Far from the coastal cities that offer competing visions of the American Dream, Chicago has furnished its own, building a sky-high foundation of world-class living curated by its Midwestern values. With Michelin-star restaurants by the lakefront, a treasure trove of retail stores along the Magnificent Mile, and watering holes of different fancies stationed all around the city, Chicago lifestyle photographers are at the forefront of portraying this rendition of the American Dream. So, when brands, publications, and agencies require a primer on the best lifestyle photographers in Chicago, we’re here with the 101.
At Wonderful Machine, lifestyle photography depicts an idealized, aspirational version of real life, usually showing happy, attractive people in nice clothing doing fun things in beautiful places.
With that definition etched in your mind, be mindful that the photographers on our list will have you experiencing a severe case of lust for life. You’ve been warned.
Jon Hamblin’s bread and butter is agricultural and industrial photography, but as you browse through his portfolio, you’ll stumble across several projects that focus on lifestyle as well. Jon has a penchant for hybrid shoots where he produces photo and video assets, and most of these showcase strong elements of lifestyle imagery. People from different walks of life are seen striving to make the most of every waking moment, whether it’s a campaign for Glanbia showing people optimizing their health and wellbeing or a commercial for Pepsi revealing restaurant patrons enjoying Instagram-shareworthy meals.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a photographer to portray the aspirational qualities of careers in manual labor, depicting the rewarding nature of a hard day’s work, Jon’s the finest option around.
While she’s an internationally published fashion, advertising, and portrait photographer, Kirsten Miccoli knows how to craft swanky and stylish images within the lifestyle specialty, too. Whether set indoors or outdoors, her lifestyle photography has a luminous sheen to them, achieved through the lighting and the radiance of the subjects feeding off each other. If your most desirable dreams were ever brought to life, we’re sure they’d resemble something close to Kirsten’s images. Happiness is an unmistakable quality of all her photos.
During her career of over 15 years, Kirsten has collaborated with brands such as Gap, Walmart, Hard Rock Hotels, and Nutella, while her photos have graced the pages of Vogue, Glamour, GQ, and Forbes. More recently, she has jumped into directing video projects, furthering her interest in creating conceptual content.
During her more than 10 years in the business, there isn’t an area of commercial photography that Zoe Rain hasn’t been a part of. She has rubbed shoulders with the biggest names in the music business, seen her photos plastered throughout the United States, and spoken on industry panels organized by brands such as Apple and agencies including Leo Burnett. Zoe’s someone to pay attention to and someone to learn from.
Her portfolio in the lifestyle category exhibits a diversity of creative direction, sometimes using the eye of a documentarian and an artist during others. She plays along the spectrum of idealism and realism depending on the client’s expectations, but one way or another, the target audience will be all eyes after seeing her images.
Lavish living is at the heart of Chicago lifestyle photographer Morgan Ione’s portfolio. The image could be set in the comfy confines of a pristine kitchen or a ritzy hotel rooftop with a panoramic view, but one thing remains abundantly clear: life doesn’t get any better than this. Her style of sun-soaked imagery, literally and figuratively, would be an ideal fit for brands and publications within the travel and hospitality sector. She has already partnered with Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Hyatt, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and Food & Wine among many others.
While Morgan is currently based in Chicago, she manages a long list of clients in New York City as well, having spent the first decade of her career in The Big Apple.
Capturing aspirational moments through unscripted ones seems impossible, but Chicago lifestyle photographer John Boehm somehow makes it work. It may seem like he’s got an invisibility cloak on set, letting the subjects go about their day without any interference so that he gets the perfect snap. Still, there’s plenty of collaboration going on beforehand. John values input from the client so that the brand’s identity is ever-present across all the images he takes. It’s a painstaking process, without a doubt, but one that delivers excellent results without fail.
Supercuts, Forbes, Harley Davidson, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, and Apple are a few brands he has worked with.
Having started as a photojournalist, Tim Klein is another Chicago lifestyle photographer who finds the genuine and authentic within planned moments. That chapter of his life took him far and wide, letting him witness people and places we could only dream of. It trained him to look harder than most to get the camera clicking, because every experience wasn’t rife with photographic opportunity. Sometimes, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
But his experience has certainly paid off. Tim now consistently captures happiness and connection in his lifestyle photos, where he encourages people to be their best selves to advertise products, services, and experiences in the best light possible.
Tim regularly works with brands and publications like Apple, Discovery Channel, Forbes, Presence Health, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, Yamaha, and Zipcar.
After his career in competitive skateboarding ended prematurely, Randy Michael Korwin went down a different path as he nurtured his creative thinking obsessively: commercial photography. Now, with close to two decades of experience under his belt, he works within the lifestyle, conceptual, portraiture, and fitness specialties, facilitating clients’ visions through his direction.
Randy’s philosophy in life takes on the glass half full perspective, seeing a problem as just another solution waiting to be discovered. With the certainty of pitfalls and stumbles on any photoshoot, his mindset wins clients over in a heartbeat. It has been that way with brands such as ESPN, Dyson, Chipotle, Topgolf, Tasty Bite, and many others.
If your brand or publication wants to tell a story through images, Chicago lifestyle photographer Lucy Hewett is a shoo-in. Her compositions bathe the subject and setting with ample light and color, relying on a documentary-style approach to plant a narrative in our minds. The jovial gentleman crossing the street with a guitar is probably off to his evening gig at the local pub. Or the family of six playing UNO on a Friday evening could be blowing off steam after a hectic week. Maybe so, maybe not. But either way, Lucy’s photography compels us to imagine the story behind the photo, a desirable attribute if you’re looking to highlight an experience rather than a mere product or service.
Lucy’s not short of honors either, recognized as one of The Lit List’s 30 Under the Radar Photographers in 2018 and earning a Communication Arts award for advertising photography. Some of her clients include Amazon, Lyft, Sprout Social, Bloomberg Businessweek, Glamour, and Popular Mechanics.
Balancing the artful and authentic, our list of lifestyle photographers in Chicago will help your brand or publication create the ideal slice of life you’re looking for. There’s no shortage of talent and experience with these eight photographers, so browse through their portfolios, put your doubts to rest, and call them up without waiting around!
Find more lifestyle photographers in Chicago through our directory.
Learn more about lifestyle photography as a specialty at Wonderful Machine.