San Francisco Wedding Photography Locations

The month of January is always our slowest time period for city hall weddings.   It’s in the middle of the winter and there is no special event or holiday in January.  December of course is always busy due to the Beautiful Christmas tree and brides and grooms just like to get married at that time of the season.  February features Valentine’s Day and we always have weddings right around this date.  Many engaged couples actually choose to have their nuptials on this romantic holiday!  Given this slight lull, I thought it would be helpful to take the time to discuss some of our favorite destinations in San Francisco that we take our city hall wedding couples.

Iconic San Francisco Destinations

We take our couples throughout San Francisco after our city hall wedding photography sessions.  Here are some of the best san francisco wedding photographer locations:

Palace of Fine Arts

This is by far the most popular wedding photography destination.  Especially chosen frequently by our international brides and grooms.  It has a very large area for wedding photography with lots of options.  The beautiful building is obviously the centerpiece, but there are large columns  everywhere to use as a backdrop.  The only negative is the amount of tourists here.  Depending upon the time of day, it can be hard to find space without people looming in the background.

Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

Legion of Honor

Another popular wedding photography spot, but fortunately MUCH less traveled by tourists.  The Legion of Honor offers beautiful Beaux-Arts style architecture which  many of San Francisco’s older buildings possess.  We love taking our city hall brides and grooms around the inner open area and pose them between the gray repeating columns.    The light is also fantastic here from a wedding photography standpoint.  This is because you have indirect light that comes in from the side, but is also reflected by the neutral tones of the building.  Perfect for a rainy day as well!

The Legion of Honor
The Legion of Honor

The Golden Gate Bridge

This is an obvious one, but there are many options and decisions to make.  We try to help our newly married couples decide by providing them with the best possible information and ideas.  Late in the afternoon you can approach the bridge from Ocean by Baker Beach.  This provides nice warm light on the bridge and enhances the colors.  Earlier in the morning, we often like to take pictures of our brides and grooms from the San Francisco Bay side of the bridge.  This will often provide very nice dimensional lighting on the Golden Gate.  Listed below are some of the most common angles to approach wedding photography of the bridge

  • Baker Beach
  • Crissy Field
  • Fort Point
  • Legion of Honor
  • 17th Hole of Lincoln Park
  • Fort Baker
  • Lands End
  • Battery East Vista
  • Golden Gate Overlook
  • Marin County side
Baker Beach Angle
Baker Beach Angle
Crissy Field Angle
Crissy Field Angle
Fort Point Angle
Fort Point Angle

This completes part one of our San Francisco City Hall wedding photo destination options.  We will be adding more locations next week,  please stay tuned!

Ballerina Bride at City Hall

We love all of our brides and grooms and always make sure we work to get great images of all of them.  However, every once in a while we are lucky enough to book a couple that are naturals.   This particular couple included a groom who had taken Ball Room dancing lessons and a bride who was a Ballerina.  We had a fantastic time with them at San Francisco City Hall with them booking our City Hall PLUS package which provided them with 2 hours of coverage including the ceremony and family photos.

To make things even more fun, the bride wore a unique wedding dress that you don’t normally see at City Hall.  It was a totally fun dress and matched the personality of the woman wearing it.  Here is what it looked like:

 

Ballerina Bride at City Hall
Ballerina Bride
Bride by Window at City Hall

Once the ceremony took place in the Rotunda we photographed a few images of their family and friends.  The family members were all amazing and absolutely supportive of us and our wedding photography efforts.  We spent some time talking to them and discussing some of the finer points of City Hall weddings and then we took the bride and groom around the building for their photo tour.  We visited every single floor of City Hall starting with the Grand  Staircase and then up to the 2nd Floor to get some shots in the hallway.  We knew we had to make sure we took them up to the 3rd floor to take advantage of the beautiful window light so we headed there next.  Here is one of our window shots!

Bride looking out the window
Bride looking out the window

We finished up on the amazing 4th Floor North Gallery at city hall which is probably the most beautiful location in the building for natural light.  It was here that we took advantage of our client’s posing talents and tried some dance related poses.  The 2 of them pulled off all of our poses with relative ease.    We took a number of bride and groom shots on this floor including this one:

Dance Moves at City Hall
Dance Moves at City Hall

We also needed to include some romantic wedding photos to show the close connection between the bride and groom.  This kind of posing is quite easy when your couple has that type of bond.

Romantic kiss from groom to bride
Romantic kiss from groom to bride

We finished up our photo shoot in typical fashion by taking the couple to the Famous City Hall sign on the Polk Street entrance to the building.

Christmas Wedding at City Hall

Christmas at San Francisco City Hall is always a wonderful time.  The place is always very busy and the giant Christmas tree becomes the center point of this great wedding venue.  For the past few years the tree has been decorated with Origami which makes for a very unique look.  In addition, when evening comes the light reflects off of the Origami and creates patterns on the walls at city hall.  It’s a pretty amazing scene.  We photographed 6 weddings this year during the Christmas season and each one had it’s own unique feel.  The primary reason for this Blog post is to just display a few photos from one of our larger weddings this Christmas season.

Bridal Portrait by the 3rd floor North Window
Bridal Portrait by the 3rd floor North Window

We started our formal shoot on the 3rd floor because city hall was pretty crowded and we were having trouble finding places without people in the background.   This particular wedding was on a Friday which is definitely one of the most crowded days of the week.  We have learned over the years where and when to take our brides and grooms once things get crowded.  The 3rd floor is one of those places!

Wedding Kiss at City Hall
Wedding Kiss at City Hall

Once we completed our time on the 3rd floor, we headed back down to the Christmas Tree to get a few nice shots.  Again, there were people everywhere and virtually no room to photograph the couple in the traditional place facing the Rotunda.  Fortunately, we have alternative angles into the tree that is off to the side.  Even though it’s a pretty obvious angle, many photographers without experience at city hall don’t know about it.  We  were able to get some fairly private images in front of the tree before moving on to our next location.

Christmas tree with bride and groom
Christmas tree with bride and groom

We spent over 1.5 hours at San Francisco city hall touring around taking photos and having fun.  We managed to get all of the shots that most people always ask us about including the Grand Staircase and the 4th floor North Gallery.  This despite the fact that City Hall had scheduled 7 reserved weddings that day, which usually brings a large number of people into the building.  We were lucky to walk up to the beautiful North Gallery just when one wedding was ending and another was about to be set up.

Golden Gate Bridge with Wedding Couple
Golden Gate Bridge with Wedding Couple

Once we completed our City Hall photo tour, we drove the couple to Fort Point to get some professional wedding pictures  with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  The couple’s family also showed up at Fort Point allowing us to include them in many of the photos.  It was a fantastic way to end our day.

Italian Weddings in San Francisco part 2

Once we completed the formal bride and groom photo shoot in the Marina District, we headed back to North Beach to begin the reception.  The party was at the  Italian Athletic Club which is a well known place for Italian wedding parties.  In fact, my own parents had  their wedding party there over 50 years ago.  They always makes sure that there is a  Pasta served and lots of other good Italian food.  The dancing was mostly contemporary music with a few old Italian standards mixed in.

Bride and Groom laughing
Bride and Groom laughing

They did all the normal traditional dances including the first dance and the father daughter dance.  Then they went into normal dancing and the party got fun and wild.  Lots of fun dancing and partying.  This group seemed to be very close and really enjoyed each other.  There was also a very strong family sense that I often see at Italian weddings.

The bride and groom cutting the cake
The bride and groom cutting the cake

After the wedding, we stayed in touch with Jayne and Bobby and have seen them a number of times since.  One of our favorite couples!

Italian Weddings in San Francisco – Part 1

I will admit to having a soft spot for big Italian weddings in San Francisco.  As an Italian myself who grew up attending large Italian parties, I have experienced the amazing food and fun traditions.  Through the years we have photographed quite a few Italian weddings in San Francisco and have enjoyed every one of them.  They most often occur in North Beach with a Catholic Ceremony at Saints Peter and Paul Church followed by a reception at the Italian Athletic club.   Other notable spots for Italian weddings include any of the fantastic restaurants in the North Beach Area that can accommodate large groups.

A more recent wedding that we really enjoyed being a part of was Jayne and Bobby Carini’s wedding.  One of the most fun couples we have photographed and we are still in touch with them today.    This entire wedding and ceremony took place in North Beach, but then we took them to the Marina for some photos.  Here are a few sample shots from this great wedding in San Francisco.

Jayne Bridal Prep
Jayne Bridal Prep
Dad helping the bride into the limo
Dad helping the bride into the limo
Catholic Wedding Ceremony in San Francisco
Catholic Wedding Ceremony in San Francisco fun moment

San Francisco Marina District

Once they completed their ceremony at San Francisco’s famed Church, we headed off to the Marina district to capture some nice photos.  We also brought the entire wedding party with us so we could include them in the photos.   It was a hazy day, but we were still able to catch faint glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge in some of the backgrounds.  After photographing the wedding party and best man and maid of honor, we focused on the bride and groom only.  Here are a few shots from this section of the wedding.

Bride and groom toasting in the Limo on the way to the Marina District in San Francisco
Bride and groom toasting in the Limo
Wedding Kiss at the San Francisco Marina with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background
Wedding Kiss at the San Francisco Marina
Bride and Groom hanging out enjoying the Marina
Bride and Groom hanging out enjoying the Marina

Part 2 coming soon…… The Reception and Italian Party!

 

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!

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

City Hall Wedding at the Mayor’s Balcony

Fish Eye Lens Wedding Photography Fish Eye Lens Wedding PhotographyBridal Portrait with flowers in front of 3rd Floor window at SF City Hall Bridal Portrait with flowers in front of 3rd Floor window

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.

Family Affair at SF City Hall

Deb and Bart on the 4th Floor in Black and White Deb and Bart on the 4th Floor in Black and White

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

Action shots are always the best types of photos to get especially with a larger group like this one.  The family will look at this shot for years and laugh at each of their expressions as the bottle was opened in celebration.

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!