This particular image is a favorite of mine. It's not something you see that frequently in City Hall wedding portfolios because it is not an easy shot to capture. Why? Well, partially because this is the main entrance to the building and we always want to make sure that we don't get in the way of the normal business at San Francisco city hall. So before we set up this shot, we try to make sure there are no large crowds coming in through the entrance so we don't slow down their progress. The other issue is that the lighting can be tricky depending upon the time of day it is. If it is really bright outside with the sun shining on the front of the building, it can be difficult to prevent the background from blowing out too much. Many of these things can be adjusted for and with lots of practice we have managed to be able to make this into a memorable photo in most circumstances. Of course many of our brides and grooms see this image or similar ones on our website and they ask us to provide them with one as well. We are always happy to oblige if the opportunity is there. In the photo above, we decided that using a tiny amount of fill flash would help with the overall contrast of the image. This allowed us to balance the light and make the picture easier to view. We snapped off about 20 images very quickly with various poses. Again, the goal being not to disrupt entrance and exit to City Hall (this also keeps the security guards happy with us).
As long as we are discussing being courteous and respecting others trying to get in and out of city hall, I think it is important to bring up some of the other areas where this comes into play. Specifically, the Grand Staircase! Many of the non-regular wedding photographers at city hall think that the staircase belongs to them and only them. Evidence of this can be seen when a particular picture taker plants themselves squarely on the steps and spends 15 minutes keeping the space just for their own. When others try to walk in the way, they get waved off and are told to leave (and not always politely I might add). Is this the way it should be? No. We need to understand that San Francisco city hall is a public building and everyone has equal rights to be on the Grand Staircase. Have we asked people or tourists to move slightly in the past? Yes we have, but we do it in a courteous manner and we are usually done in a matter of seconds. We are keenly aware of our time spent in various locations throughout the building and so we always make an effort to not be in any single area for too long. I feel like most of the other long time professional San Francisco city hall wedding photographers understand this as well and so if we all look out for each other, things tend to go smoothly. Another problem for city hall wedding photographers is the Quinceanera picture takers. For some reason they find it necessary to set up huge lights around the staircase and will stay on there for long bits of time without any regard for others. Also, keep in mind that these photographers are working with families that did not pay any money to city hall and yet they often crowd out newlyweds that paid money to be there. Again, I understand that it is a public building, but I just would like it if more courtesy was shown. We definitely try to.
The above picture was taken in an area where there isnt so much need to worry about crowd control. Not all San Francisco city hall wedding photographers even know about this location, but it is a great one. Notice the natural frame created by the Rotunda arch. It really improves the image and makes for a beautiful addition to the newlyweds wedding album.