San Francisco city hall is famous for the Grand Staircase as a perfect place for wedding photography. In fact, its the perfect place for all types of portrait photography which is evidenced by the countless people that you can always see covering the Staircase. For this particular shot we posed the couple right in the middle of the stairs and positioned 2 professional lights on each side. We aimed one of them at the Bride's veil to highlight it and add some drama to the shot. In addition, we had the groom dip the bride slightly to add some motion to the image. The other thing that is accomplished by dipping the bride is that it brings the veil down away from her back and displays it better. In some cases we might even put some professional lighting behind it to highlight it even more. However, you don't want to overdo this and make it seem too contrived. I love the reflection of the lights on the floor beside the happy couple.
What is the one thing that all of the best San Francisco city hall wedding photographers have in common? They all know how to properly light the bride and groom, no matter where in the building they are. Why is professional lighting so important at City Hall? Despite the obvious beauty throughout this incredible building, photographers are presented with some lighting challenges. In many locations, direct overhead lighting is present. Any pro photographer knows that overhead lighting can be some of the least complimentary for the bride and groom. In extreme cases, it can cause so called "racoon eyes" and also some harshness on the face. This phenomenon is the same reason you heard to try to avoid portrait photography at high noon. The sun id directly overhead and provides mostly harsh lighting from the top. The other very challenging location at city Hall is the Mayor's Balcony. Definitely one the most beautiful places to photograph newlyweds because it faces the Rotunda. So with little doubt, you can get amazing images that show most of the prettiest parts of the building. The problem is that there is little or no light on the actual balcony. Just behind and picture you take up here is light streaming in from the sides because of all of the big bright windows. No such windows exist at the Mayor's Balcony so you need to provide your own. Cell phone pictures taken up here often result in Silhouettes or at the very least a dark subject with lighter background. This is why I make the very strong statement that experienced city hall photographers all pretty much know how to light each scene effectively. If they don't, they will not be successful.