“Arielle, where should we take our engagement photos?”
I get asked this question a lot. A lot a lot.
How do I respond?
“I don’t know, google it.”
KIDDING. If your photographer replies that way, fire them. I know so many wonderful spots around Chicago (and in the suburbs!) for engagement photos. BUT, I want you to be apart of the decision making process, so I will give you suggestions based off of what you are envisioning. I also always ask if there is a spot that is meaningful to you that we could shoot at (first date spots, places you like to hang out, a favorite ice cream shop, etc.) There are so many different backdrops you can use, but I’ll go over some of my favorite with y’all in this post, and also go over a little bit about what to wear and how to prep.
My most popular request, for my couples wanting engagement photos in the city, is for skyline views. This one is easy, as there are a few classic Chicago wedding photo spots. So, in no particular order:
- North Avenue Beach
- The Adler Planetarium
- Milton Lee Olive Park
All of the spots are wonderful at anytime of year. Some people don’t like doing them here because they’re popular, but if we all stopped doing things because they were popular I think we’d be pretty bored. 🤷🏼♀️
North Avenue Beach
North Avenue is great because it’s classic Chicago, and it’s walking distance from another popular photo spot, the Lincoln Park Zoo. The summer can kind of suck sometimes because it’s so crowded, but I love this spot at any time of year. It’s super easy access in all other seasons because the parking lot is usually open.
The Adler Planetarium
Name a more iconic skyline… I’ll wait. If you’re not from here, you wouldn’t know that this spot is pretty easily accessible if you go at the right time. I brought my boyfriend here a few months ago (he’s from LaSalle-Peru, so the city is a foreign country to him), and he loved it. The photo below was taken at sunrise, which I’d recommend if you wanted to avoid crowds, but it’s equally as beautiful and easy to take photos at during sunset.
Milton Lee Olive Park
This spot is a little more low key than the first two, but in recent years most wedding photographers I know, myself included, frequent this spot for both engagement and wedding photos. It’s right next to Navy pier, but it’s less crowded and has a really cool look out spot over the lake, as well as a great walk way (perfect for fall!) and a small beach.
Don’t want skyline photos, but still want people to know you’re in Chicago? I’d recommend the following:
- Wrigley Building
- Chicago Theatre
- Board of Trade
- River Walk
All of these spots are classic Chicago and you’re surrounded by gorgeous architecture, so you really can’t go wrong. Yes, there will likely be people in your frames, but I don’t see a problem with it— most usually blend into the background and if they don’t we’ll wait until we get a minute or two without a lot of people around to make that magic.
The Wrigley Building.
These spots are great if you’re wanting to stay in the Loop, and they’re all within close proximity of another. A lot of clients I have will start at the River Walk and go to the Wrigley Building or the Chicago Theatre, and vice versa. Again, these are popular spots, but if you love them, who cares what anyone else thinks?
If skylines and skyscrapers isn’t the look you’re going for, but you don’t want to travel outside of the city, there are lots of options for you. My favorites, in a very particular order, are as follows:
- South Gardens at the Art Institute
- Garfield Park Conservatory
- Lincoln Park Zoo
Not going to lie to you, the South Gardens at the Art Institute might be my favorite spot in the city. I adore them. I shot the most gorgeous elopement there a few years ago, and I love shooting bridal portraits and engagement sessions there. It’s beautiful in the spring, it’s beautiful in the summer, and it’s gorgeous in the fall. The only bummer is that they close the first or second weekend of November depending on how cold it gets (aka it’s probably already closed for the year thanks to the recent snow.) Right now, I’d 10/10 recommend Garfield Park Conservatory if you don’t want to freeze your ass off during your engagement session.
“We hate the city and want to do something in the suburbs. What would you recommend?”
City dwellers think there is nothing west of Logan Square besides the airport, which is cool, but as someone who was born in the suburbs and currently lives in one, there are PLENTY of places to take photos out here that aren’t Target or Starbucks (yeah I frequent both and think Target is the best thing, change my mind.) If you’re from the suburbs, or even if you’re not, and want to take your photos somewhere without any crowds, here’s what I’d recommend:
- The Morton Arboretum
- Any town with a downtown/historical district
- One of the many, beautiful forest preserves in the area
Yeah, I know, vague 2 and 3 Arielle, BUT there are so many options to list and I don’t want to waste your time (or give away my secret spots before y’all hire me YA FEEL). The Morton Arboretum comes in at number one because it is beautiful all year round, even now when it’s painfully cold, and there are so many different places around the Arboretum to shoot.
Don’t want The Arboretum? There are plenty of beautiful parks, forest preserves, and towns to choose from instead. Some of my favorites include Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva, Downtown Elgin, Carl R. Hansen Woods in Hoffman Estates, and Vehe Farms in Deer Park.
Got your spot picked? Great, now what do you wear.
In the age of Pinterest and Instagram fashion bloggers, I don’t get asked this question as much as I used to, but if you need help deciding what to wear and don’t want to hire a stylist, here’s some insight on what photographs well and what doesn’t.
What to avoid:
- Avoid busy patterns. Trust me on this one. Plaids are fine, stripes and florals aren’t bad either, but anything beyond that I would try to avoid. It can be distracting to your photos, and they don’t always photograph well.
- Avoid neons. If the light is bright and your shirt is neon yellow, there’s a good chance your glow is going to bounce onto your partner’s skin when you’re looking at each other, and I’m not talking about a metaphorical, lovey dovey glow. Your partner’s skin will literally have a neon yellow tint to it.
- Avoid clothes that you’re not 100% comfortable in. If you’re confident in front of the camera and are okay toughing it out in a tight dress and 6 inch heels, by all means, do you, but if you’re not used to being photographed and are anxious about shooting, don’t increase your anxiety by wearing something you don’t feel comfortable in.
What to wear:
- Colors that complement each other well. Solids and neutrals photograph really well, but you also don’t want to match your significant other. If I’m wearing a maroon sweater with a navy stripe down the sleeve and my boyfriend is letting me dress him, I put him in a blue checked plaid or a maroon and grey baseball tee— we coordinate, but it’s not overkill. If you want to wear florals or a pattern, make sure your partner is wearing a color pulled from your palette. If you need help, Pinterest color coordinating palettes or engagement photo outfits.
- SOMETHING YOU’RE CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE IN. Touching on this again, because this is the key to having a good session. You should feel good about yourself during your session. If that means wearing your favorite dress or sweater instead of buying something new, go for it. No one cares if, in a Lizzie McGuire voice, *you are an outfit repeater!!*— as long as you’re happy and with the one you love, that’s all that matters.
- Did I say something you’re comfortable and confident in? Yeah? Okay. That’s it.
Okay, now that we have the locations and outfits set, what comes next?
Your work is over, and It’s now my turn to take over. You don’t need to do anything other than show up feeling good. We’ll chat for a little bit and get to know each other as I take you through a few “warm-ups,” and then we’ll start having a little fun. I’ll never pose you in a way that is unnatural or cheesy, and I’ll be sure to capture every candid moment in between. There’s no need to be nervous or uptight. We’ll relax, laugh a little, and make some wonderful photos for you to print and hang up in your home.
Want to learn more? Fill out my inquiry form here.
All images © Arielle Gallione 2019.