15 Beautiful Locations to Take Chicago Engagement Photos

From sky-high venues to skyline views and grand architecture to intimate studios, our list has something for every Windy City couple.
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
The Knot Fashion Contributor
  • Elle writes for The Knot online with a focus on fashion, covering gown design trends and shoppable accessories.
  • Elle is a contributor to wedding publications across the country, including Brides, The New York Times Vows and Modern Luxury Weddings.
  • Prior to shifting to weddings, Elle covered lifestyle, culture and celebrity across Chicago as the editor of the Chicago Tribune’s SPLASH magazine, where she interviewed cele...
Updated Jun 10, 2024

As much as—or even more than—the wedding photos, Chicago engagement photos are an opportunity to showcase the city that brought you and your partner together, and the way you live your life in it. Many of the best spots for engagement photos in Chicago have skyline views or are situated along the river, or feature local landmarks or legendary architecture. The options are endless, and to help narrow it down, we turned to two talented Chicago wedding and engagement photographers: Cristina Giurgea is the owner and principal photographer at Cristina G Photography; Joy Lane is a resident photographer with Studio This Is. Both wholeheartedly encourage their couples to do engagement photos. "An engagement session is a great opportunity to have a trial run in front of the camera, for the photographer and clients to get to know each other better," Giurgea says, "[and that] really does make a difference on the day of the wedding." Plus, adds Lane, it's fun. "Who doesn't love an opportunity to get glammed up?" she says. "It's like a fun date night with your partner that ends in stunning photos—win, win!" Here, we've rounded up 15 favorite spots for engagement photo shoots in Chicago. But remember, the best engagement photo locations in Chicago aren't always the ones with the right light, or the best view, or the most exclusivity; rather, they're the locations that are most important to your relationship or that showcase the city where you fell in love.

North Avenue Beach

Especially if your wedding will have a lot of out-of-town guests, it's fun to set the "city" tone on Save the Dates—and North Avenue Beach engagement photos in Chicago will do just that. "It has iconic skyline views, but I love it because it offers so much more than the skyline," says photographer Cristina Giurgea. "It's quintessential Chicago summer fun all in one spot: perfect for an evening stroll or a day at the beach, a date night at Castaways or a bike ride along the lake. You can show all that with different outfits and get a great variety of shots without having to drive to a second location."

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute is a Chicago icon, dating back to the 1893 World's Fair. "It's timeless and classic, yet the variety of galleries with different aesthetics leaves so much room for creativity," says photographer Joy Lane. "If weather permits, you can also access the north and south gardens, each with its own unique style of stunning landscape and architecture." Note that you'll need to purchase tickets to get inside for Art Institute of Chicago engagement photos, and photographers need to carry all gear in hand (backpacks and camera bags must be checked). "Also, make sure to check the hours for the day you want to go," Lane advises. "The gardens close one hour before the museum closes."

Chicago Riverwalk

Since its stunning facelift a few years ago, the 1.25-mile Riverwalk path has become an iconic location for wedding and engagement photos (and for proposals!). Its various "districts" offer different views and options for Chicago Riverwalk engagement photos; we especially love the grand staircase at the McCormick Bridge House. Pro tip: "We all love golden hour if we can pick, but for really busy locations, you can also get that perfect light in the morning during the one hour right after sunrise—the morning golden hour," Giurgea says. "It's something to consider if you don't mind a super early start to the day. There is something truly magical about having these busy areas all to yourself." (The Riverwalk is free and open to the public from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, so you can definitely catch that morning glow!)

North Pond & Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond

A two-for-one location especially ideal for fall engagement photos in Chicago, "this is the perfect little combo," Giurgea says. "The two spots are right across the street from each other and are go-to locations for incredible fall colors and a nature-loving couple." She adds that they are also less busy than other popular Lincoln Park photo spots, such as the Honeycomb. Note that a permit is required for the Lily Pond, and dogs are not allowed inside; across the street, though, North Pond is free and pup-friendly.

Museum Campus

For couples who simply can't decide what they want—or those who want a bit of everything—Museum Campus is Lane's go-to spot. "The area right behind the Field Museum gives you a bit of everything you could want for an engagement session; this location is for the couples who can't decide between nature or city views," she says. "You get the beautiful architecture of the Field Museum mixed with some stunning florals, sculptures and trees. Just a short walk away toward the Adler Planetarium, you have an incredible view of the city skyline. Each direction you look offers a beautiful backdrop." She recommends coming on weekdays; if the space is blocked off for a wedding on the weekend, you may not have access to all areas.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Garfield Park Conservatory features acres and acres of outdoor park and gardens, but it's the indoor greenhouse that makes our list of top engagement photo spots (and is great for Chicago winter engagement photos with an outdoor feel). It's one of the nation's largest botanical conservatories and is lush with thousands of plant species and flora. A $45 permit is required from the Park District of Chicago for non-commercial photos such as engagement or wedding photos, and reservations are highly encouraged (apply for a permit here). This is also a fantastic alternative to Chicago Botanic Garden engagement photos, for which you'd have to travel nearly an hour north to Glencoe.

The Studio Chicago

Maybe you're looking for something more intimate, and skyline or water views aren't your thing, or maybe it's winter and you need indoor engagement photos in Chicago. Either way, we love a studio shoot for engagement photos, and nowhere is the lighting—and vibe—better than at The Studio Chicago in the South Loop. Pose for portraits against one of The Studio's provided sweeps or lounge on its pretty boucle couch—even mix a cocktail in the kitchen for a home-inspired shoot. Studio rentals are $165 per hour, and you can bring your own photographer or book one of The Studio's talented resident photogs.

The Rookery

A historic Chicago landmark, The Rookery is ideal "for the couple who is looking for an artful and elevated engagement session," Lane says. "The Oriel staircase and stunning Light Court with the white marble and gold accents leave quite the impression." Note that you'll need a reservation, and there is a fee (ranging from $75 to $275 depending on which spaces you'll be using; reserve your space by filling out the photo form found here). The Rookery is also a stunning wedding reception venue, and is located right in the heart of Chicago's famed Loop.

Lurie Garden

Tucked off Michigan Avenue in the southeast corner of Millennium Park is Lurie Garden, a botanical escape just steps from the hustle and bustle. There's lush greenery, extra-tall hedges, sweeping wildflowers and manicured gardens. You'll feel like you're miles from the city—but in fact, you're close enough to stroll into the Loop a few blocks and capture snaps outside The Chicago Theatre, the Board of Trade and other iconic street locations. Chicago engagement photos in Millennium Park and Lurie Garden, and the accompanying downtown streets, make for a comprehensive and quintessentially Windy City photo session.

University of Chicago Campus

For college sweethearts it's a no-brainer, but the University of Chicago campus is a stunning setting for any Windy City couple. Fun fact: It was a top contender to play Hogwarts in the Harry Potter film franchise, and it's easy to see why—Gothic architecture, ivy-covered facades, intricate stone details. It's a unique option for couples looking for that old-world feel in their engagement photos. Bonus: Pop over to Promontory Point after photos on campus for some images with the lake as backdrop.

The Wrigley Building

A favorite destination for tourists and locals alike, The Wrigley Building is old Chicago architecture epitomized—plus it has sweet river views. "For photographers, the light here is almost always perfect, whether it's high noon or twilight," Giurgea says. "The pavement reflects light beautifully! Be sure to always plan on extra time, though. Getting that 'we're the only two people in the world' feeling in your photos can take a little while due to the crowds."

The Cupola at LondonHouse Chicago

It's recently become a popular spot for pre-planned proposals, but the Cupula at LondonHouse's rooftop restaurant is an awesome space for engagement photos, as well. Standing in the Cupola makes couples appear to be floating atop the city, with iconic landmarks like the Tribune Tower and the river stretching out behind and below them. Since it's not a public park or venue, this one takes a little more coordination (and requires a couple who's not afraid of heights!)—but the results are well worth it. Learn more about restrictions and scheduling here.

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Chinatown's Ping Tom Memorial Park is an under-the-radar spot for engagement photos that features stellar city views and a pretty path along the river. It also boasts an incredible blue floral mural by artists Andy Bellomo, Anna Murphy and Chester Chow that's the perfect little hint at "something blue" for your upcoming wedding.

Your Neighborhood Bar

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and chances are you feel a deep connection to yours—maybe it has even played a key role in your relationship. So why not stroll your neighborhood streets, pose in front of murals, or stop in for a cocktail at your favorite spot for an engagement session that's totally unique to you? Some faves: Beatnik has an incredible greenhouse-like interior and great light; Parson's Chicken & Fish is fun for playful engagement photos; Green Street Smoked Meats has an iconic cobblestone alley. Call each place ahead and see if you can pop in before opening to have the place to yourselves.

Montrose Harbor

For couples intent on including their furry friends in engagement photos, Montrose Harbor is our top pick. It's the most pup-friendly beach in the city (it even has an exclusive Dog Beach), plus there are grassy wildflower areas and incredible city views beyond the lake. Opt for sunrise or sunset Chicago engagement photos at Montrose.

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