Johnny was playing his new game Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City when I noticed his character running around a place that looked dead on like the SF City Hall. It was a trip seeing it on a video game! From the lobby, the floor design, the second floor down to the railing design. It looked as grand as the real one.
If you haven't been to this City Hall, go check it out. It's pretty awesome. I've heard the gold trimmings on the dome are the real deal. If it is, that is tight!
Back in September 2010, I was quite unprepared on the first wedding I shot here. I found the huge building intimidating but instantly fell in love with the architecture of it. That day I went home and told Johnny that's where I want to get married. Two months later, that's exactly where we exchanged vows.
After 30 or so weddings at the SF City Hall, I know this place by heart and know exactly where to take couples for the best shots at certain times of the day.
For fellow photographers who are preparing for their first wedding here or want to get into shooting civil weddings in SF or to couples who are planning on getting married here, here are my top 10 go to spots in and around the building:
1. Grand staircase and mid landing. You can't miss it as it's the first thing you see when you enter the building. After the ceremony, I sometimes have the the couple walk hand in hand down the middle of the staircase. I position myself on the other side of the second floor giving me a wide shot of the lobby. The mid landing is a perfect spot for group shots. It has enough room for everybody and has a nice background of the rotunda.
2. Rotunda. The most requested spot for ceremonies (this is what we chose as well). The space allows you to move around and get various angles of the ceremony and all the guests. I like standing back against the doors of the Mayor's Office and get a tall shot of the group.
3. Fourth floor hallway(right side if facing the entrance). This area has the best light within the building. I usually have my couples walk from one end towards me (hip level from the other end of the hall) and then have my bride stand against the wall incorporating the lights coming in from the high windows. My favorite though by far is having them kiss or embrace at the very center of the hallway by the railing while I get a wide shot from across the building (hallway on the other side).
4. Third floor window. I like incorporating doors and windows in my photos. For doors, I use the Main Library door on the fourth floor. I find it a perfect contrast to young trendy couples. It may be tricky to find windows to use with brides as most of them are a bit too high. There is one though on the third floor by the hallway to the right. It's perfect because it's huge and it's just the right level to have your bride stand next to or look out to.
5. Second window in between gold railings. This was one of my go to spots in the beginning. Go up the second floor then turn to the right hallway. Have your couple stand face to face just below the middle window and get a tight shot with the gold railings on either side. Make sure you get both wall lamps on either side, it makes it more dramatic.
6. Short flight of stairs on the second floor. This is where I go when I want to get shots of couples sitting down. Go to the second floor, turn left and walk to the very end of the hallway. Have the groom sit to the left and the bride a few steps up to the right.
7. Clock. We go back to the lobby and face the entrance. Have couple stand in the middle and kiss. You have to crouch down quite a bit to incorporate the huge gold clock on the second floor in the background. It's a nice shot to remember the time the couple got married.
8. Main doors. I never miss this shot. I have the couple stand by the main doors (close them if you have to, I do, just remember to open them again) and do both close up and wide shots, always incorporating the gold City Hall sign above the doors in the background.
9. Crossing the street. Walk across the street and take shots of the couple as they're crossing. After they've crossed, have them hug or kiss or both and do a close-up with the top of the building in the background.
10. In front of the building. My favorite is having the couple walk hand in hand towards me in between the trees. I try to get parts of the building usually the top of the blue dome in between the trees on the left.
These are the ten spots and angles that immediately came to my head as I write this. There are more areas to explore and shots to play around with in each area.
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