I get asked all the time about my favorite places to shoot in Chicago + Chicagoland! Three years ago, I shared THIS BLOG POST. But babes, let’s be serious… that was 3 years ago! In the past 3 years, I’ve loved on new places! Whether you’re planning your engagement session with me, looking for spots for your wedding day portraits, or looking to do a family session, this is your guide to some of the most amazing and popular locations to shoot!
Let’s face it. The vast majority of engagement sessions want skyline views. Here are some of the best views in the city <3 These are all full views of the skyline versus some of the more “in the heart” type locations, which you can find in the “Urban” section!
— North Avenue Beach —
A direct view of the city from the north side, there’s nothing separating you from the skyline – just the gorgeous lake! This place gets busy with lots of foot traffic in the summer days and weekends! To see more of this location, click here!
— Olive Park —
I love this view! This is the only place in the city that you can get this view. Only other place? From a boat on Lake Michigan! To see more of this location, click here!
— Ohio Street Beach —
I love this place for it’s “in the heart” feel yet still has a full skyline view with Lake Shore Drive in the back <3 To see more of this location, click here!
— Montrose —
This place offers a skyline view that’s a bit pulled back. If it’s a cloudy day or foggy, the view may be obstructed. To see more of this location, click here!
— Adler —
The area around Adler can be really beautiful! The path leads right up to the water. Days when there’s heavy winds, this won’t be the most ideal place as waves crash onto the walkway and there’s nothing to block the wind or cold! To see more of this location, click here!
— South Pond —
The area here is beautiful. The skyline view, though, is limited to a few select spots. One spot has a full view of the city while the others are blocked a bit by trees. There’s always tons of sessions and weddings here pretty much every day of the week in the summer! To see more of this location, click here!
— Morton Arboretum —
This is one of my favorite greenery type places! This place is HUGE and full of so many different location feels! Permits are required for here, but it’s well worth it for all the beauty you’ll find! Below is a sample of their gorgeous landscapes! To see more of this location, click here!
— Olive Park —
I just love this place! It’s the only spot in the entire city that gives you the view to the east since it’s the only piece of land that exists that far east off Lake Shore Drive! This place is gated and monitored by police, closing promptly at sunset. It’s always packed with photographers and other engagement sessions and weddings in the warmer months! To see more of this location, click here!
— Lurie Gardens —
For those of you that love gorgeous greenery and flowers paired with our city, this is your spot! Up close, the greenery is lush and beautiful. And pulled back, you see it’s tucked in the center of the city! To see more of this location, click here!
— Art Institute Gardens —
A very requested spot, mainly for it’s beautiful crawling ivy! This place closes when the Art Institute does. To see more of this location, click here!
— South Rose Garden —
A little known place tucked right in the city, the South Rose Garden is beautiful! It has the lushness and is filled with flowers, all the while having Buckingham Fountain plus the skyline behind you!
— Montrose Beach —
A bird sanctuary is tucked away, just steps away from the beach and Lake Michigan! Being inside and looking around, you’d have no idea you were in Chicago! To see more of this location, click here!
— St. James Farm —
This place is unique and pretty expansive! I love this place more for engagements or family sessions versus bridal parties! A permit is required to shoot here. To see more of this location, click here!
— Naperville Riverwalk —
Naperville has a great downtown area with a beautiful riverwalk! To see more of this location, click here!
— South Pond —
A great place that gives greenery with city views. While it’s still making the list of places to shoot, it’s definitely fallen down on the list. Why? It’s often overcrowded with other sessions or wedding parties. Still a beautiful spot regardless! To see more of this location, click here!
— North Pond —
Similar to South Pond in appearance, North Pond has more trees and a bit less foot traffic! This is a great location in the fall, where it bodes tons of gorgeous colors!
— Cantigny Park —
I really love Cantigny! It has so many beautiful flowers and colors! A permit is required here.
— Springbrook Prairie —
A great change in scenery from the city hardscapes! This place has fields of tall grass and paths! To see more of this location, click here!
— Chicago Botanic Garden —
I absolutely love this place! It’s gorgeous and dreamy, but often gets looked over because of the location and permit fee! While I have yet to shoot a session here, I do have a wedding here this year that I can’t wait for! Until then, this place is calling for someone to have their engagement session here!
— Veteran Acres —
This place is so super pretty! A gorgeous forest preserve with massive trees! It looks similar to parts of Morton Arboretum but prettier :) I have yet to shoot here, mainly because the location is a bit outside of Chicago. Someone take me there!
— North Avenue —
Always a favorite beach for it’s prime location to the city! From the large beach, the wrap around bike path, it’s view of the skyline, plus it’s connection to Oak Street Beach, this beach is always a top fave among couples for their engagement sessions! This place gets crazy busy in the summer, especially on the weekends. If you can do a week day session, you’ll have less people crowding your pictures! To see more of this location, click here!
— Montrose —
A favorite because of it’s versatility, Montrose is the furthest northern beach on Lake Michigan offering both beach, city views, plus a gorgeous tall grass area! This area (below) is of another beachy type area there that has some tall grass within it! The beach itself, though, is very large! To see more of this location, click here!
— Ohio Street Beach —
This is a beach that gives you the feeling of being right in the heart of the city! To see more of this location, click here!
— Oak Street Beach —
Like Ohio Street Beach, this beach (in the distance in the photo below) gives you that in the heart of the city vibe! It sits at the curve of Lake Shore Drive, just in front of the Drake! I have yet to have a couple chose this place, but it’s always a great location and less crowded than North Avenue!
Looking for an urban setting that puts you right in the city? Try some of these faves!
— Riverwalk —
I love this location! It sits below street level, so it has a little less foot traffic. It also combines a beautiful park area against a cement backdrop of our gorgeous city! Plus you’re right up close to the river! To see more of this location, click here!
— Wrigley —
Another big favorite for my couples! It’s less about the building and more about the views from the front of the building! It combines beautiful columns and architecture with our city and its bridges with that beautiful skyline! To see more of this location, click here!
— Michigan Avenue —
Another favorite of my couples! While this isn’t a location you can spend tons of time because #hellomiddleofthestreetinchicago, it’s a great spot to showcase our amazing city! If you’re looking at this for your wedding, the medians are only suited for you and your boo! No bridal parties please <3 To see more of this location, click here!
— Art Institute Walkway —
I just love this spot! It’s elevated so you don’t see as much foot traffic. And it provides awesome views of our city! But beware, this walkway closes when the Art Institute does, so plan accordingly! To see more of this location, click here!
— Lake Shore Drive —
Say wha?? Lake Shore Drive? Yep. The bike path just on the other side is beautiful! It puts you right up to the water with a gorgeous backdrop of the boat harbor!
— LaSalle Street —
This is a location that is cool but can be challenging! Everyone wants the shot in the middle of the street, but as you can see there’s no medians. This is a place that you have to time perfectly (aka: not in the middle of a busy part of the day) and is a place you shoot at quickly! There’s lots of waiting time here, waiting for the traffic to halt so you can get the shot! This is usually more challenging during the week, as it’s located right in the heart of the financial district.
Love the industrial urban side of our city?
— Fulton Market —
The area is pretty large with so many different backdrops! It’s fun pairing that worn/industrial feel with two adorable people! To see more of this location, click here!
Chicago is known for it’s unpredictable weather, so if the weather turns rainy/snowy/cold, try out these locations! I love them because they allow for cover from the bad weather while still allowing us to take advantage of that natural and flattering light! But don’t let the title of “rain” fool you. These are great spots – rain or shine!
— Union Station —
This is my favorite of the covered locations! The walls of Union perfectly bounce light, you’re still outside but protected overhead, plus it’s a dramatic and just stunning place! To see more of this location, click here!
— Civic Opera —
Very similar to Union Station, but I find this place gets much heavier foot traffic given the location! To see more of this location, click here!
— Chicago Riverwalk —
If you still really want Chicago and skyline, check out the riverwalk for covered sections! The specific area that’s covered is just a few steps farther than where the below photos are from, but it’s the same view! To see more of this location, click here!
— Garfield Park Conservatory —
This is one of my favorite places! It’s packed with gorgeous palms, cactuses, flowers, and cover overhead! Conservatories are especially good cold weather and rainy day locations that allow for the natural light while still keeping your bodies warm and dry!
— Lincoln Park Conservatory —
Another great option (like Garfield Park) that has glass walls that lets in all the light but keeps out all the rain (and cold weather in the winter)! Location wise, it’s usually easier to get to on a wedding day! A permit is also required here.
So that’s it!! I for sure have shot at many other locations in Chicago + Chicagoland, but these are ones that top the list – both for background and how well it photographs! Do you have a favorite place that’s not on the list? Let me know!
- PABLO NERUDA