Though Illinois gets a lot of shit for overall being a pretty flat state, it is honestly bursting with options when it comes to great places to have engagement photos. It was hard for me to narrow down my favorite spots, but I did my best to put together a list of my top 5 of the never-ending list of favorites throughout Illinois. If you’re on the fence about where to have your engagement session in Illinois, this list will definitely give you some ideas and inspiration for where to have your session !
1. Starved Rock State Park
Located in Oglesby Illinois, Starved Rock is such an amazing spot for engagement photos because of its unique terrain. There are waterfalls, forest-covered paths, rock formations, and so much more. Though this is a hike, all trails are very easily accessible for those at all hiking skill levels.
Definitely make sure to pack water, and if it rains close to your session date, bring some bug spray as well ! I also always recommend bringing a backup pair of shoes, a pair that is more hiking friendly and then a pair that are photo ready ! The paths can get pretty muddy near the water falls, so make sure to bring shoes that can get a little dirty !
2. Fox River Bluff West Forest Preserve
Looking for somewhere a little closer to Chicago for your engagement photos?! I absolutely love Fox River Bluff West Forest Preserve. Tucked right next to the Fox River, this forest preserve gives you a taste of nature without having to go too far from home. Between the waterfront spots along the trail, the shaded bridge that crosses over the Fox River, and the wooded cover paths along the way, Fox River Bluff West Forest Preserve offers a great mix of backdrops for your engagement session.
For Brooke and Nate's Engagement photos we started along the river and then ended our session over in Kava Diem in downtown St. Charles. Their session had the PERFECT amount of nature contrasted with a more urban setting.
3. Kava Diem Coffee Shop + Downtown St. Charles
There’s nothing I love more than setting up couples for a great date night after their session. The whole downtown St. Charles stretch is the perfect spot to get that urban feel for your engagement session without having to go all the way to Chicago. Some of my favorite spots to walk through with my couples includes:
- Kava Diem Coffee Shop
- The Fox River Path
- Main Street
- The Historic Piano Factory Bridge
Also located right on the Fox River, Downtown St. Charles has so many gorgeous spots right along the river as well as SO many alleyways and cute store fronts to wander through for your session!
4. Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens
Lake Katherine Nature Center is a gorgeous Botanic Garden in Palos Heights Illinois that I love to use for engagement sessions. And it's just about an hour south west of Chicago ! The Nature Center requires a photography permit for you to use their space for weddings, but you do not need a permit for engagment sessions! Their space features waterfalls, a lakefront path, and so many other beautiful spots to spend your evening.
If you are thinking about using Lake Katherine for your wedding portraits, you can find more information on their photography permits here
5. Your Home !!
Last but not least, I LOVE an in-home session for my engaged couples! There’s something so intimate about having your engagement photos done in your own home. You already know the territory, the space is styled to fit you and your lover AND you’re going to be so much more comfortable in your own space which will probably calm some of your nerves you might have about the session in the first place.
If you want a homey vibe but not really into having your session in YOUR home, AirBnB’s are also an awesome option for photo sessions. Turn your session into a sweet overnight date night with your spouse and have some photos taken while you’re there. You’ll have the comfort of home without actually being home.
Check out some of these Air Bnb's that would be perfect for your cozy session/staycation!
Love this article? Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more engagement session tips on my stories and posts! @lar__photography