I am sure you are thinking this is easy right? Just look at the photos on the Wedding Photographer’s website! Well, if it was that easy, brides wouldn’t spend hours searching for their ideal SF City Hall wedding photographer. It is a well known fact that many brides use multiple sources to find a trusted and talented wedding photographer. This includes searching online, asking friends and going to wedding fairs. I decided to write this post because of the things I have heard from the hundreds of brides (and grooms) I have interviewed over the past many years. Some negative and some positive. I have learned so much from them about what engaged couples are looking and this is a good time to share that knowledge.
Finding Your City Hall Wedding Photographer
One of the biggest decisions engaged couples need to make is who to choose to be their wedding photographer. This might even be more important when it comes to City Hall photographers. Why? Photographing weddings at SF City Hall requires some unique skills that can only be obtained through lots of experience there. The best wedding photographers at city hall have years of background with all types of wedding photography, but specific knowledge of the challenges that exist only here. How to handle the crowds and dealing with trickly lighting all come into play. Also just knowing where to take the couple for pictures throughout the building can be hard to understand for a novice.
The fact that there are so many photographers specializing in this type of wedding photography can also add to the confusion. As I look at the different San Francisco City Hall photographers working here, I see many of the same poses in the same locations. It is clear that everyone is copying each other in many cases. So how do you decide the best studio to hire? There are some pretty easy answers to this question. Much of it is common sense so lets go through my suggestions for how to choose.
Avoid “Best Of” Portfolio Galleries
When you search for the perfect city hall wedding photographer for you, it is important to not get caught up in websites that only show 1 or 2 of the best shots from each marriage. Yes, you are going to be attracted to this particular wedding photographer because they are sure to display some amazing photos. While there is nothing wrong with that, it may not indicate how YOUR wedding images will ultimately look like. The fact is, when you take 300 photos at a typical city hall wedding you are bound to get a couple of amazing images. I am not saying it is only a matter of luck. Certainly if are seeing images on their website that have impact and drama, this would be a prerequisite to exploring this particular photographer further.
However, there is so much more to consider before making your decision. To me, the most important aspect of choosing your wedding photographer is knowing how YOUR pictures will turn out over the course of the entire wedding. The best way to accomplish this is to see a nice cross section of photos on the photographer’s website. Seeing the SF city hall wedding photographer’s “greatest hits” is not all that helpful. You are really hiring them to be able to deliver a complete wedding full of compelling and representative images.
Search for Complete City Hall Weddings
Once that initial attraction is over, you need to go deeper into the city hall wedding photographer’s website. The first thing you should look for is a complete gallery of ONE WEDDING! Hopefully the photographer will have a few to show off with at least 20 photos each. You will want to see the entire coverage of this city hall wedding from start to finish. From candid shots showing the couple’s County Clerk Check-in all the way to the final shot when they say good bye in front of the San Francisco City Hall sign. There should be ceremony shots, posed shots, candid’s and even family pictures. Yes, what if you thought you hired the perfect wedding photographer only to find out they can’t put together a pleasant looking family photo for you. Backgrounds for family photos are important and so is the way the participants are arranged. In addition, natural smiles are important for all involved. This is made easier if the wedding photographer is confident and moves fast.
Narrow Your Wedding Photographer Selection Down
Now all that is left is to evaluate the quality of each of the photos and determine if it fits your own personal style. This is an important aspect of the process also. Once you do find a city hall wedding photographer with the types of portfolios we are recommending, it is just a matter of finding your preferred style and the quality you expect. I would recommend that you narrow your choices to a select few. Try to find city hall wedding photographers that meet all the criteria we have discussed so far. More importantly, find ones that display photos that you love!
Interview the Wedding Photographer
After you have looked at websites and narrowed the field down to a select few, make some phone calls. Make sure you are talking on the phone to the actual SF city hall wedding photographer and not a receptionist trained to deal with prospects. This part is very important because this conversation will give you a sense of the photographer’s personality and style. If they start asking you questions about your wedding and the types of things you are looking for, this is a very good sign. It means that they care about pleasing you and are not just looking for another sale.
This is obviously your chance to ask questions as well, but it is very important that the conversation is 2-way and not just a canned marketing speech by the city hall photographer. Ask questions that will reveal their knowledge of the building and the whole process of getting married there. Come right out and ask them how many weddings they have photographed at San Francisco city hall. The answers to these questions will tell you a lot! Most importantly, tell them you want a written guarantee that they (the person you are talking to) will be the wedding photographer showing up at your wedding! Some other sample questions to ask:
- How do you deal with the lighting challenges at San Francisco city hall?
- What are the lighting challenges at City Hall?
- What kind of a back up system do you have for the digital image files?
- What is your favorite thing about photographing brides and grooms?
- Give me some examples of problems you have encountered as a city hall wedding photographer.
These are open ended questions that will hopefully start the photographer talking and at the same time display their knowledge. Avoid Yes/No questions. Their answers to your questions will reveal a lot about their experience and understanding.
Check Yelp and Other Online Reviews
Once you have interviewed a few San Francisco city hall photographers and are satisfied with their responses and experience, it is time to do a background check. Yelp can be very helpful and other sites such as Wedding Wire and The Knot can also be checked. However, here again, it’s important to dig deeper. The fact that your chosen wedding photographer has 60 – 5 star reviews is not as important as HOW they received these great reviews. Read the details of what some of the more recent reviews had to say. This will also help you learn about their style and how they deal with their clients. You learn so much by reading the details and between the lines!
I am not saying that the review ratings are unimportant, but please notice that virtually all of the top SF city hall wedding photographers have all 5 star reviews. Trying to rank a wedding photographer simply by the number of perfect reviews they have might tell you more about their marketing efforts than their actual skill. What separates them from each other are the comments and points made in the reviews themselves.
Ask Other Wedding City Hall Wedding Vendors
I would only use this last suggestion as a way to confirm your final choices. Wedding vendors may have their own personal preferences regarding who they would choose as a photographer. These preferences could be based on the relationships they have with a given photographer that are unrelated to skill. However, it is nice to be able to confirm your choices if your florist, for example has worked with the photographer in the past and has good things to say. Talking to your other wedding vendors might also be a good way to find a great San Francisco city hall wedding photographer, but you should still go through the other steps detailed above. Do not just rely on a vendor referral. Some wedding vendors trade referrals with each other as a favor. This tells you very little about either one of them. You definitely need specific information and research to make the best choices.
Keep it simple and straightforward and you will soon know that you found the right city hall wedding photographer for you!