If you’re ever in the most beautiful city in the world (and by that, I obviously mean Chicago) there is no shortage of amazing and Instagram-able places to take photos. Whether you are looking for a bird’s eye view of the city or just some amazing architecture shots, here is my list of my top 10 favorite places to shoot in the city:

1. The Skydeck at the Willis (Sears) Tower

The Skydeck is the observatory located on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (Sears Tower to Chicagoans).  “The Ledge” is a glass balcony that shoots 4 feet outside of the building hovering directly above Wacker Drive…1,353 feet straight down! This place is SO much fun to shoot at, however I would highly recommend planning in advance. This is probably one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions, so I would plan to arrive as soon as the doors open and buy your tickets online, so you don’t have to wait in line! Definitely one of my favorite shots to get in Chicago.

Pro Tip: Know what poses you want to do before you get onto the ledge. You have a 3-minute time period to shoot before they kick you out and then you have to go to the back of the line before you can shoot again.

2. North Avenue Beach

Lay on the beach and enjoy an incredible view of the most beautiful skyline in the world! There are so many options for photoshoot locations – walk out onto the pier, shoot on the sand, or shoot along the running path.  North Avenue Beach is a great place to shoot but beware of the summertime crowds. It’s the most popular beach in Chicago, so I would recommend getting there early, or going on a cooler day to avoid the masses.

3. The Planetarium

Another must-see place to shoot in Chicago is at The Adler Planetarium. The actual building is cool, but the location is the real draw. Get a breathtaking view of the skyline, plus a beautiful lakefront running path, and unique staircases. The parking situation can get a bit hairy if you don’t arrive at the crack of dawn, so I would recommend getting there early or taking a cab. The Planetarium is also walking distance to The Chicago Aquarium and the Field Museum, which are also great spots to shoot!

4. Chicago’s Financial District

Chicago’s Financial District is located in the heart of the Loop and has some of the most stunning old buildings in the city. My photographer and I had a blast running around and finding unique doorways, city corners, and alleyways to shoot in. Just a heads up – the financial district is very busy Monday through Friday due to the large amount of people that work there. However, it is a ghost town on the weekends, especially in the mornings. If you want a non-crowded place to shoot on the middle of the street with no cars in your way, Sunday mornings are your best bet!

5. The Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is an open pedestrian waterfront located on the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago. It spans from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. The Riverwalk has tons of restaurants, park seating, kayak and boat rentals, as well as some of the most amazing close up views of the city. There are tons of unique spots to shoot, but I particularly like the running path and the all-white staircases. This is yet again another tourist attraction that gets busy on the weekends, so plan accordingly. I would recommend early morning on the weekdays to get the best shots.

6. Montrose Harbor

If you’re looking for more of a quiet and serene beach to shoot at, Montrose Harbor is your place!  Located about 6 miles north of downtown Chicago, it’s a beautiful and expansive beach with a boat dock, and one of the best running paths in the city. Plus, you can see the outline of the city behind you from most angles which allows for a pretty cool shot!

7. Millennium Park/Grant Park

One of Chicago’s most iconic spots to shoot at is The Bean, located at Millennium Park. The Bean is a giant bean shaped statue that reflects the city skyline in all directions.  The park itself spans 24 acres of Grant Park, which is home to Chicago’s World-Famous Summer festival Lollapalooza. During the summer, people can come to the park for great food, music, and kids can play in the waterfalls. During the winter, you can ice skate on the famous McCormick Tribune Ice Rink right below The Bean. The crowds do make it a bit of a challenge to shoot at, so I would recommend going early on a weekday to avoid all the tourists (we shot this on a Saturday around 11am for reference).

8. Olive Park

Olive Park is a hidden gem right by Navy Pier. It’s a small strip of land just north of Navy Pier and is one of my favorite parks in the city! It is not accessible by car, and you have to walk down a hidden path to get there. There is a beautiful little balcony that jets out into Lake Michigan about 100 feet down the path, and the view is nothing short of spectacular. Even for the locals, this is a pretty popular photo spot, so I would try to go in the early morning, or on a cooler day to avoid getting other people in your shot.

9. Michigan Avenue

Also known as the “Magnificent Mile”, Michigan Avenue also one of the most well know streets in Chicago, as it is home to the Chicago Water Tower, The Wrigley Building, The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and some of the best shopping in the city. The crowds make this place a challenge to shoot at, but it also is really cool if you’re looking for more lifestyle and street looks.

10. South Loop

One of Chicago’s hidden gems! The South Loop is a neighborhood just south of the city and has some very cool and unique locations to shoot. You can find grungy alleyways, or light and bright buildings that span several blocks. In this shot, we are shooting outside of McCormick Center, which is the big convention center where most large-scale conventions occur during the year. On non-convention weeks, this place is a ghost town, making it a prime location to shoot if you want to escape the crowds.

There are SO many amazing spots to shoot in the city, and this list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Where are your favorite spots to shoot in the city? Let me know in the comments section below!

Photos by Shanti Knight, Ross Images, Nick Cosky, Amy Aiello, and Sandy Zmuda 

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Some lovely poses and locations!

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