Emily Takes Photos: San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer (And More)

With a fondness for elopements!

When it comes to photography, you need different things in different situations. If you’re having a big weekend wedding, it’s possible you want to hire a photographer who’s a bit of a head-in-the-clouds-artist, who will give you dreamy portraits, but might not make sure that you get places on time (I hired photographers like this myself, and loved them). But if you’re hiring a photographer for your out-of-town elopement, you really want someone who’s organized and knowledgeable. In an ideal world, you want a photographer meets mini-wedding-planner—someone who will take care of all the logistics, so that you can float on the cloud of getting married. If you’re eloping to San Francisco, that magical unicorn exists, and she’s Emily, of Emily Takes Photos. Also? That magical unicorn is also one of APW’s first ever advertisers (crazy old school, right?), and now our advertising manager, which means she’s extra good stuff.

Emily has built her business working with APW couples, and she loves you guys more than anything. Or, almost anything, because recently Emily has decided that the only thing she loves as much as APW couples is San Francisco Elopements. She told me, “The thing I love about elopements is that they remind me of the efficient simplicity of the weddings from our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations. Plus, there’s something wildly romantic about wanting to be married as soon as possible and jetting off together to get hitched.

Emily loves elopements so much, that she recently re-focused her entire business on City Hall weddings. She takes a few big weddings a year (and if you want Emily Takes Photos for a weekend wedding in 2014, book her now, because she only has a handful of days left). But mostly, Emily does San Francisco City Hall weddings. That means she knows city hall better than anyone around. She wrote our post last week on How To Get Married at San Francisco City Hall, which has literally everything you need to know (plus tons of Emily’s pretty pictures). She loves elopements so much that she’s even researching and writing a whole series for APW on the best tips and tricks for eloping at various city halls around the country.

Not only does Emily have three thoughtful elopement packages, from the 30 minute quickie to the three hour mini-wedding (or extended portrait session), she also has the best elopement-focused customer service out there. Emily takes care of her clients to a level that regularly shocks and impresses all of us that know her. Once you’re Emily’s client she’ll help you with logistics, oooh and ahhhh over your dress, and mail you little presents. She does everything she can think of to make you feel as special as possible (something that can be extra important when you’re eloping without all your loved ones around you). For out-of-state elopers, Emily has done everything imaginable to help make their day happen. I asked her for a short list of ways she’s helped her couples out, and here it is:

The unofficial list of things Emily has done to make her out-of-state couples’ days super awesome:

  • Help them find beauty and floral vendors
  • Made bouquets herself
  • Found the officiant
  • Found restaurants
  • Explained any and all of city hall’s policies
  • Figured out where to get the license (when things were booked up)
  • Gave a mini-city tour during portraits
  • Told jokes
  • Known every secret spot in city hall for amazing photos
  • Taken the best pictures ever

But don’t take my word for it. Emily’s couples will tell you why you should hire her tomorrow:

One of the unexpected surprises about eloping has been hearing everyone’s comments once they have seen the pictures. Our family and friends LOVE the photos. And, viewing the album helped them feel like a part of our day. My best friend commented that you captured me so well, which is my favorite compliment, and a testament to your skill and expertise. —Brook & Shawn

From start to finish, we were blown away by Emily’s generosity, passion, and hospitality. She replied to our emails within hours, scheduled phone calls to iron out the time/money details, and arrived early at City Hall just to photograph the venue. Also, on top of all that, she stayed over the allotted time, just to make sure we were photographed to our hearts’ content. On a more technical note, Emily’s knowledge of City Hall and photography is astounding. She knew every nook and cranny in City Hall that would make for a beautiful wedding (or any, really) portrait, politely scooted us from spot to spot to maximize the variation of our photos, and provided a very light-hearted and friendly sense of humor to help ease our pre-wedding nerves. More than that, Emily has a gifted eye. The two of us are overly self-critical, but there was not a single photo in her collection that we didn’t absolutely adore; there was a balanced blend of candids and staged images that really captured the emotions and overall atmosphere of the day. All in all, we couldn’t be happier and more grateful that Emily agreed to photograph our wedding. To anyone seeking a wedding/engagement/baby/party/just-because photographer, we recommend EmilyTakes Photos whole-heartedly! We promise—you’ll be amazed by her work and adorably bubbly personality. —Bonnie & Pauline

And finally, on a personal note: I think Emily takes some of the best portraits out there. She does it in a really non-posed non-stagey way, and they blow me out of the water. She’s also amazingly good at capturing tiny moments, and details that would otherwise slip by. Add this to the fact that Emily is one of the most organized and punctual people I know, and you have the perfect City Hall photographer. If you’re eloping to San Francisco, email Emily today. Not surprisingly, given how awesome she is, she’s sold out for 2013, and only has a handful of slots left for 2014. And if you’re getting married at San Francisco City Hall? You want one of those slots. Trust me, and hop on it.

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  • Karen

    I was in San Francisco a few years ago for only one day. I wish I had known about how beautiful city hall is, I would have gone there. What an amazing city!

  • I’ve been meaning to comment on one of Emily’s posts for a while.

    But oh my gosh, I am so excited, you guys.

    Emily is shooting my wedding in a couple of weeks and I couldn’t be more excited. I feel really lucky to book her for my non-City Hall wedding. She did an amazing job with our engagement photos at SFMoMA and I still get compliments from family and friends about how beautiful they are. I can’t wait to see how the wedding photos come out.

    A bit of backstory, since her photos speak for themselves. Emily was the first vendor I hired after we found a venue. My sweetie and I agreed that photography was one of the key things we really wanted to focus on. I sent him websites for 5 photographers I liked (Emily being my favorite) and let him choose the one he liked best. And he picked Emily! So that was fate.

    But the first time I talked to her on the phone, I was in the middle of an overwhelmed wedding-induced stressed spiral. Not only did Emily pull me out of it with her amazing attitude, but she made me feel like I was going to have the coolest wedding ever. And I’m sure she makes all her clients feel like that. But I also think that’s the point. She has the capacity to make people feel both so special and so at ease.

    And I’m so excited she’s going to be at my wedding.

  • The rings picture. Swoon.

  • Lindsay

    Yes! We just decided, after reading Emily’s how-to post on SF City Hall weddings, to kind-of-elope and take our 2 best friends to SF and get married at City Hall! After months of trying to plan a wedding here in NYC, our new plan is SO exciting. We haven’t decided on a date yet, but I’ll be emailing Emily and hoping she’s available when we do.

  • This is awesome! What a fun specialty in a cool town. The next time I come out to Sf I might have to hire you to take pics just cause. :)

  • Thanks for the post. It is required to have the wedding pictures captured by very professionals. If we are hiring from outside our locality, our penny’s should worth it well.

    • I absolutely agree with you. It is
      indeed a good idea to hire professionals. Professional wedding photographers
      could really capture great pictures. And I guess you would be confident that
      your photos will look great if you hire professional wedding photographers.