Celebrating after the Wedding! Bride and Groom Kissing at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco
I have been photographing city hall weddings now for over 8 years with 350 weddings under my belt (Check out my City Hall Home Page for more information). I have made friends with many of the other City Hall wedding photographers and have tons of respect for them. We often talk in the cafe and exchange ideas and problems before or after our weddings. I find that I learn a lot from having these types of discussions with my fellow wedding photographers and have started to form some strong opinions about what makes a particular San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer the best! I will share some of these thoughts below:
Newlyweds leaving SF City Hall Happy
Friendly Service is Super Important! As I have discussions with the best SF city hall wedding photographers I find one common denominator among them…. They are all nice people! Fun to be around and upbeat. Reading their Yelp reviews reveals that many of their clients take the time to talk about their demeanor and friendliness and not just the quality of the wedding photography. Another often discussed aspect of this attribute is that it actually results in better pictures. I believe the reason for this is that the bride and groom feel more at ease with the photographer and thus display their more natural side.
Expensive Equipment Barely Matters. I have seen wedding photographers at SF city hall use all types of camera equipment. They range from super expensive all the way down to cheaper consumer level cameras. I honestly see no correlation between the amount of money a photographer spends on their camera and the quality of the pictures. However, it IS important to have proper lighting equipment including an off-camera flash. But even this does not have to be expensive to get the job done. The bottom line is that with today’s technology even the most basic cameras take amazing photos. The different in quality of the end product has much more to do with the wedding photographer. We recently added some better off camera lighting and it has improved some of our photography in the darker areas of city hall like the Mayor’s Balcony. This new lighting system also recycles faster giving us the ability to shoot faster.
City Hall Experience is huge! There is no doubt in my mind that the best wedding photographers at San Francisco City Hall are mainly the most experienced. The lighting in the building is super tricky and can changes in a matter of minutes as the fog rolls in and out. More important are the curves that city hall will often throw Brides and Grooms. Special Events, closing down of certain areas, protest marches and unexpected arrivals of a huge tour bus are just some of the things we all have to deal with at city hall on a daily basis. The more experienced professional wedding photographer know how to make adjustments on the fly no matter what the current circumstances are. You have to know alternative beautiful spots and the best ways to get around area closures. We have learned these things over the years and are still learning new tricks to this day!
The Best City Hall Wedding Photographers help their clients with every aspect of the event! We take a lot of pride in helping our brides and grooms deal with the somewhat confusing process of getting married at San Francisco City Hall. We offer many pointers on our website and try to act as a guide when it comes to check-in time at the County Clerks office. We see this with many of the other experienced professional wedding photographers at city hall also! We just received a Yelp Review from a great client who complimented us on helping the groom with shortening his pants (with tape). I also held the mirror so the bride could put on her eyelashes. These little things make a difference on how you become the best wedding photographer possible.
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
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:
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!
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:
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 !