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FAQ Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS for City Hall Weddings & Photography


Q: How much time is needed for photos at City Hall? What is the difference between the basic 1hr and the Standard 2hr and Premium 2.5 hr packages?

A: After photographing weddings for years at San Francisco City Hall, I have discovered every nook and cranny of angelic light at what is the 5th largest freestanding dome in the world. At least an additional hour, after your ceremony and group shots, is required to get a good combination of photographs that are representative of City Hall. Since reopening after the COVID closure, City Hall, closes at 5:00PM instead of 8:00PM. With fewer hours available for photography, it is now more important than ever to ensure proper time for quality photographs.

Things to consider the 2hr packages versus the Basic Elopement 1 hr Package

• The best locations (e.g. 4th Floor & Grand Staircase) usually require waiting for other photographers. It is common for some photographers to take extra time, and waiting time can exceed 15 minutes or more in some cases. Note: I always do my best to negotiate with other photographers who are taking an inordinate amount of time.

• City Hall is a large space. It takes time moving from location throughout the building.

• It takes time to clear areas of people to minimize strangers in the background of your photos

• With both the Standard Package and Premium 2.5 hr package, all the photos you received will be free of strangers in the background, even if they need to be photoshopped!

Q: How many photos will I receive ?

A: In the chart below, I give a rough idea of the # of photos that you will receive based on the package selected. Although it seems obvious to compare packages and photographers by the number of photos delivered, by far the most important measure is the quality of the photos. Some of my shoots with the least number of photos had multiple award-winning images in the same shoot! I always deliver similarly edited photos for the whole shoot, so you don't have to imagine what the rest would look like if they were edited properly.

A Comparison of City Hall Photography Packages

    PackageTypical # of Photos Delivered in addition to Ceremony PhotosGroup PhotosNo Strangers if photos OptionNotes
    Ceremony Only3 additional - I Typically Deliver roughly 30 images taken for the 5-minute Ceremonies at the RotundaOne photo of entire group in front of City HallNoNot Recommended if you want couple photos after Ceremony throughout City Hall
    Basic 1 Hr75Family/Friend photos but takes away from couple photosNo
    Standard 2 hrTypically about 180 photos total from locations throughout City HallPlenty of time for family and friend photos.Included2 hr & 2.5 hr packages for weddings scheduled after 3PM, require some photography to be scheduled before the Ceremony.
    Premium 2.5 hrTypically 225 + photos total from locations throughout City HallPlenty of time for family and friend photos. Preferred package for Mayor's Balcony and 4th Floor weddings, where there are typically more group photos.

Q. When is the best time to have a wedding at City Hall? When it is less crowded?

There is no sure fire way to maximize light and crowds at City Hall. Since City Hall has shortened their business hours to 8AM-6PM, there are more photographers competing for space Monday through Friday. Fridays and afternoons are typically the most crowded, and midweek is the least crowded. The most important factor in getting the photos that you want is the package selected. The 2 hr and 2.5 hr packages will provide enough time to get the essential shot at that everyone wants from the Grand Staircase and the 4th Floor without strangers in the background. For Mayor's Balcony weddings, refer to this page dedicated to Mayor's Balcony Weddings.

Q. When is the best light at City Hall?

The best light at City Hall is during the Winter when the light is not too strong and is very photographic, when it enters into the building on the 4th floor and even touches down to the 1st and 2nd floors at times. In general, trying to optimize your ceremony for best lighting, is only possible for one or two locations max. This is because City Hall is way darker than it appears. Besides the 4th Floor, the ambient light is usually quite dark, and requires the photographer to use off camera flash to get beautiful professional photos throughout the building. The use of off camera flash is more important than the time of day in getting the best photos at City Hall.

No matter what photographer you pick, make sure that they are skilled at the use of off camera lighting. So that your whole shoot will have the same level of quality as the few places (for example, the 4th Floor) with good sunlight.

Newlyweds Leaving City Hall Photo Without Proper Flash | Wedding PhotographerWithout Off Camera Flash (dull colors)

Couple exiting SF CIty Hall with beautiful sky
With Off Camera Flash

Example of photo without flash - | SF City Hall Wedding PhotographerWithout Off Camera Flash (lack of 'pop' little contrast.)

sf city hall wedding photos - couple walking down the Grand Staircase after nuptials by San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer | Love & Lavender
With Off Camera Flash

Q. How would you describe your typical clients.

A: Our clients are visually sophisticated. What I mean by this, is that our clients really care about lighting, expression and artistry. Many of our clients are avid, amateur photographers and even other pro photographers or others who work in various cinematic arts. We also get many tech types from Silicon Valley, such as Googlers and Apple employees or those working in startups. The commonality is they have an artistic side and love photography. Finally, I get, many very family oriented couples who are excited to share their photos to other family members around the world.

Q. What kind of camera equipment do you use?

A: I am a firm believer that is mostly about the photographer, and that equipment can only get one so far. Having said this, I shoot with Professional Sony gear. All my lenses are carefully selected for the highest performance and character. I often use classic Zeiss and Leica lenses that I have adapted to modern sensors. Finally, I use only the best lighting, by Profoto. Top photographers, the world over, use Profoto due to their reliability and amazing reliability of light quality.

Q. Do you offer video services?

A: Yes, we can capture your ceremony plus vignettes of your City Hall/Tour photo session with pro level audio and a wireless mic.

Q. What are the best dresses for a City Hall Wedding?

A: Read Choosing a City Hall Wedding Dress. I put together this list of tips to help Brides select a wedding dress.

What to Expect

Q. When and where do we meet?

Rotunda weddings: I typically I meet the couple 15 minutes before their Ceremony time at the bottom of the Grand Staircase on the 1st floor. After meeting the couple, I go up to the Rotunda and get my camera and flash equipment ready for the Ceremony. Photographers are no longer allowed to photograph the registration process before the Ceremony. Only if the photographer is a witness (I am happy to be your witness.) are photographers allowed in the Clerk's Office, but even then cannot photograph the process.

This video describes the booking process as well as how we meet before your rotunda wedding.

4th Floor and Mayor's Balcony Weddings:

I will meet the couple approximately 15 minutes before the Ceremony and set up lighting.

If there is a "First Look" option, we will go into detail over the phone how to arrange entry into the building without seeing each other and plan for enough time before the Ceremony.

Q: What about posing? I don't want overly posed photos.

A: My style is to give suggestions to the couple, but then, let them interact naturally. And Capture that interaction. In my portfolio, even when you see a photo of the Bride or Groom alone, their partner is usually behind me and their smile and demeanor are authentic. The photos you see in my portfolio are mostly just a matter of helping the chemistry of the couple come out naturally.

Q. How are photos delivered.

A:We deliver full resolution images on our online proofing and sharing site for a minimum of three years (no extra cost).