Chicago is one of the famous cities in the world. An iconic skyline and many beautiful sights and attractions is a big reason why. That is also why Chicago is a photographers dream. So where you should start when photographing Chicago? Here are the 15 best photo spots in Chicago.
To the north of downtown lies the biggest park in Chicago and one of the very best photo spots in Chicago. Head towards the Lincoln Park Zoo for one of the best views of the Chicago skyline.
The picture here was taken in front of the South Pond and is one of the most popular photographs from inside Lincoln Park.
Shooting the city skyline isn’t your only option in Lincoln Park. The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the best of it’s kind in America.
Other popular spots inside the park include the Abraham Lincoln Monument, the Hans Christian Andersen Monument and another really popular photograph, the Honeycomb.
Although finished 4 years behind schedule and costing $475 million, for photographers, that is money well spent because Millennium Park offers some of the best photo opportunities in the city.
Based in the Loop community area of the city, the park offers views of the tall buildings of downtown Chicago that surround it. Inside the park, you can create interesting shots thanks to the special video wall water features.
Millennium Park is also home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by famous architect Frank Gehry as well as the Millennium Monument commemorating the founders of Wrigley Park.
These are both photogenic features but there is one attraction that stands out above all the rest…
Officially known as Cloud Gate, but more affectionately known as The Bean, this is one of the most popular photo spots in Chicago. It’s the most popular attraction within Millennium Park and one of the biggest tourist spots in the city.
The reflective surface is a selfie lovers dream and there are always big crowds gathered around, and often under, The Bean.
The reflections of the nearby tall buildings allow photographers to try some different and interesting compositions. Despite being photographed so many times, it is still possible to find a unique shot.
Millennium Park leads into Grant park where you can find Buckingham Fountain.
The fountain was made famous by its appearance in the opening credits of the TV show Married with Children mainly because of the fantastic backdrop of downtown Chicago that sits behind the Buckingham Fountain.
As the City buildings semi-surround the fountain you can play around quite a bit with your composition to make most of the background whilst capturing the fountain in the foreground.
Check out the rest of Grant Park for more photo ideas. The park runs down the shore of Lake Michigan so there are lots of interesting sights in the harbor that you can capture as well.
There are many places you can get great shots of the Chicago Skyline but only one place allows you to capture it all and that is out on Lake Michigan. In my opinion, this is the spot where you can get the best shots of the city skyline.
Take advantage of the numerous boat tours that operate in the lake to get out onto the water and see a new side to the Chicago landscape. This is best for shooting during the day because the movement on the boat will of course make low light photography impossible.
Lake Michigan isn’t just about showing off the Chicago skyline. A very popular photo from Chicago is of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse.
The rocks leading up to the lighthouse make for great composition and depending on the weather you can get some great colours in your background.
If you don’t fancy getting on the water for a view of the city you can still enjoy the skyline from the Navy Pier, a 3,300-foot-long pier on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, located in the Streeterville neighbourhood area in Chicago.
From the pier, you can take plenty of interesting photos of the harbor. There are usually a good amount of tour boats on the water.
The Pier itself also has a few rides you can photograph and is topped off by the giant Ferris Wheel.
Willis Tower Skydeck
103 floors above the city is the Willis Tower Skydeck, the highest public viewing area in the United States which also offers a great view of the city. You can photograph views of downtown Chicago, out towards Lake Michigan or towards the Campus area and the famous Soldier Field.
There is no access to the outside so you will need to practice shooting through glass to get the best possible pictures. Despite shooting through a window it is still possible to get some great shots of the city from up here.
Want to know what the view down looks like? Step inside the floor glass viewing platform, The Ledge, which attracts more than 1.7 million visitors every year.
Museum Campus and Adler Planetarium
This area of the city is another fantastic spot for photographing the Chicago skyline. Take the walk along the lakefront towards Adler Planetarium for the best views of the city skyline.
The Planetarium itself is interesting enough to make for some good photos and you can also shoot Shedd Aquarium whilst you are there.
Heading south from the Adler Planetarium is Burnham Harbor. In the summer it’s filled with boats and is quite the sight. Head further down past the campus to take a look at Soldier Field, the oldest stadium on the NFL.
The Chicago Riverwalk is a pedestrian waterfront located on the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago River. It extends from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street and is full of fantastic photo opportunities that encapsulate the spirit of Chicago.
It’s a great place to photograph some of the famous Chicago architecture such as The Wrigley Building, the Marina City Goldberg and Trump Tower. Architecture fans will enjoy shooting many bridges that cross the Chicago River. Fans of the famous Chicago L train will also have great opportunities to photograph the passing trains.
Sites along the walk include the Heald Square Monument, S.S. Eastland Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Fountain that can make for some excellent photos.
John Hancock Observatory
The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,128-foot supertall skyscraper located in Chicago, Illinois. Located in the Magnificent Mile district, the name of the building was actually changed to 875 North Michigan Avenue in 2018. Despite this, the building is still colloquially called the John Hancock Center.
At the top 360 Chicago offers some wonderful panoramic views of Chicago. My favourite view is along North Avenue Beach. The way the beach leads into Lincoln Park is in wonderful contrast to the city buildings next to it.
The more adventurous should try out TILT the thrill ride that offers visitors unique, downward facing views from 1,030 feet up. The huge building not only offers great views but is also very photogenic in its own right.
North Ave Beach
Another popular spot for standout shots of the city skyline, this time with the beach in the foreground. The juxtaposition of the sandy beach against the towering skyscrapers of the city makes for a captivating photo.
As one of Chicago’s most popular beaches, the beach features a unique and popular beach house that contains 22,000 square feet of space. This sleek, ocean liner-inspired building, decked out in a crisp blue and white, boasts one of the best views.
The front end of the beach that curls around on itself is marked on Google Maps as Chicago Skyline Photo Spot and offers a great spot for long exposure shots of the city skyline with the water of Lake Michigan out in front of you.
Overlook Metro Trains at Wells Kinzie Garage
The Chicago elevated train is known across the world and this spot is a great place to snap them in action. The parking garage overlooks the brown and purple lines and is located right by the Merchandise Mart stop.
The brick-walled buildings in the area offer a colourful background as the silver train cars glint in the sun as they pass by.
This kind of spot is a great example of doing your homework and scouting your locations. You won’t find this parking garage in many guides but it’s a fantastic place to take interesting shots of the City and the famous L train.
Nothing says Chicago more than the sign at the Chicago Theatre, literally. It might seem a bit touristy but there is nothing wrong in that. Sometimes it’s good to get a few photos just for yourself and I think this is an iconic shot from the city and one you should try to get.
The Chicago Theater is a landmark theatre located on North State Street in the Loop area of Chicago. Circle garden area at Chicago Botanic Garden.
The sign is best photographed at night when it is all lit up.
LondonHouse Rooftop Bar
One last view of this beautiful city skyline and this spot comes with the option of a drink.
The LondonHouse Rooftop Bar is three chic levels of hotel rooftop drinking & dining with indoor/outdoor seats and sweeping views of downtown Chicago.
Based right by the Chicago River you can enjoy views right down Miracle Mile as well as views of the famous buildings of Chicago such as The Wrigley Building.
The rooftop bar gives you access to some of the best rooftop views of the city. There’s no specific policy about using tripods on the rooftop, but at the same time, LondonHouse doesn’t outright allow them. It might depend on how busy the bar is when you visit.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Bartlett)
For a change of pace and a completely different form of architecture head 45 minutes out of the city to Bartlett for the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
The temple complex consists of a mandir, constructed mainly from hand-carved Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone.
Photographing the temple will add a unique flavour to your Chicago shots and is a great spot to enjoy some inner peace and solitude while you wander around the area. It is one of the hidden gems found in the area.