10 Unique Chicago Photo Locations That Aren’t Touristy
I’ve been living in and blogging about Chicago for years. I’m familiar with the best photo spots in Chicago. But if you’re sick of the touristy locations and want something new, I’ve got you covered on a complete list of HIDDEN photography spots in Chicago.
Each of these locations are inside the city limits so you won’t have to travel too far to visit them. I hope you enjoy my list! If you have any other Chicago photo spots to add to my list, leave them in the comments!
HIDDEN PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS IN CHICAGO
Damen L Train Stop
You don’t necessarily need to take this photo at the Damen Blue Line train stop specifically. Any stop that’s above ground (vs. the underground stops) will do! But I lived at the Damen stop intersection in Wicker Park for 5 years so this one holds a special place in my heart.
What I love about the Damen Blue Line stop is that you can see part of Chicago’s skyline off in the distance. Plus, I love this shade of blue so it sure beats a photo at any Brown Line train stop.
PHOTO TIP: To get a photo like mine with a blurry train, adjust your settings to a slower shutter speed and stand super still as the train passes. Mine was set at 1/20th of a second. I also recommend shooting on a tripod. Holding by hand at this slow of a shutter speed can cause the entire photo to be blurry in the places you don’t want it.
Metra Sign Chicago
I must have walked past this sign a dozen times before I truly noticed it. It’s a replica of the Paris Metro signs you’ll see in France. The sign is so adorable and adds a French vibe to the heart of downtown.
To my knowledge, there’s only one of these in Chicago. You can find it at the Van Buren train stop in Millennium Park.
PHOTO TIP: I recommend bringing your wide-angle lens to this spot. The sidewalk space in front of the sign is limited. The person taking my photo stepped into the street to capture this shot. As always, please be careful and watch out for cars if you step into the street.
Clark & Lake Parking Garage
Of all the Chicago photography spots I’m sharing, this one may be the most unique. I discovered this spot through my friend @travelwithtalia who found it in an article online. It’s SUCH a unique city vibe and the proper sunlight can create a mesmerizing reflection on the surrounding buildings.
It’s a bit tricky to find. You’ll head to the intersection of Clark & Lake and locate the parking garage in the north west corner. Take the elevator that’s facing Clark street up to the 7th floor. Then walk to the wall that faces south. You’ll be overlooking the Lake Street train tracks.
PHOTO TIP: To get this photo, both you and your photographer need to step up onto a ledge and hang out of the small window. It’s not easy or comfortable, but it’s worth it!
Wabash-Randolph Parking Garage
If you loved the previous parking garage spot, you’ll love this one too! You can take in views of Randolph Street from the top of the Wabash-Randolph Parking Garage. You can capture the city by shooting towards the West or capture Lake Michigan by shooting towards the East.
To find this spot, type in Wabash-Randolph Parking Garage into Google Maps. Or head to Randolph Street between Wabash and State Street. The garage will be on the north side of Randolph Street. Then take the elevator to the 10th floor.
PHOTO TIP: Sitting on the ledge of the parking garage can be dangerous. Please be extremely cautious while sitting up here.
Chicago Fire Engine 98
The red garage doors at this fire department are a perfect way to add some color to your Instagram feed. I’ve noticed this place become a popular photo location during Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
The fire department is on Chicago just East of Michigan Ave. BTW the firemen pulled out of the station twice while we were shooting here and were so kind to smile and wave at us. But remember they are first responders and are there to work so please be respectful of the area.
PHOTO TIP: Visit during the Holiday’s to get a photo like you see here. They decorate the front of the department with Christmas wreaths and garlands.
South Side of Willis Tower: Southbank Park
The Sears Tower is one of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago’s skyline. There’s no doubt that a photo with this building can be considered touristy. That’s why I recommend shooting from a unique angle that isn’t overdone!
This photo of the Willis Tower is taken from the south end of downtown facing north. I love that you can capture the river and the bridges in the photo too!
PHOTO TIP: The area is called Southbank Park and if you’re driving, plan to park a few blocks away. We parked at Wells & 9th Street which was a 10-minute walk.
Navy Pier Parking Garage
This next one is the definition of hidden photography spots in Chicago. Take in views of Navy Pier and the entire Chicago Skyline from the top of this parking garage. Apparently, I have a thing for garages!
There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the sun set behind Chicago. I’d like to think this is a well-kept secret but who knows, maybe I’m wrong!
PHOTO TIP: Head to the parking garage just past the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Head up the garage stairs to the top floor. Then find the wall that faces the West.
Chicago Board of Trade
Capture the vibe of Chicago’s financial district at this next spot. Chicago’s architecture is some of the best I’ve ever seen and this spot makes you feel surrounded by those views.
This Chicago photo spot is beautiful but not often seen online. I love the tall pillars on the buildings on each side of this photo and how they act as leading lines to the famous clock tower.
PHOTO TIP: To get a perfectly centered photo, you will be standing in the middle of Dearborn Street. I suggest coming early during the weekend when there aren’t as many commuters in the area.
Chinatown Neighborhood Chicago
I’ve only visited this neighborhood once since living in Chicago and need to get down there more often! I went last winter on a cold, snowy day so I feel like my visit didn’t even do it justice.
However, my quick visit impressed me enough to make it on this list. I love that you can see Chicago’s skyline from this neighborhood over 2 miles away.
TRAVEL TIP: I’m swapping out a photo tip for a travel tip on this one. While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by one of the local bakeries for a treat.
The University of Chicago
I think I saved the best location for last. While this spot is certainly not a “hidden gem”, I also wouldn’t consider it a tourist spot in Chicago.
This campus is only a 20-minute drive south of downtown. If you’re visiting Chicago and looking to switch it up from views of skyscrapers, don’t miss this beautiful spot.
TRAVEL TIP: I’ve visited this campus in multiple seasons, but Fall is by far my favorite. All the buildings become covered in orange and red ivy and it’s stunning.
I hope this inspires you to get out and see what this city has to offer! If I missed any other hidden photography spots in Chicago that you love, leave a comment here or send me a message on Instagram!
RELATED: If you’re looking for Instagram Worthy Restaurant’s in Chicago, check out my blog post HERE.
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