Old Town Hall — through the Eyes of Photographer

I’ve photographed the wedding so many times at the Old Town Hall that I can’t even count it. I really like this place for photographing wedding ceremonies, because the direction and color of the light are flattering in the ceremony hall. On the other hand, I realize that photographing a wedding there can be quite difficult even for a more advanced photographer, because a lot of exposure-complex situations must be solved there: shooting in backlight, side lighting, shooting with flash, etc. Some difficult situations can be avoided, but it means losing opportunities of interesting wedding photos.

Place nameOld Town Hall (in czech: Staroměstská radnice)
AddressOld Town Square 1, 110 00 Prague 1 — Old Town
Official websiteOfficial information about marriage
Parkingin front of Old Town Hall (only for wedding guests)
Capacity18 persons for sitting, 100 persons for staying
Wedding PhotographerWedding Photographer Petr Dolezal
Old Town Hall with historical street lamp in foreground
Old Town Hall in Prague — a popular wedding venue
Old Town Hall with tulips in foreground
The Old Town Hall seems quite high at first glance, but in reality its 70-meter tower is only slightly taller than a tulip ;-)
Old Town Hall with flowers in foreground
I like this view of the town hall across the blossoming Old Town Square. 
Are you saying that the square is paved and nothing is blooming there? 
So take a good look next time ;-)
Artistic photo of Old Town Hall
This view of the Old Town Hall framed by an arched architectural element is my favorite. 
But try to take this picture — it is not absolutely trivial to get all the objects of the image together so that they do not overlap or touch at the same time.
Astronomical Clock of Old Town Hall
What poor kind of article would it be about the Old Town Hall if I didn’t add at least one photo of the Astronomical Clock ;-) Under the Astronomical Clock, I photograph almost all the newlyweds who come out from the town hall after the wedding ceremony.
Photo collage with Old Town tower, details of its architecture and near Tyn Temple
The tower of the Old Town Hall in Prague, details of the architecture in the surroundings and on the right the Týn Church, well visible from the place of town hall’s astronomical clock.

Wedding Photography at the Old Town Hall

The way where wedding guests go to the ceremonial hall is different than the way out. In other words: if you don’t take pictures of some rooms before beginning of a ceremony, you won’t take a picture of them after the ceremony neither, because then you won’t get back. I write about it because the waiting room above the stairs is probably the best way to take pictures of smaller groups of wedding guests indoors. There is plenty of light and space.

The tapestry on the wall is especially popular in that “waiting” room. If you take pictures of more people in front of it, watch out for the strong side light from the window on the left. As we photographers know, the intensity of light quickly decreases with the square of the distance. Therefore, it can easily happen that the person closest to the window is overexposed and the person to your right, furthest from the window, will be dark, underexposed.

Another “nice” thing is the mirror and the flower between the two windows. There you have to take pictures in the backlight towards the windows and prepare for the need of a strong exposure correction to the plus, or ideally use the flash (reflected from the wall).

Black&white photo of bride and groom in front of big window
My effort is not wasting time and if the fiancés are not against, I take photos on the way through the historic corridors to the ceremonial hall. 
Right downstairs there is a huge window that offers a view through the glass to the Old Town Square: in the background you can see historic houses with decorative attics, a typical lamppost and typical Old Town pigeons :-) I point this place out because I think a lot people and amateur photographers would run this way in a hurry without noticing interesting opportunities for photography. 
And be careful about correct photo exposure while you are photographing in that backlight.
Artistic photo of bride and groom and their long shadow, in front of big window
The same window again, with the other fiancés. 
This time I was fascinated by the lighting conditions: the sun cast long shadows inside the town hall, which served as an unconventional art element.
bride and groom in historical hall with cross vault
And then you just may turn around and on the other side there is another opportunity for a photo, it takes just a few extra seconds. 
From a close-up view, the relief of the national emblem can be seen in the artistic glazing (I always use flash light here to get a well-lit couple and a bright background (backlight again). Other ceremonial halls have usually only ugly data projectors on the ordinary ceiling, firefighters on the walls and modern windows with blinds…

When you get to the room where the groom, bride, best man and bridesmaid hand over their ID cards and sign the documents, notice that the top of table mirrors them. Glass table top in ceremony hall similarly as well.

posed groom sitting on chair and bride sitting next to him
The hall of the Old Town Hall, where the bride, groom, bridesmaid and best man handle formalities before the start of the wedding ceremony. 
If there is time and will, the space can be used for interesting photos too.
bride and groom posed next to a mirror, best man and bridesmaid posed in mirror reflection
When you photograph a wedding in the same wedding venue for fifty times as I do, you know exactly which photos work well in a result, how to pose people in front of camera. 
I once thought that I would take a picture of the bride and groom in front of the mirror, and at the same time I wanted to capture the reflection of their witnesses in the mirror. 
For the first time, it took me a little longer to put all the people together correctly, but the result worked great for me. 
Now I know exactly what and how, so if you would like a similar photo, it would only take us a minute.

Wedding Ceremony in the Old Town Hall

ceremonial room in old town hall
Ceremonial hall of the Old Town Hall in Prague
details of objects in old town hall ceremonial room
For wedding rings, two shallow pits arein the table of the ceremonial hall in the Old Town Hall, so the wedding guests do not have to bring any decorative pad for their rings.
detail of wedding rings on glass table
I usually only have a few seconds to photograph the rings there, but that’s enough for me. The glass top of the table is quite scratched after years of using, which is not visible in a normal view, but I always retouch it in a close-up photograph. A certain angle of the camera can help, scratches can be less visible, but as I wrote — there is only a few seconds for taking the photo before the ceremony starts, so there is no time to tune everything perfectly.
bride and groom standing side by side during wedding ceremony
The bride and groom in the wedding hall of the Old Town Hall
wide-angle photo of ceremony hall
The arches of the wedding hall provide an opportunity for interesting compositional solutions, but you must have a wide lens to be able to take up the entire space.
marriage officiant during wedding ceremony in front of colour window
This view of the marriage officiant among the figures of witnesses, the bride and groom, can be rather difficult for an amateur photographer to capture due to the backlight. To see colours of the window nicely and face of marriage officiant at the same time, it is necessary to use a flash or a photo post-processing.
scheme of light direction in wedding hall
Diagram of the direction of light for the wedding ceremony at the Old Town Hall — The direction of the soft milky light from the window is directed into the faces of the bride and groom, making it nice for their portrait photography.

The cream color of the walls gives people’s skin a pleasant flattering tone.

Do not photograph the arrival of the wedding guests directly under the stairs, everyone is looking at the ground there, because they are careful not to fall down the stairs. If you take a picture of them few seconds later, it will be against the windows in the back of the room, pay attention to the correct exposure (backlight again). I know from experience that for coming people at the very back, I have to relatively extremely correct the automatic exposure by 2.5 EV. While people come closer to me, I have to reduce the exposure correction. In the end, the couple stands relatively close to the window, but at the back are the wedding guests in a much lower light intensity. I know that a lot of photographers fail in this situation again, because they use the exposure according to the average light in the whole area of the image. The result is too bright bride and groom, the bride’s white dress disappears in one large white spot without visible details of the wedding dress. You will find many such photos with bad exposure on the internet. If the main object of the photo is the bride and groom, they should be exposed correctly, even if it means underexposing the background with the wedding guests. After all, you can photograph wedding guests separately in another photo, where they will be exposed correctly.

After all the wedding guests enter the hall, I have usually a short while to take a picture of bride and groom before the ceremony begins. It is a very kind gesture (which I rarely meet as a wedding photographer), so it is fine to use that opportunity.

posed group of wedding guests standing on small indoor balcony
An interesting alternative for wedding photos is offered by the balcony at the entrance to the wedding hall.
large national czech emblem
National czech emblem with lions and eagles — a mandatory part of czech wedding ceremony.

After the wedding ceremony, there is usually a short time to take pictures of the wedding guests in the wedding room. You can pose people with their back to the window, but again, be very careful about the backlight, I recommend using the flash. Or place wedding guests with their back towards the metal pipes of the organ, with their faces towards the main light source, which is technically easier.

artistic photo with silhouettes of bride and groom in front of colourful window
Photographing the bride and groom after the wedding ceremony. 
(Wedding in the Old Town Hall)
collage of nine artistic photo with silhouettes of various brides and grooms in front of coulourful window
I admit that this colored window seems so magical to me that I don’t want some of “my” clients to miss it. 
Every wedding I try to take some new photos, but this thing with window I take every time. 
Why to change something that works well.

After the ceremony people go down the stairs. You can meet tourists on the staircase. If you want to take pictures there, it’s a good idea to have an assistant on hand who will stop tourists for a while. But why take pictures only from below, when you can also take pictures from the top of the stairs? The newlyweds are then beautifully framed and you will again receive an artistically interesting photograph. True, the bride and groom can only be seen on it as tiny figures, but they also get a lot of close-up portraits from me. I just don’t publish close-up portraits here, because that’s not what this article is about. I just want to say: don’t forget to take close-up portraits.

groom and bride under a staircase in old town hall
Wedding of the Old Town Hall

In front of the last door, a dark vestibule with a painted Gothic ceiling and walls awaits you. The author of the paintings is Mikoláš Aleš (themes of Libuša’s prophecy and Tribute to the Slavdom to the city of Prague). The light enters the lobby only through narrow windows from above, you can use this light for interesting dramatic lighting in the photos.

This type of space may seem quite ordinary to some people, but it is good to realize that famous personalities of history walked there: in the Old Town Hall we are in places where famous history is indelibly written. Let us approach this fact with awareness and humility.

bride in dark room with bright window
Dramatic lighting, where one part of the bride’s dress is light and the other is already in the dark. 
By the way, the bride’s light dress stands out here against the dark door in the background, and the door portal also framed the dominant element of the image, which of course is the bride. 
(Oldtown Hall)
posed portraits of bride and groom in big vestibule
Opposite side of the vestibule. 
Here, for a change, I used flash to add the necessary light intensity for the newlywed couple and for the painting. 
Your good eyes must have noticed that I blackened faces on the wall, well, you know, it’s only for a fun :-))

After the exit of the bride and groom from the building, expect that hundreds of tourists will applaud you in front of the Old Town Hall, especially if the whole hour is approaching — because of the popular Astronomical Clock. I recommend taking pictures of the people groups right in front of the town hall (if you missed it in the ceremonial hall), because the Old Town Square is usually overcrowded (when covid-19 is not spread). The area in front of the Astronomical Clock and the Old Town Tower are also usually overcrowded, so if the devil tells you to take pictures at the top of the tower, don’t listen to him, rather send him to the hell :-)

bride and groom releasing doves in front of historical door
Release of doves in front of the entrance of the Old Town Hall
groom kissing bride's neck from behind in tower of old town hall
Of course, you can also take pictures in the tower, or to be as a photographer in the tower and take pictures of wedding guests standing under the tower. 
But it is quite complicated due to the number of tourists. 
Therefore, I do not recommend it personally.

Wedding in Old Town Hall Reviews

Have you ever been to a wedding at Prague’s Old Town Hall? Let me know how you liked it there and if you have any ideas for wedding photos in the area, write a comment

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