Often times there is more to photographing a San Francisco city hall wedding then just making nice pictures. The day of the wedding can be stressful and it is no different at city hall. Though truthfully, there is less to go wrong because with a civil ceremony you avoid problems with setting up the reception, food issues and choosing the perfect wedding favors. We recently photographed a wedding a city hall where we are able to help both the bride and groom prepare for the ceremony. There were a few minor complications and we were there to help!
Groom’s Pants Too Long
The groom asked me while waiting to check in at the County Clerk if I thought his pants were too long. They did seem to be a bit long, but what could be done this close to their civil ceremony? I remembered back to how I used to “hem” my own pants temporily with tape and suggested that to the groom. After some discussion, I went into the Clerk’s office and asked one of my friends who works the front desk if we could borrow some tape. After some visual measurements and approval by the bride we managed to put a nice temporary hem on the pants and they looked great!
Bride’s Eyelash Problems
As this was going on, I noticed the bride struggling with getting her eyelashes looking the way she wanted them, but there was nobody to hold the mirror for her because the Groom was busy “hemming” his pants. So without the bride asking me, I grabbed the mirror for her and held it while she did the finishing touches on her eyes. Just a simple gesture really and in no way heroic, but it was much appreciated by both of our clients.
I never really gave it a second thought until a few weeks later I received a 5 star review from the newlyweds about their SF city hall wedding. One of the highlights of this Yelp review was the bride mentioning both of the problems above and how we helped. Again, these were relatively easy tasks, but it reminded me how important it is to be there for your city hall wedding photography client in all ways possible. Of course, we still needed to deliver great photos of their wedding, but the sometimes the little things get noticed and appreciated the most!
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. 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.
One of the biggest decisions engaged couples need to make is who should they choose to be their wedding photographer. This might even be more important when it comes to City Hall photographers. Why? Because there are so many photographers specializing in this type of wedding photography and it can be confusing. As I look at the different City Hall photographers, 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 and how do you keep it simple?
Avoid “Best Of” Portfolio Galleries
When you search for the perfect city hall wedding photographer for you, its 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 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 seeing images with impact is a prerequisite to exploring this particular photographer further.
Search for Complete City Hall Weddings
Once that initial attraction is over, you need to go deeper into the 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 and with at least 20 photos each. You 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, candids 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 are important and so is the way the family is arranged and made to react to the photo. Now all that is left is to evaluate the quality of each of the photos and determine if it fits your own personal style.
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 wedding photographer and not a receptionist trained to deal with prospects. This part is very important, it will give you a sense of the city hall photographer’s personality and style. But most crucial is how they interact with you on the phone! 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 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 and for how long. The answers to these questions will tell you a lot!
Check Yelp and Other Reviews
Once you have interviewed a few 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. However, here again, it’s important to reach 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.
Keep it simple and straightforward and you will soon know that you found the right city hall wedding photographer for you!
I thought it would be fun to do an ongoing series on some of our favorite past weddings and couples. We have had so many great experiences in our 400 plus San Francisco city hall weddings that it is really hard to focus on just a few, but some do stand out due to the fun time we had. We will feature 2 weddings with each blog post. To see more wedding please go to our CITY HALL HOME PAGE
San Francisco City Hall Staircase Waving Goodbye
Tracy and James – City Hall 2013
This couple was one among our first 10 San Francisco city hall weddings and was really one of our best to that point. We were just starting to learn some of the secrets to finding the best spots at city hall and what time of the day to shoot at particular locations. Tracey especially was up for anything and wanted to try lots of new poses and ideas. We did extreme dip poses, Window shots and some new Grand Staircase ideas. A bonus for this wedding is that Tracy submitted some of our shots to the J. Crew catolog and got our wedding featured on that publication for a few years. Here are a few shots from this great wedding.
Deep Dance Dip Post at City Hall San Francisco window image Leg Kick on the Mayors Balcony
April and Michael – City Hall 2014
This wedding was one of our first marriages where the couple asked us to provide them with extensive yet affordable wedding photography coverage that also included taking pictures at their Reception. We provided April and Michael with a special package that included full city hall wedding coverage and 3 locations around San Francisco. We finished up in Downtown SF at their reception site. Throughout this extensive wedding photography tour they were always a delight to work with and so much fun.
Ring Exchange at City Hall ceremony Wedding Reception in San Francisco
Continuing from our most recent post about why to hire a Professional City Hall Wedding Photographer:
Guiding you through the Process
This is one advantage that most brides and grooms don’t think about. Yes, we know how to help you with the whole city hall wedding process. From procuring your wedding license to checking in at the County Clerks’s office and then finally the ceremony. Is this kind of assistance really necessary? Probably not, but if you want to truly enjoy your wedding day, it makes sense to let someone else handle the complicated process of having your civil ceremony at city hall. We find that most of our couples really are at a loss of where to go and what to do on the day of their ceremony. When do you bring in the witness? Why are we checking in? Where do we get married? These are common questions we are asked when we first meet our engaged couples on the day of their wedding. To make the day go smoothly, we simply guide the couple through each step and stay with them the whole time. Our couples love this and it makes their special day care free.
Posing the Married Couple at City Hall
While it is true that your friend or relative who is “really good with a camera” may be able to take high quality images that are in focus, chances are they will not know how to pose the couple. This is where most amateur wedding photographers fall down on the job. Not coming up with fun and unique poses and more importantly, not knowing how to make the bride look her best. Brides come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and each one of them deserves a professional wedding photographer who knows how to accentuate the good parts and hide the less than perfect aspects of the bride’s look. This is not something that just anyone can do without any training or experience. A professional wedding photography can take one look at the couple and know exactly how to handle the posing. Your wedding day is too important of an event to leave to chance.
Final Products – Wedding Albums and Prints
What happens when your San Francisco City Hall wedding is over? If you hired a professional wedding photographer, you will receive edited images within a month or less in most cases. We deliver ours to our married couples in 3 weeks. If you have your Uncle Bob photograph your wedding, when will you receive the photos? When will he get to it? With they even be professionally edited? There are many reading this article right now thinking, big deal, we can do all of this ourselves. The truth of the matter is that statistics show that most wedding couples do absolutely nothing with their wedding digital files. Sure, they may post a few on Social Media and maybe even make a print on their home Inkjet printer. But is this really how that should be handled? We offer our couples retouched professionally processed prints and beautiful wedding albums as options. Many of our clients take advantage of this. Even those that do not are assured of receiving a finished product after their wedding. Fully edited and perfectly exposed wedding pictures!
One of the first things our clients ask us when we begin our City Hall wedding photography shoot is the sign picture. They all ask: “Can we do the City Hall sign photo?” I always let them know that of course we will, but it is best to save it for last because we avoid having to through building security twice. I remember one particular groom seemed agitated during the whole city hall photography tour and I finally asked him if he was OK. He told me he couldn’t understand why we were not taking a photo with the sign, but didn’t want to seem pushy. Once I explained to him why we save it for last he felt a lot better.
There are many variations to this ending shot. You can do a simple posed shot and walking shot or celebration photo. No matter what we end up doing with each couple, I think it is important for this photo to say something about the bride and groom. Some couples want to be animated and be celebratory. Others prefer a more traditional posed image.
Recently we have starting doing a few photos of the couple inside the building behind the sign. Of course taking the photo from this location causes the words to be reversed. Sometimes we keep them reversed, but others we have to flip it around using Photoshop. The 2 images below were both flipped:
Some of our couples prefer to do more natural photos in front of the sign. We will ask them to walk out of the building and raise their arms in a celebratory fashion. “Yay, we did it! We got married at San Francisco city hall!” These types of shots always give you the most bang for your buck in terms of showing emotion and fun.
We also try to match our couple to the type of San Francisco City Hall sign pose. For example, in the photo below, we thought it would be fun to spoof the famous movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
We had a very busy June at San Francisco City Hall. We photographed 12 weddings of different cultures and from other countries. It was an especially fun group of couples with all kinds of diversity and various nationalities. 6 of our weddings were Same-Sex. The most we have ever photographed in a single month. Some of these weddings wanted a very short coverage, just staying with the confines of San Francisco city hall. Others opted for the full treatment and so we took them all over San Francisco on one of our popular photo tours. We drove them around in our car and it became more than just a photo shoot…. We got out and enjoyed the beauty of the City by the Bay! For the most part we got pretty lucky with the weather. San Francisco can be very foggy in June, but we really only had one wedding where we had to make a slight change of plans because of the fog. We often try to take out newly married couples to Fort Point when it is really foggy because the bridge is so close. But this time even that didn’t work, we were practically under the Golden Gate Bridge but we still could not see it. So we just took our couple to the Palace of Fine Art instead and got some great images there!
Extended Wedding Photography
In addition to the many same-sex weddings, we also had some very long coverage city hall weddings in June. Many of our clients ask us to take some pictures at their wedding celebration after the ceremony. When it comes to San Francisco City Hall, we rarely do what would be considered a full scale wedding reception, but it is usually at a nice place to eat in the city. We are more than happy to accompany you to your party and get some nice candid images of cake cutting, toasts, and dancing. Whatever your celebration involves we will cover it and provide you with plenty of detail shots. Our extensive experience with full scale wedding helps us in this regard. We have photographed over 1,300 weddings in our long career. Dealing with every possible situation has given us some great experience which we are happy to share with our clients.
This blog post is a little bit marketing oriented, but I decided to post it based upon considerable feedback I have received recently. Quite a number of our city hall wedding photography clients have acted surprised that we also photograph large full scale weddings. In fact, we were recently told that we missed out on a potential wedding because one of our city hall clients had no idea that we had experience with large formal weddings. The fact is we have been photographing San Francisco and Bay Area weddings for over 20 years. Our experience with City Hall photography has certainly helped us with our knowledge of some of the best places to take our bride and grooms.
Our San Francisco wedding experience has taken us all over the city and to many of the churches and venues available. Some of our favorite places for ceremonies include Saint Ignatius Churchand the beautiful North Beach Church, Saints Peters and Paul. We have photographed multiple weddings at these amazing and historic San Francisco Catholic churches. Other Favorite venues of ours include The Bently Reserve and the Italian Athletic Cluba North Beach favorite!
Once the wedding is completed there are so many great places to take our couples for some of the best wedding photography locations in Northern California. As our regular readers know, we love to take out clients to The Legion of Honor, The Palace of Fine Arts, Russian Hill, Baker Beach and so many other fantastic San Francisco destinations!
We constantly are asked before our San Francisco city hall wedding photography bookings to suggest great local florists. Although there are none that we work with exclusively, we can give you some of the more popular names that our brides have used in the past.
Rose Bowl Florist is by far one of the most frequently used wedding florist close to San Francisco City Hall. Probably the main reason for this is just that, their proximity to SF city hall. In fact, they were walking distance away. We have seen nothing but great reviews for this company including on their Yelp page. We can recommend this florist without hesitation.
Bella Fiora is another very well known local wedding florist. They are not as close as Rose Bowl, but do an exceptional job. Their proximity to San Francisco’s famed Nob Hill makes them a little more pricey, but with great quality. Another shop with great Yelp reviews and quite popular with city hall brides.
The Floral Loft is not a florist that we have personal experience with, but we have heard good things. They are located fairly close to city hall and have incredible Yelp Reviews with over 85 experiences documented. Even though we cannot personally recommend them, the writing seems to be on the wall for this fine San Francisco Florist.
Nob Hill Floristis another San Francisco Wedding florist that we are not sure that we have personal experience with. It definitely seems like we have had brides tell us about this company though! Again, just looking at their Yelp page I see a couple of things. First of all, they have nothing but 5 star reviews which is pretty incredible. Also important is the fact that as you go through the reviews, you see many pictures of city hall weddings featured. Not sure about the pricing on this company, but they are definitely worth checking out!
Wedding Photography at City Hall with Flowers
One of the reasons we are providing this information is that it kinds of goes along with our very strong recommendation that all brides have a bouquet for their city hall wedding. Despite San Francisco city hall’s amazing beauty there is one small flaw – not much color. The walls and floors are either white or gray. Beautiful architecture for sure, but very neutral colors. We have found that the perfect thing to set off these gorgeous backgrounds is a splash of color that is provided by a nice bouquet. It also gives the bride something to do with her hands!
We also enjoy taking our couples to some of the less popular and also less touristy destinations. In Part 2 of this blog post, we will discuss some of these areas:
One of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks are the brightly painted Victorian houses that you will see throughout the city. But there are 6 particular houses right in a row which have captured the imagination of many and have become relatively famous. They were partially made famous when the appeared on the opening Credits of the popular San Francisco Based TV show “Full House”. Located by Alamo Square Park, these beautiful homes attract visitors from all over the country. There are a number of angles you can use to photograph the Painted Ladies
We prefer placing our bride and groom on the edge of the Alamo Square park and shooting from that angle.
Russian Hill / North Beach
This is actually a district in San Francisco and not so much a photography location. However, it is a great area to wander around and get some fantastic street photography. We often take our newly married couples up to the top of Russian Hill to begin with so we can get some great views of San Francisco. Once that is completed, we can wander down to the actual North Beach area and explore the many shops, bars and restaurants and take photos as you do it. We have a few favorite spots we like to stop at including Sotto Mare which has outdoor seating. What better place to get a natural photo of you and your spouse sipping Italian Wine!
Woodline at the Presidio in San Francisco
A hidden Gem in the Presidio in San Francisco is a little place we discovered called Woodline. It’s basically a cut through of the thick and dense woods that you normally find when walking through the Presidio. Few people know about it so it is rare that we run into tourists when we take our married couples there for wedding photography. Rather than describing it, I think it would better to just post an example image:
Ghirardelli Square / Cable Car
While it may be true that Ghirardelli Square IS a well known San Francisco destination, it’s not quite so famous as a wedding photography spot. We love it! Why? Because it is such a great place to walk around and experience San Francisco! By far one of the best places to get a Cable Car image because the cars sit there on Hyde Street waiting to be boarded. In addition, you have the Famous Buena Vista Cafe which is an iconic pub that serves the best Irish coffees that you can imagine! Ghirardelli Square is also just a nice area to have our couple walk around and enjoy while we photograph them!