Milwaukee hosts a plethora of stellar locations for engagement photos ranging from natural settings with Lake Michigan views to urban landscapes featuring the city skyline, and oodles of interesting nooks and crannies to discover between. During my 2019 wedding season, I had such a wonderful time shooting engagements in new locations and rediscovering some classic Milwaukee settings, I decided to kick-off a blog series indexing and categorizing the best locations around the city (and some outside) for killer engagement photos! On this first list, you will find shooting inspiration in five engagement photography locations in Milwaukee that feature iconic and beloved backdrops—happy shooting!
1. Lakeshore State Park
Nope, I’m not saving the best for last. Lakeshore State Park might be my #1 favorite location in Milwaukee for engagement photos. This location has so much to offer; Lake Michigan, greenery, and a killer city skyline (perhaps the best you can find) can all be captured here. Compared to more popular lakefront locations such as McKinley Marina, this location also offers a fair amount of privacy allowing you to shoot more freely without frequent pedestrian interference—who wants to waste light while waiting for joggers to pass by, am I right? Lakeshore State Park is also incredibly photogenic year-round, which is a huge bonus; compare the images below shot during the months of January and June.
Pro Tip #1:
Before choosing Lakeshore State Park, decide on the aesthetic you hope to capture; do you want a glowing, golden hour halo or softer portraits in front of Lake Michigan? If you’re going for the latter, you’ll need to plan your shoot for an overcast day. Because there aren’t any structures or trees to provide shade here, a cloudless day will provide full, harsh sunlight on the lakefront, even at sunset. To capture that gorgeous, golden hour halo, plan to shoot roughly 45 minutes before sunset and not a minute earlier!
Pro Tip #2:
If you’ve never been to Lakeshore State Park, you could have some trouble navigating to it—the first time I drove there my GPS landed me in a confusing maze of Summerfest parking lots. Ugh. The simplest way to get there is by Eerie Street; head east on Eerie from Water St. and stick with it until you see the red lighthouse ahead. Park near the lighthouse and plan to do a bit of walking. (Also, plan accordingly for a minefield of goose sh*t.)
2. The Milwaukee Riverwalk (and Historic 3rd Ward)
If you prefer a city aesthetic, the Milwaukee Riverwalk in the Historic 3rd Ward is the classic choice. As with Lakeshore State Park, I also love the Riverwalk for its seasonal flexibility—it’s a great location for both summer and winter engagements! Personally, my favorite place to begin shooting is outside of Blue Bat, which has a photogenic staircase entrance. (Plus, the option to wrap-up your shoot with a strong margarita!)
From this location, if you continue moving north up the Riverwalk as you shoot, you can access a tiny park where the Milwaukee Public Market sign is visible. If you (or the couple you’re shooting) doesn’t want to run around in the street to get that shot, this little park is a nice spot for capturing some Public Market bokeh!
3. Lakefront Brewery
What could be more iconic than visiting a brewery and clinking beer glasses for your engagement session? For a fun session with an industrial vibe, Lakefront Brewery is my personal favorite choice. Not only is the brewery photogenic, but the location on the Riverwalk and beneath the marsupial bridge offers some versatility for a short session. Once again, I also love this location for both summer and winter shoots!
When you order drinks, don’t settle for plastic cups! (You gotta get that bling shot, after all!) Request a glass and explain that you’ll be photographing them—they should allow it for at least one quick shot!
4. Lake Michigan, Atwater Beach
There are so many great locations along the lakefront for shooting engagements, but my personal favorite is Atwater Beach. While Lakeshore State Park does offer a great view of the lake, if you’re looking to get your feet wet (and if the city skyline isn’t your priority) then Atwater Beach is the best place for it. Atwater is surrounded by lush greenery which gives it a more exotic vibe, and most importantly, golden hour at Atwater is soft and subtle because the beach is so far below the sunset vantage point. Additionally, Atwater is typically less busy in the evenings than other locations, making it easier to shoot here without pedestrian interference.
Before reaching the beach, prepare to descend a huge staircase—I mean HUGE. Don’t wear shoes with any sort of heel. In fact, wear shoes you can easily remove, and just go barefoot if you don’t want shoes full of sand. Also, if you do plan to get in the water, bring towels!
5. Mitchell Park Domes
To round out this list I’ve included the Mitchell Park Domes for a number of good reasons. First of all, the nostalgia factor; if you grew up in the Milwaukee area you undoubtedly formed many memories at The Domes, which give this location those warm, fuzzy vibes. Secondly, The Domes are a great location for a real day-date, and personally, I love my engagement sessions to feel more like dates than “portrait sessions.” Most importantly, The Domes are simply beautiful, photogenic, and provide gorgeous lighting opportunities at any time of the day, making this location a great choice if you need to shoot while the sun is high! (This is also my favorite backup choice when a session gets rained out!)
Heads up: there is one downside to shooting at The Domes—it isn’t free. In addition to buying regular admission, a photography permit must be purchased for the day. You can buy this permit when you arrive, so there’s no need to plan ahead for a simple engagement session.
I hope this list helps you narrow down your options for the perfect engagement session! Visit again soon for more Milwaukee engagement photography locations! Ciao!