7 Great Places to Photograph around Chicago
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Chicago is full of beautiful places to take pictures. Occasionally, as a photographer, I have moments of envy over New York City’s scale and Los Angeles’s constant sunshine but I just need a quick walk around Chicago to be reminded that it has so much to offer.
Whether you just need a reminder or a plan for your next visit, these are some of the most beautiful spots in Chicago to go shoot.
Michigan Ave and the Chicago River
One of my first jobs was on Michigan Ave. right along the Chicago River and even after seeing it everyday for a few years, I didn’t get tired of walking around and marveling. There’s an incredible mix of old and new architecture with several great spots to photograph the city or take portraits. Sunset on the river is particularly beautiful if the day is relatively clear. Additionally, I’d highly recommend taking one of the architecture boat tours. It’s one touristy activity I’m always happy to go on when I have friends or family in town.
Officially named “Cloud Gate” but called the bean by just about every Chicagoan, this large public art installation is worth visiting for photos. One downside is that it can get very crowded so visiting during winter time or really early in the morning is key for good photos. Otherwise you’ll just have to contend with all the other visitors.
I personally do not enjoy heights. Being up high makes me incredibly nervous. My hands sweat. I become a little agitated. It’s not cute. 360 Chicago is the observatory deck in the Hancock building. It’s not quite the highest point in Chicago but I still highly recommend visiting. There’s a tilting glass platform and I am frankly way to nervous around heights to do it but the view is incredible even if you just take a peak over. The Willis Tower also has a famous observation deck but I tend to prefer this one because it’s usually less crowded.
Nature Boardwalk near Lincoln Park Zoo
When I was growing up in Chicago, the ponds around Lincoln Park Zoo were concrete and not particularly pretty. In 2010, the ponds were recreated to be more ecologically friendly and sustainable. They also became far more lush and beautiful. There’s also a gorgeous honeycomb pavilion created by Studio Gang. The area is nice to walk around and there are a few views of downtown that are really pretty. If you want even more nature, you can head over to the Lincoln Park Conservatory or the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.
Oak Street Beach
In college, my roommates from New York and California literally did not believe me when I mentioned the beaches in Chicago. They assumed that Chicago was a small town surrounded by cornfields and were somewhat sheepish to learn that it’s a major city next to a really large body of water with lots of beaches. Oak Street Beach is my favorite for droning and photos. It’s a good spot to drone because you can easily and safely launch over the lake but still get great city views.
The Art Institute
Whenever I’m traveling, one of my favorite things to do is to visit the local art museum. I didn’t realize how much my understanding of art was influenced by the art museum I visited as a child until I started visiting art museums in other cities. Besides the cultural experience of seeing a wider range of art, The Art Institute of Chicago is worth visiting for the range of spaces to photograph. The modern wing is particularly bright and beautiful but I’d recommend blocking off a few hours to explore the entire museum.
Another spot along Lake Michigan, the point is a bit out of the way but worth the trip. There’s a bit of a view of downtown but the main appeal is that this spot juts out into the lake, providing a ton of opportunities for interesting photos.
Harold Washington Library Train Stop
The Chicago L is a decent way to get around town but it’s also very picturesque. I’d recommend doing a loop around the L just to sit and watch out the window but if you can try to hop off at the Harold Washington Library. This is one of my absolute favorite locations
Lasalle in the financial district
While I’m not particularly excited by visits to the Chicago Board of Trade, it’s a beautiful building that makes for a good backdrop. On weekdays, I like going over to LaSalle to photographer people commuting to and from work. On weekends, it’s incredibly empty and you can usually pause in the middle of the street to grab a photo.