Despite not being much of a city person, I made a trip to Chicago with my boyfriend last year, to celebrate our one year anniversary. And I’ll be honest: I was fully prepared to take a plethora of sappy couple photos. Just typing that sentence, I can already sense the judgment coming. Cut me some slack, it was our anniversary trip. Of course I wanted some photos; maybe I could print and frame them later.

trip to chicago

Well, emphasis on maybe. I’m not the most productive person I know. It’s not much of a surprise to me that I still haven’t printed and framed them.

Here’s the good news, though: they ended up being pretty great pictures, both of the two of us and of the scenery. I’m not really a fantastic photographer or anything, but it was the capturing of organic moments that made a difference.

Here’s what made them turn out so nicely:

We tried to do as many things in the city as possible, and we took quite a few candids.

Makes sense, right? Attractive and varied backgrounds, and natural moments captured on camera. We asked plenty of people to take pictures of us as a couple, and asked them to try and get shots of us interacting. I’m not going to lie, all of the sightseeing was a bit costly. If you’re concerned about this, you can find coupons all over the internet for plenty of the activities we did. And if you’re super frugal and don’t even want to do this, there are free activities too, like the zoo in Lincoln Park. It’s 35 acres, and doesn’t cost a thing to visit!

chicago train system

My favorite tourist attraction that we visited by far was 360 Chicago. For this activity, you’re taken 1000 feet up to the John Hancock building’s 94th floor. Admission isn’t too much money; it’s around 20 dollars per adult, and kids are free. And the view of the entire city that you get is incomparable.

As far as tips go for getting a good photo here, I’d say my biggest one is to go at night. The whole city is lit up with lights, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Ask someone to take your photo sitting at one of the café’s tables, drinks in hand (if you like that sort of thing!) and the lights of Chicago behind you. The only difficult part is getting a picture with adequate lighting, since it can be pretty dark up there. Avoid the flash, since it’ll reflect off of the building’s windows and you won’t catch all the lights behind you. It really makes the picture to have them there, so don’t forget!

downtown chicago

My last tip is work the weather to your advantage. We went in March, but had one gorgeous day that weekend with a completely blue sky. That was the day we picked to ride a ferry boat at Navy Pier. You can get great pictures of Lake Michigan doing this, from right on the water. If it’s rainy, take a moody-looking photo from within a coffee shop or something. Anything can make a good photo if you spin it the right way.

So, I’ll recap: what makes a frame-worthy photo? It’s not state-of-the-art equipment and stellar editing, although those things can help. All you really need to do is make memories, relax and interact with each other, and above all, try and enjoy yourself. You are on vacation, after all.