Sara and Toby decided to have their wedding at San Francisco City Hall because they wanted beautiful photos of the building architecture coupled with the convenience and inexpensive pricing available there. SF City Hall allows a couple the chance to have their wedding at one of the West Coast's truly amazing venues at a reasonable cost. You give up nothing in terms of quality and elegance. This is not normally the case with civil ceremonies at other City Halls or County Clerk offices. San Francisco city hall was recently rated as a top 5 wedding venue in the area. In my book, it rates even higher. it is an incredibly popular place to get married with over 25 weddings on average per day. Yes, some are just there for a legal ceremony, but many more want the ambiance and beauty of this historic building. Certainly, anyone can take advantage of the elegance present at San Francisco city hall. Of course this includes beautiful wedding photography after your city hall ceremony. Very few places offer both of these things.
Sara's gorgeous wedding dress worked so perfectly with the background textures and colors at San Francisco City Hall. We purposely used more natural light than normal in order to capture the detail of the dress yet keep the lighting soft and warm. As is evident from the photos below, the window shots really worked well and we see a nice contrast between the colors of the dress and the background. Professional off-camera lighting is still essential to obtaining the best quality in San Francisco city hall wedding photography, but in this particular case, we were able to use some amazing window light. The incredible texture you can see in her dress is enhanced by using natural light coming in from the side. This is also how we would illuminate the dress with our professional lighting set up. We point our studio flashes from an extreme side angle and this creates more shadows and thus more details. The only challenge at that point is to fill in the shadows partially, which we can do with fill or bounce flash. We never overdo this because if you can notice that additional lighting was added, it does not enhance the final image.
It can be difficult to photograph the Bride and Groom on the Grand Staircase without strangers wandering around in the background, but we often get lucky. One way we "make our own luck" is to keep our eye on the Staircase throughout our Town Hall photo tour so we can pounce on it when there are less people present. This system has worked well for us over the years and requires some vigilance, but is well worth it. To me, it beats just waiting for the Grand Staircase to clear and not doing anything. It also depends upon what time it is and the day of the week. We have found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays give us the best chance to get clears staircase images. Mondays are good too! It's easy to see why so many of our clients want photos on the Grand Staircase. Even on a Thursday or Friday it is possible if you are patient enough. I figure it is always possible to obtain a winning image at this famous location if you just are willing to wait. It seems to clear up eventually, even on Fridays at peak time. As long as you have the time in your schedule, I have no problem waiting also.
So to answer many of your questions in advance... Yes, we are able to take pictures of you and your spouse on the Grand Staircase without strangers in your photos! You may have to be willing to wait, but it is worth it. Even if there are a few people still wandering around, we can choose the best angles to minimize their impact on your final photos. This is normally our final resort. if there are lots of tourists on the left side of the stairs we can use a right angle approach and visa versa. The whole goal is to provide our clients with the best San Francisco city hall wedding photography possible!
We escorted Sara and Toby on a walk around the second floor of SF City Hall and took some candid shots of them. The photograph below-left in the above Gallery was actually taken from the 3rd floor looking down. We then captured the romantic photo on the right using the south facing window light on the second floor of San Francisco City Hall. Some of the best photos are unplanned and just happen. We try to put our couples in the best possible position to make this occur and then get ready with our cameras. We want to be creative, but at the same time make it fun for the couple without over-posing them. Taking too much time setting up each photo can take away from the spontaneity of the event and resulting images. Creativity is not just about composing a great and unique image. It actually has just as much to do with the unique way a wedding photographer handles the couple. You get the most out of the bride and groom by keeping the photo session upbeat! A little laughter doesn't hurt either.
I really feel that the photographer's approach to the photo session has everything to do with the final result. We can talk about posing, lighting, and backgrounds forever and of course it is all very important. However, if the couple is unhappy or not fully engaged during the city hall photo shoot, the results will suffer. To me, the most important thing a SF city hall wedding photographer can do is to make this happen through encouragement and humor. Taking a positive approach works best. Whatever it takes!
Sara and Toby booked us for a total of 2.5 hours, which included the signing of the marriage license by the witness, ceremony shots, family shots, and a photo tour around San Francisco City Hall. (Note: The County Clerk no longer allows photos of the license signing.) Once this was all completed it was time to leave city hall to go out into San Francisco. Our first stop was the Presidio for some romantic wedding photography at a place called Woodline. The newlyweds wanted an intimate non-touristy setting and Woodline was just the place to take them! Our Golden Gate Package offers 1 additional SF location (like Woodline). We spent about 20 minutes there and got some beautiful photos. Woodline is amazing, but it doesn't really say San Francisco. You need to decide if you want SF related landmarks or just beautiful backgrounds. Woodline in the Presidio definitely has the beauty and will look different than anything else you might get in San Francisco. People more familiar with the City understand that the Presidio is also somewhat of a local landmark as well, it is just not as recognizable as some of the more famous destinations. We can re-enact it if you would like after the ceremony is complete!