As someone who captures moments in time, photographing an NYC City Hall elopement can be a unique and rewarding experience. Not everyone wants a day of grandeur. For some, a simple civil ceremony is enough. My best friend, Danny, asked me to be his witness and helped capture his big day with his girlfriend, Zoe, whom I’ve gotten to know over the years. Of course, I had to say yes, it was a big honor!
What usually happens is most couples get the official paperwork done at the Marriage Bureau, and down the line at a later date have a planned ceremony and reception someplace nice. While the *actual* New York City Hall is a landmark and is “one of the most beautiful early 19th century public buildings in the United States,” the City Clerk’s office where marriage ceremonies take place is dreary and depressing. As many state buildings go, on the outside it looks like a prison fortress. On the inside, the lighting is horrible and the moments leading up to the “I do are transactional. Of course, the officiants are just trying to move the lobby filled with eager couples waiting their turn to legally tie the knot.
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Here are some tips and tricks to help you capture the best pictures possible while at City Hall.
The interior can be a bit dark and dingy. While I am always wary of using flash, bring it in case you can use it, or other lighting equipment like a small continuous light to brighten up the space. If it’s not allowed, be prepared to bump up the ISO!
While it’s important to get some posed shots, don’t forget to photograph the candid, intimate moments. These spontaneous shots can often be the most memorable and meaningful!
I always like to get both photos and videos and will attach a hot shoe mount to my camera that holds my phone for video.
When I was photographing my friend’s civil ceremony, the officiant didn’t wait for me to set up! He started so quickly that I ended up holding my camera in one and my phone in the other and just kept my finger on the shutter.
NYC City Hall is full of interesting architectural details and landscapes that can make for beautiful backgrounds in your photographs. Don’t be afraid to step outside and explore the area for unique photo ops. The nearby City Hall Park and surrounding streets can also provide some great options for background shots.
By following these tips, you can be sure to capture beautiful and lasting photographs of the couple’s NYC City Hall elopement.
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