Best places for pictures in Chicago, IL

The city is so big it’s you don’t always know about the must-see best photo locations. This blog will help you discover and plan the best places for pictures in Chicago. If you do professional photography, you might have questions like what Chicago locations require a photo permit, or when is the best time to take pictures at certain locations. Whether you are hanging out with friends, planning family photography, or just a portrait session this list will help you prepare everything you need to know about each location.

Before we dive in, you should know that permits are not required for most personal-use photography. This means that if you plan to use these pictures on your Instagram or Facebook you will be okay. However, if you a planning a formal professional photography shoot for an engagement, wedding, or any other commercial project you will need a permit. The blog below will explain and link how you get the necessary permissions if they are needed. Be sure to check with your photographer’s agreement to know who will be responsible for obtaining the permits prior to the session.

Chicago River Walk

This is absolutely the best place for photos, not only do you get an architectural Chicago background but also a beautifully colored river. This great photo spot has amazing lighting from glass buildings reflecting light starting early in the day and going well off into the late evening. Weekends are the busiest time to visit, but the Boardwalk is huge so even though there are a lot of people there are plenty of places to take photos. Our favorite spots are any areas between the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge (N State Street) and the Irv Kupcinet Bridge (N Wabash Ave).

Notes: For professional photography, no permit is necessary.

Address: 229 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Chicago Theater Sign & Alley

Besides the famous skyline, this picturesque location is another true classic “Chicago” vibe. The best time to is early morning to avoid crowds, or stop by the evening after the sun sets. The best way to capture the photo is the pose across the street from the sign (by the train station entrances), or in the middle of the street, just be mindful of the traffic!

Notes: For professional photography, no permit is necessary.
Address: 175 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Lincoln Park Zoo | South Pond Honeycomb

If you are an avid animal lover, this is a great place to go for stroll any time of the year (Christmastime has famous zoo lights lighting up the park). There are many places for photos, but the most popular locations include the South Pond, Nature Boardwalk, and the Honeycomb (pictured below).

Notes: For professional photography, a $150 permit is required (tax-deductible). If your event is hosted by the Lincoln Park Zoo, the permit is waived.
Address: 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

Chicago Board of Trade 

This gorgeous location is a very very popular spot for wedding photos, every time we go we pretty much plan on having to stand in line to take a picture on the weekend. Going early in the morning is recommended for better light and no line. The street is quiet so you can safely take photos in the middle of the street.

Notes: For professional photography, no permit is necessary.

Address: 141 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60604

Montrose Harbor Drive Skyline | Museum Campus Skyline View | Solidarity Drive

These few spots are the best picture locations to see the full Chicago skyline. If you don’t have a ride directly to the Museum campus drive, it is a long walk from the main tourist areas like Millemium Park.

If you are up north, Montrose is a better location to take a picture but transport IS needed to get there. Trust us when I say they are surely worth it!

Notes: For professional photography in all locations, you need to get a $45 permit ($35 Application Fee).

Montrose – West Montrose Harbor Drive, Chicago, IL 60613

Museum Campus- 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60605

Solidarity – E Solidarity Dr, Chicago, IL 60605

Rookery Building

Truly one of the best places for pictures in Chicago is this architectural gem with the winding staircase and a great hall. The main hall is open to visitors. To see more of the building you will have to take a tour or book a photography session by getting a permit. Either way, you will not be disappointed by this location.

Notes: For professional photography, a permit is required, and the fee ranges from $150-275 depending on what package you choose.

Address: 209 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60604

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

This serene location of garden waterfalls and pools is a frequent choice for many to get engaged (a lot of people come here for surprise proposals) and even get married. Unfortunately, the location no longer offers private events but you are still free to plan a photo shoot here and take as many photos as you like.

Notes: For professional photography, a $100 permit is required, and no private events can be hosted.

Address: 125 West Fullerton Parkway, Chicago, IL 60614

Chicago Union Station

The station of classical Greek architecture will transport you back to ancient times. Full of beautiful white marble, statues, and columns this location is a perfect photography background or for taking a rest between your transport stops.

Notes: For professional photography, a $150 permit must be obtained in the form of a cash or money order.

Address: 225 South Canal Street, Chicago, IL 60606

Conservatories: Lincoln Park | Garfield Park

This is a great place to take pictures indoors on days when the weather is too hot or just not so pleasant. There are many gorgeous greenhouse rooms ranging from desert environments to jungle greenery. Both locations do tend to get crowded, so come early in the day to capture the best lighting.

Notes: For professional photography, a $35 Application Fee + $45 Permit Fee is required, if your event is hosted by Conservatory, the permit is waived.


Lincoln Park – 2391 North Stockton Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

Garfield Park – 300 North Central Park Ave, Chicago, IL 60624

Millennium Park | Maggie Daley Park

If you know anything about Chicago you must be familiar with the Cloud Gate (the Bean), and boy is it unlike any other type of art you’ve seen. Making a perfect place for pictures, this is a high-traffic tourist area, so be sure to come early in the day to get the most out of your pictures.

Notes: For professional photography, permits must be privately obtained in person for each artist’s location

Address: East Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Millennium Park & Maggie Daley Park -Best places for pictures in Chicago, IL
Photo by Emmanuel Appiah

Chicago Botanic Garden

Need a place to spend a full day with endless photo spots? Check out the Botanic Garden, with a variety of world-inspired gardens you’ll have endless options for photos around the park. The park does get lots of traffic but there is plenty of space for your group to go even at its busiest times.

Notes: For professional photography, a $250 permit is required. The permit is good for the day but you must come at your scheduled photo time at 10 am, 12 pm, or 2 pm.

Address: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022

Chicago Botanic Garden -Best places for pictures in Chicago, IL
Image by Hanna Ta

Bahai Temple of Worship

This location is very beautiful and unique not just in Chicago but around the world as well, there are only 7 similar architectures like it. The place is very peaceful it is unlikely that you will run into large groups of people, just be mindful of others who come for spirituality.

Notes: For professional photography, outdoor photography is allowed in certain areas outside of the temple. Large group photography requires permission ahead of time. Indoor photography is not permitted.

Address: 100 Linden Avenue, Wilmette, IL 60091

Bahai Temple of Worship -Best places for pictures in Chicago, IL

Tom Ping Memorial Park

Spending time in a Chicago Chinatown? Don’t forget to stop by the nearby parks, not only do you get to see beautiful murals, nature, and structures you will also see the Chicago Skyline.

Notes: For professional photography, you need to get a $45 permit ($35 Application Fee).

Address: 1700 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

Ping Tom Chicago Photography

Harold Washington Library Center

Doing some shopping on State Street? After you are done head to the library to highest floor. You;’ll find yourself in a gorgeous room with a glass ceiling – perfect for pictures, work, or getting some studying done!

Notes: No permit information is available.

Address: 400 S State St, Chicago, IL 60605

D’Angelo Park

Just a few block east of the library you find a cute little patch of greenery amid the city skyscrapers. You can have a little picnic in a little nature corner while enjoying the architectural views on the tallest building in the city.

Notes: Notes: For professional photography, you need to get a $45 permit ($35 Application Fee).

Address: 438 S Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60607


No matter if you are taking pictures with friends or are planning a special occasion there are the best places for pictures in Chicago. Not only do they make a great setting there are very unique to this wonderful city. More pictures and locations are coming, so check back soon for new recommendations!

Are you looking for a professional portrait photographer? We do portrait photography for women and for families in Chicago,  contact us today to plan your Chicago Photoshoot.

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Hi, I'm Mariya! I'm a Chicago branding and family portrait photographer. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you've grabbed a good cup of tea or coffee as you browse through the blog :)