San Francisco's City Hall just celebrated its 100th anniversary. And with last week's landmark Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, the many couples who nobly awaited nationwide marriage equality before tying the knot are now headed to the grand, gold-domed building to apply for marriage licenses.
San Francisco's City Hall is a famously scenic, inexpensive venue for weddings. (Its colorful history of nuptials is detailed in a recent KQED News report.) Wedding photographers have a long tradition of capturing the building's architectural elegance and grandeur.
We asked a handful of local wedding photographers about their favorite spots to shoot -- the nooks and crannies of City Hall where the art of the building itself inspires the art of the camera.
Jessamyn Harris, Jessamyn Harris Photography
Third Floor Catwalk
My favorite spot for shooting is up on the third floor. If you take the stairs or the elevator up to the next floor after the rotunda, the light comes in perfectly diffused, the patterned windows are old-fashioned looking, and there's lovely light pouring in, which the marble bounces around perfectly. It's like a gorgeous little studio up there. Most of the building doesn't have a lot of lighting – the rotunda can be pretty dark, actually. But if you go up the funky antique stairs or the antique elevator, you come into this glowing space. There are polished marble floors, there are archways connecting the catwalks, the lighting is perfect for everybody's skin — and, of course, the San Francisco fog adds additional diffusing. It's just soft and kind of heavenly. It's hard to get a bad shot there.
Michelle Felieacan, Michelle Feileacan Photography
Fourth Floor North Gallery
For a premium, couples can rent out special places in the building, like the fourth floor balcony, which allows them to bring more guests. The light on that side – that's the north facing window – it's all white marble and the light just comes in. Everybody looks good in that light. It's so creamy and soft. That side has everything: The windows themselves are really beautiful, it's got all this ironwork around it, it's got the stone urns as decoration. The dome -- the big iconic part of that building – when you're down on the floor, it's hard to get that dome in the shot. But when you're up there, it's easy. It's right behind you. And even though that fourth floor ceremony area is very intimate, you're overlooking this very gigantic beautiful rotunda area. Everyone looks over the edge and says, “Oh my God, it's huge here.” Everything's bigger than it looks. It has such a grand feeling.
Lily Chao, Wild About You Photography
We usually try to get some photos of the couple going up or down the staircase. It feels more dramatic and more dynamic than just standing and posing for a portrait. It's also reflective of most people's City Hall moment together: either the anticipation beforehand, going up, or the excitement afterward, walking down. Not only do the stairs lend to showing off their day, they're also central to showing off the building itself. You can see the ceiling, the columns, the dome, all from the stairs.
Alyssa Kapnick, Alyssa Kapnick Portraiture
Fourth floor, across the span
This building is so majestic and intricate. If you photograph people in the middle of a workday there, there are always a ton of tourists, workers and people getting married. But if you go up to the fourth floor, and manage to get a time when no one's walking by, it will feel like a really quiet spot, which is kind of a contradiction in San Francisco. It's not about just the couple; it's about the bigger picture. And the building is incredibly beautiful and geometrically sound.