Summer is officially here at San Francisco city hall with 2 full years behind us since the reopening. Last summer there were really not too many tourists because of Covid-19, but now this is slowly changing. We Have gradually seen the return of people visiting City Hall and also events finally returning. One of the challenges of photographing weddings at SF City Hall is effectively dealing with all of the crowds that get in the way of our pictures. Granted, these people have EVERY right to be there since this is a public building. For that reason, as City Hall wedding photographers, we remain courteous to everyone no matter how difficult it can be working around them. The BIG change is that the tourists are back in full force, especially with summer here. We have seen numerous tourist groups go through and check the building out so far this summer. Fortunately, they are much smaller than they used to be and they tend to move to new areas fairly quickly.
Being Aware of your Surroundings
As mentioned, I have no problem with the right that everyone has to be at San Francisco city hall and as a wedding photographer, we have no greater reason to be there then anyone else. But admittedly it can be frustrating to be lining up a nice photo with our bride and groom and have people stand right in front of us or behind us without any regard to what is happening. We always try to be very aware of our surroundings and will not move into other people’s wedding pictures (or any type of pictures) whether they are being photographed by a professional photographer or their Uncle Bob. I feel it is common courtesy to not step into another photographer’s shot. It is no different than going on vacation in Yosemite and seeing someone in the middle of a photo. People will usually stop and wait a second to avoid ruining the photo. It’s pretty much all we ask at SF city hall is for the common courtesy to wait for others. I am pretty sure with the new rules regarding limited guest size it will not be so bad. NOTE: It seems that city hall has once again become rather lax on enforcing the 6 person guest limit. We have seen some couples bring in 20 people or more.
City Hall Wedding Photographer’s Code
One of the great things about being a San Francisco city hall wedding photographer for so many years is that we have met and got to know many of the other professionals. We all understand the challenges that exist taking pictures here. So when we see each other during a photo session, we are cordial and ask each other how much time we will be spending at a certain location. In general, the majority of the professional photographers will make an effort to complete their shoot in that area quickly and efficiently and also tell us how much more time they will be in the area. This is super helpful and needed. We handle the situation the exact same way if we are the wedding photographers in the area first. This allows more photography to take place in less time and makes more people happier!
What Can be Done at San Francisco City Hall?
Well, like many problems, there are no clear solutions. Nobody at SF City Hall really wants to try to enforce any kind of fairness rules when it comes to wedding photography time. Unfortunately, it is more than just City Hall weddings causing the problems with photography. Many people come to this beautiful building to do professional photography. Some Wedding Photographers actually bring models to obtain portfolio pictures. In addition, photographers often conduct what are known as pre-wedding shoots at city hall. This is very popular with Asian brides and grooms. Recently we had many High School graduates using the Grand Staircase and other areas of the building for photos. All throughout the year we will see professional photographers doing Quienceaneras, These photographers will often set up on the Grand Staircase and stay there for 20 minutes or longer. They really have not paid any money to city hall or need a permit or insurance to be there. As professional wedding photographers our couples HAVE paid to be there and most of have registered with San Francisco city hall with our insurance documents, etc. But really all I have done in this post is raise more questions and no provided many answers. I would suggest, however that professional photographers NOT shooting a city hall event should have to pay some sort of a small permit fee which could be charged to their models or couples. This would keep the less serious photographers out of the building and perhaps make it slightly less crowded.