This fun-loving couple was a joy to photograph because the bride giggled at almost every posing suggestion we made. The end result was a wedding photography gallery that really reflected the fun they were having during their City Hall wedding photo tour. This type of attitude is difficult to create for a wedding photographer. It really needs to come from the bride and groom to make it feel real. None of this was faked, the bride really was having a ball while we took her pictures after their San Francisco City Hall Civil ceremony on the 4th floor. They only had a few guests with them and so we were able to quickly take all their family photos in order to get that out the way. This gave us even more time to explore all four floors of San Francisco City Hall and enabled us to create some wonderful wedding pictures for the newlyweds. Please check out the extensive Gallery below of our Filipino couple's photo tour around this historic building.
Our couple was in luck on this, their wedding day because the normal spot in the Rotunda for civil ceremonies was unavailable. So their deputy marriage commissioner moved the ceremony up to the Beautiful fourth floor where we frequently photograph reserved weddings (at a cost of $1,000!). The natural light on the 4th floor is incredible, created by the large picture windows on both sides of the building. You really don't need any type of extra lighting on this floor although sometimes I still use it to help balance the light. The reason I do this is that depending on the time of day, there can be quite a bit of light coming through the window on the opposite side of the building. This can create a tough backlighting situation which can often reduce the contrast of the main subjects. If I notice that this is going to be an issue I will turn on my off- camera professional lighting system to help power through that strong backlighting. The other trick I have learned over the years is to stand on a small footstool and shoot down at the couple during their ceremony. This makes it so their heads aren't in front of the bright window on the other side. Depending on how intense the light is at San Francisco City Hall this could create ghost like images of the bride and groom lacking contrast and color.
Since we are talking about tricky lighting at San Francisco City Hall, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss some things I've learned over the past 12 years as a wedding photographer. Most of these suggestions apply to anyone who is photographing San Francisco City Hall weddings including amateurs and professionals. One of the key errors I see among SF City Hall wedding photographers is shooting into the ornate windows without enough light behind them. In most cases you cannot create a professional looking photo only using natural light in this scenario. If you are not careful you will end up with a silhouette photo. Silhouettes are nice, but you don't want all your photos at San Francisco City Hall to be that way. Too see more of best SF city hall wedding photography ideas, click this link for a related Blog Post.
There are two main options that a photographer can turn to do when faced with heavy backlighting like this. One thing you can do is shoot at a slight angle into the window so the full backlight is not streaming into your camera or cell phone. The other option is to just show the ornate window in the background but to not have it directly behind the bride and groom. On the other hand, if you do have a professional camera and some lighting equipment, all you have to do is increase your shutter speed and aim the flash at the couple. If you use off-camera lighting like I do this can still look very natural and soft. If you only have a on-camera flash try bouncing it off the wall behind you and that will soften the light, but still give you some help. The other thing I discussed earlier is to place the newlyweds under the window by using the appropriate camera angle. In this way you will show the beautiful window behind the couple without turning them into ghosts.
Other ideas and suggestions include looking through San Francisco city hall for light streaming onto certain locations. This tends to happen more in the winter when the sun is low. It can great dramatic wedding images, especially if you let some of this light shine on your bride and groom!