Portraits - my new obsession

Before i had my first “professional” photo shoot. Before i was even able to set exposure on my camera or focus correctly, I was attracted to people’s portraits…. actually i’ll say it differently. I was always interested in people - their emotions, passion… how it is reflected on the faces and body language.

While I enjoy shooting weddings - whether it’s a small San Francisco City Hall wedding or a larger weekend wedding - i always feel that I wish i had more time to spend with the people. Weddings are fast paced, adrenaline rushed, in the moment photography. While I always will set time aside for couples portraits, I don’t want to take over one of their biggest day in the lives, especially when the couple has family and friends attending.

My dream of having my own studio came true this summer when I built my own studio in Santa Clara. On weekly basis I work some amazing people, who trust my music choice and go along with my inquisitive and at times silly questions.

With portrait photos, especially studio, there’s no time pressure, no space pressure. To me it’s a sort of meditation. I have a chance to get to know the people and they have a chance to get comfortable and get to know me. I’m genuinely interested in each one of them. I want to understand their thinking, philosophy, personal experiences, what drives them.

I don’t want this to be a stare in the camera, I want the image to have a meaning. It’s about the mood, the true emotions, at times conflicted desires as we so often have. It’s about telling a story with a few images. A story about the person, their life, what they feel… That’s what i try to achieve every single time I do any kind of session, but more so when it’s a portrait session.

For more information on my packages I have created this page. The packages are very low priced for a reason as my goal is to attract more people who are interested in headshots and portrait photos.

https://www.sfcityhallphoto.com/portraits

Indra & Derek

San Francisco City Hall is the place that attract couples from all over the world who want to get married. But of course some don’t have to travel too far to do their ceremony at the famous SF Courthouse.

Indra & Derek had a very intimate ceremony with just their family and few close friends attending. Since their wedding was on Tuesday afternoon, the City Hall wasn’t very crowded. So we had time to move around and take some nice shots in different areas of the City Hall. They also got lucky having their ceremony at the Mayor’s balcony.

Melanie & Andrew SF City Hall Wedding

Mel and Drew lived , went to school next to each other without actually knowing it. They bumped into each other and were introduced at a few parties, but nothing more happened. They continued living their lives. They kept bumping into each other at friend’s parties or events. They kept talking and texting over some period of time and then on July 4th Drew asked Mel on a date. They had dim sum, went to City Lights Books, then walked throughout Chinatown and North Beach and along Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. They went to Lou's Jazz Hall and listened to live music, then took a cab to the Mission District and enjoyed fireworks from the roof top of Lolinda El Techo (then known as Medjool's) and walked back together through a sea of illegal fireworks as police sirens echoed the Mission streets.

Then while on vacation in Paris Drew proposed to Mel.

Melanie and Andrew get hitched on the 71st wedding anniversary of Melanie's grandparents with friends and family.

SF City Hall Photo favorite vendors/partners

After working at SF City Hall for many years you build relationships, you get to know other vendors. I’ve done my homework on all the vendors I recommend. I would stand 100 percent behind this list. I’m hoping it’ll help you when you’re planning your SF City Hall wedding.

Flowers

  • http://solambiance.com . Oxana, the owner of Solambiance is outstanding. First time I worked with her was many years ago for my own personal project. She came recommended to me through a videographer. Since then she’s my to go florist - whether it’s for clients or myself. She is very creative with her bouquet and has an overall good sense what goes well with what. On top of that she’s one of most dependable and responsive people I know

Hair/Makeup

My 2 favorite studios. Both great in their own mind. For a photographer working with the right makeup/hair stylist is the key.

  • https://www.tripletwist.com/ - Mei is extremely patient, soft spoken, very attentive and detailed. She styles, while her husband Robert takes care of administrative part. Every single bride I recommended Mei to sang her praise. And of course the results were amazing.

  • https://www.bunbunbridallab.com/ - Felicia runs her studio so well. She’s the main stylist and the administrator. She is very well organized and very friendly. All brides love her as she makes them feel like she’s known them for a long time. And of course her results speak for themselves. She has an IG page that shows before and after.

Music

This is my personal favorite since I’m also a musician at heart and occasional playing now.

  • https://www.corellitrios.com/ - Midori is the heart of Corelli Strings and she can put together any ensemble you’d like for your wedding. She only works with great musicians. I’ve watched them perform at wedding on many occasions. They are not only fantastic musicians, they truly enjoy playing. On top of that Midori is very responsive, reliable and is a great person to work with

Videography

  • IQVideography - I’ve dedicated the whole Blog Post to my favorite video studio. Alex is not only a very talented videographer, but great business partner and a friend.

Why and How to Hire a Videographer for your City Hall Wedding

I get it - you’re having a small SF City Hall wedding. Maybe it’s just the 2 of you or maybe you have only your close friends and family attending. If you’re looking at my page then you’re considering getting a photographer, but that’s about it.

As a photographer who shoots in San Francisco City Hall on weekly basis, I see so many opportunities to capture the moments on video. And i do my best to do this as a photographer and at times do short videos for the couples. But that’s not the same as having an actual video of your day. The videographer will have a lot more material to work with the more time you give him. But even with 1 hour that footage is priceless.

It’s no wonder MTV, then YouTube took off. While I love photography and try to capture the mood, the environment, people, video takes it to a new dimension. I believe it stands complimentary to photography. It doesn’t replace photography, Take a look at some videos shot at San Francisco City Hall by our favorite video company - IQVideography.

Which brings me to the point ..

How to find and hire a really good reasonably priced videographer for your SF City Hall Wedding.

General guidance:

(And of course this applies to non City Hall weddings).

  • Watch their work - does it feel right to you? We all watch lots of movies and music videos now. Does it evoke emotions in you, do you feel the joy of the moment, is it visually pleasing? I see a lot of videos that are impersonal. They are focusing more on the surroundings as if afraid of the couple. I’m sure couples want to capture the vibe and environment of the place. Or I see videos where i don’t know here the wedding is taking place. Could be parents’ backyard. I can’t tell. Good videographer captures it all.

  • Does the style of videography fit with what you have in mind? I know it’s all about the taste. Does the music go well with the visuals? Angles, compositions, color… they can be good, but it’s not what you envision a wedding video should look like

  • Quality - does it feel like the video could’ve been shot on an iphone by a friend? Is the video shaky? Now maybe it’s their style. But unless you want to get dizzy watching your wedding video I wouldn’t recommend it.

  • Ask around - i’m sure i’m not alone who feels that with all the technology we don’t talk to each other as much as we should. Ask your friend, co-worker, someone who recently got married for a recommendation. Ask your wedding planner or a photographer. Yes, you can ask me or any other photographer you’re considering for your wedding. Once you get a name, go to first 3 steps and review their work. At the end it’s your decision

I have to say that I’m extremely lucky to know and have worked on many occasions with IQVideography. They fit all 3 criteria I’ve described above. To prove my points see the videos below.

SF City Hall throughout the years

Taking photographs isn’t a new business. Getting married isn’t new either. Getting married in San Francisco, having a small SF City Hall wedding isn’t new. But it doesn’t make it less special when you are the ones getting married.

It’s a great privilege to not just be part of one of the biggest event in a people’s lives, but to be trusted as a photographer during their San Francisco courthouse wedding. I never take it for granted and every single wedding try to be the best i possibly can as a photographer. Through the years I met people from all over the world. Couples come from the UK, Canada, New Zealand and other US tates specifically to get married in beautiful San Francisco City Hall. Other people come from all over the world and meet in the US, then decide to get married in San Francisco Courthouse. Every story is unique and I have to admit I enjoy these stories. Maybe it’s the History major (and Bachelors degree) or maybe I’m very interested in people.. how they met, what they thought of each other, how they get along. And of course not everyone is a extrovert and will tell me their whole life story. That’s totally ok. It’s really none of my business you can say. At the same time it doesn’t only satisfy my interest, but it brings more in couples when we take photos. It brings fun memories of how they met, fun or maybe serious moments. And as we talk, we walk around the City Hall and take photos. Sometimes there’s more time, sometimes there’s less.

My path to being San Francisco City Hall wedding photographer was in some ways accidental, but then i don’t really believe in accidents. Neither do i believe in preordained destiny. I think it’s somewhere in between where we decide how our life goes. But I’m grateful that over the few years as an owner and photographer of SF City Hall Photo i met such amazing people, became part of their life (even if for a moment) and was able to leave them with some of the greatest memories they will have.

Brittany & Dustin by SF City Hall Photo

We all know that City Hall gets busy and even when officiants try their best to be on time, things can run a bit late. But that wasn’t the case for Brittany & Dustin. Everything went smooth from the moment they checked in to the Clerk’s office. No wait time.

As we were coming up the Grand Stairwell for the ceremony, the stairwell was practically empty. I politely asked a few people to hide behind the columns so i can take a nice wide shot of the couple on the Grand Stairwell. I personally love clean stairwell shots, when the attention is drawn to the couple with the stairwell going up.

After the ceremony we headed to the 4th floor which was clear for us. Even though we can take group shots in various area, I really enjoy doing group shots on the 4th floor due to all that natural light that comes through the windows.

And of course as I always once we are done with the serious and fun shots I wanted to experiment a little - the couple had their own little pose/sign they wanted to do and I decided to take it next level.

Phykun and Jonathan by SF City Hall Photo

Not everything goes according to plan. And no… everyone who comes to get married to the City Hall gets married. Phykun and Jonathan had some issues during the check in, but we worked out through them together. At the end we found our own officiant who was on fire and did the ceremony better than any officiant could. I laughed while taking photos.

We spent some time around the City Hall covering all 4 floors, happily coming outside for some fresh air and last few photos.

Pufan & Jessica by SF City Hall Photo

I am very grateful to my clients that have complete trust in me and go along with whatever ideas I have. In this case i really wanted to play around with more contrast and color as it seemed to be very fitting to Pufan & Jessica. Of course I always, always want to make sure I get more classic, traditional photos. Then I get different canvas and try something new. Pufan & Jessica simply went along with whatever i suggested and within an hour or so we had a great variety of photos.

Carleigh & Adam by SF City Hall Photo

Who says you can’t have a small wedding ceremony in the City Hall without your bridesmaids and groomsmen? Carleigh and Adam definitely didn’t think so.

Yes, it was small.. yes it was intimate.. and it was perfect! We got great emotional ceremony photos, lots of group photo variations and of course a good variety of photos with just the couple. Couldn’t help it but take extra photos of just the lovely bride by herself.

Irem & Berti by SF City Hall Photo

When your family is not in the same country when you decide to get married, you bring your close friends and Skype.

I have photographed large wedding, very large weddings. I do enjoy that, but a smaller wedding is more relaxing for bride and groom as well as their guests. Everyone gets time to talk to them, joke around, take photos and it ends up being more personal and emotional to capture.

That’s how it turned out when Irem & Berti got married. Once we shot the ceremony, group photos and most of Irem & Berti photos that i wanted to do, I did a few portrait solo photos. As you talk to your couple while shooting and behind the scenes, you learn a lot more. Like the fact that Berti was studying to be a photographer and does some great aerial photos - i checked out his instagram later on.

The best part about my job is that I get to meet people i normally wouldn’t meet. I get to hear stories, learn about their lives, what they like, what they do and at the same time be part of one of their most memorable day.

Cristina & Florian by SF City Hall Photo

Who says that after years of being with each other the feelings go away, dry up. No.. they are not the same when the 2 people just met. Emotions, feelings, attachments evolve. If a couple evolves together, they grow even closer. It’s great to see that kind of couple getting married after knowing each other for many years.

I really wanted to focus on that natural energy and chemistry that Cristina and Florian have. I wanted to focus more on their personality and do more closeups than wide shots. There was a lot of intimacy that i didn’t want to miss and lose. At the same time how can we forget - we are a beautiful San Francisco City Hall. I wanted to capture that as well. So at the end we ended up with lots of intimate photos while not forgetting where we are at.

Boris PolisskyComment
Xinwei & Minmeng - Valentine's day by SF City Hall Photo

Valentine’s day is a special kind of day at the San Francisco City Hall. It’s also one of the busiest day a year when it comes to weddings. On days like that we are always prepared to take advantage of the open areas as soon as we see them.

Now Xinwei & Minmeng got very lucky on that day in so many ways. They got one of my favorite City Hall officiant, their ceremony was moved up to the 4th floor. In addition to that we timed it right so they could get a clean shot of the Grand Stairwell. For those who have come to the City Hall on regular days, they would know that people are constantly going up and down the stairwell and standing on the 2nd floor. So the grand stairwell shots .. clean grand stairwell shots.. are not always possible. However it all was doable on February 14th for this awesome couple.

This is just a small sample of variety of photos the couple received . Both natural and flash light used.

Laura and Ivan by SF City Hall Photo

I have the most respect and admiration for couples who can endure and overcome the difficulties of a long distance relationship. I had mine for 2 years and our patience was running out towards the end. Now image 7 years… That’s how long it too Laura and Ivan not to say goodbye and plan next time they get to see each other.

And i have to say it’s great to see a couple overcoming the distance, the issues that come with it and witness them getting married in SF City Hall with only close family from both sides present.

Since their’s was the last wedding of the day, we enjoyed a very quiet (for the most part) City Hall and were able to get some really nice clean wide shots that are hard to get on a busy City Hall day.

Wishing both Laura and Ivan many many years of happiness as i could see the long distance relationship brought them even closer.

Boris PolisskyComment
Kristine & John by SF City Hall Photo

Our first wedding on 2019 was Kristine and John tying the knot in beautiful San Francisco City Hall. It was pretty quiet after the holiday rush. Kristine and John brought their 7 months old son Al and it was just the 4 of us wandering around the City Hall.

The wedding session turned more into a family session and I wanted to make sure I leave them with a great collection of photos with the 3 of them. The more i do this, the more I realized it’s not the fancy, artistic shots that matter to a lot of couples. It’s these true moments where the family is captured our this special day. I feel we accomplished it quiet well.

Michelle & Ben by SF City Hall Photo

Close family and friends attended this ceremony at the City Hall. This being late in the day allowed us to spend more time around the City Hall and get wider shots, more architectural shots and of course more intimate and private images.

Boris PolisskyComment
Karyn & Jeff by SF City Hall Photo

As photographers we have the an opportunity to meet new people every single day. You get to hear stories of how couples met, how they like spending time together, how they feel about each other. Spending an hour or two with them isn’t a lot but we are lucky to share some of their most memorable experiences.

Last week we had 2 couples that met online and after several years took it to the next step - tying the knot in San Francisco City Hall

Karen & Jeff had a small ceremony inviting their 3 kids to join. The “kids” were all in their 20s, happily smiling, joking around and at some point singing along to “I won’t give up" by Jason Mraz - a song which has a special meaning to the couple. Once we found that out, we got our iphone out and made them dance to a 6/8 tune.

They each read their vows after the ceremony and talked about how much they mean to each other. The kids posed and fooled around while we took a few photos of the couple. And once done we did a few photos of the kids too.

Boris PolisskyComment
San Francisco City Hall Wedding Information by SF City Hall Photo

SF City Hall Wedding Walkthrough


Fourth Floor, SF City Hall, Rosey Bouquet

SF City Hall Photo began in 2015 as an affordable and high-quality photography service for couples getting married inside the iconic downtown building. After spending so much time in and around the structure, we thought we should share some tips and suggestions for making your San Francisco City Hall wedding even more enjoyable, and perhaps alleviate any confusion you may have about how the entire process works.

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Civil ceremonies take place Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. You must first make a reservation online to schedule an appointment for your marriage license and your marriage ceremony.  Payment for both services is due upon making the reservation, and is $107, and $86 respectively.  

Whenever possible, we recommend getting your marriage license on a day other than your ceremony date. However, if your license and ceremony appointments are on the same day, make sure to schedule them at least one hour apart.


      Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married at SF City Hall in 1954!

The County Clerks Office in room 168 is where you will check in and handle your paperwork.  You'll receive a ticket before being asked to wait in the hallway until your number is called. Getting through the office is generally a breeze, however, it's always wise to arrive early in case their are delays.  

Once your number is called we go back inside the clerk's office and meet the person who will be marrying you that day. Interestingly enough there are more than a dozen volunteer officiants who rotate during the week. We have had the pleasure of working with almost all of them and, very similar to us, they love what they do.

After greeting and handling paperwork, you will be asked if you are exchanging rings and given the choice of where you would like the ceremony to take place: private room or the Rotunda. The idea of a private room may sound appealing but in reality is a rather drab, windowless box which doesn't allow for stunning images. The Rotunda is the place to be.

You too can be a deputy marriage officiant for a day!

Another thing to keep in mind is the length of the ceremony itself. If you elected to use a city-appointed officiant the ceremony itself lasts no more than 5 minutes. You will also not be allowed to exchange your own vows. A private officiant is something to consider if you would like to share your own written vows with your partner.

After choosing your location you both will be asked to show your identification and sign the marriage license. One witness (Two Max) needs to be present to sign the license as well as the decorative certificate City Hall provides for newlyweds. If your wedding is a low-key affair with just the two of you we can happily act as an official witness and sign the corresponding documents, just let us know.


Finally, the paperwork is settled and you are asked to head upstairs to the Rotunda to wait for the beginning of your ceremony. Typically there are at least 2-3 other couples getting married by the same officiant, so while you may be the first or last, it is best to go straight to the Rotunda forthwith to avoid any delays and potentially lose your place. We can help usher the rest of your party upstairs so everyone can watch this magical moment.

Badhia & Zack by SF City Hall Photo

People meet in different places, under different circumstances.  They come from different countries, cities, cultures.  And then one day a few months later, few or even 10 years later they feel that getting married is the next logical or emotional step.  And if one lives in San Francisco why look for another place to get married.  People come from all over the world to tie the knot in beautiful San Francisco City Hall.  

Badhia and Zack like many of us get shy in front of the camera and were not sure how the whole experience will go.  But 15 minutes into our session they felt at ease and even started chatting about life while I was posing them.  We spent some time in the City Hall and then headed to Crissy Fields and Palace of Fine arts to complete our photo collection.  At the end we got a great fun, serious, silly series of images that they felt represent them.  

Andrea & Kevin by SF City Hall Photo

Andrea and Kevin are getting married in Aruba in 2019, but wanted to do a session at the City Hall as they were getting their license.  They came in on Friday afternoon and although City Hall got filled up with occasional tour groups, it was relatively quiet as the last ceremonies were finished at 3.30.  That allowed us room to maneuver around the City Hall and actually achieve a "clean", crowd-less shot of the Grand Stairwell.  I have to admit it's quite a rare occasion and even then i had to polite ask a few people to move for just a split second.  

It was a gorgeous day and i wanted to take advantage of the outdoors and the sun creating glares and fun shadows.   The end result is quite a good collection of photos done within a very short period of time.