is a popular tourist day and so that adds even more people to the staircase. So how do we as San Francisco city hall wedding photographers, handle this problem?
Christmas at SF City Hall on the Grand Staircase
Timing is Everything at City Hall
We have quite a few different techniques for getting the important Grand Staircase wedding photo. Our most effective way of handling this is to just keep our eyes on the staircase as we take our brides and grooms around the building. If we suddenly see the staircase clear of people, we change our pattern and head straight down to it as soon as we can. Many times when we do this, the staircase is already loaded with people again by the time we get there. Mostly, though this technique works great, but requires a little patience. We have discovered over the years that people tend to walk around city hall in large groups so when one group descends on the Grand Staircase another smaller group may go in a different direction. The idea is to be ready when the small group is nearby and the large group has left. You can see from our photos that we are quite successful getting this shot at our various weddings. Admittedly, some of the photos have been Photoshopped to remove one or two straggling tourists! The other thing we have to admit is that it times, we just have to wait our turn to get the Staircase shot.
Late night Staircase Image
The image above was taken at a time which also illustrates the importance of timing at city hall. We set this image up at around 5:30 pm and it was our final shot of the day. The other technique for getting the Grand Staircase shot is doing it very late in the day after people leave. Of course, this present a bit of a problem with the new hours of the Country Clerk since the Pandemic reopening. They now stop doing weddings at 1:00 pm. In some cases, we might be able to schedule some of your wedding shoot late and a while after your ceremony. Let’s talk about this for more information and possible options.
City Hall Staircase shot from above
I wanted to add the view above to this Blog post because it is not one you typically see at San Francisco city hall. Most wedding photographers shoot the staircase while facing it and for good reason. But I am always trying to come up with new ideas and I have not seen this angle too frequently. Never exactly like this. I love this view because it show the patterned floor really well but also lets you know that the Grand Staircase is there! In addition, it is technically pleasing since there are leading lines present in the photo and nice depth.