Chicago Photography

Chicago Photography (Latest Work)

In Photography, Workshops by Matt K15 Comments

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Out of Chicago Conference in… you guessed it… Chicago, IL. I’ve always loved Chicago. I’ve never had the chance to spend a lot of time there. But every time I go, I absolutely love that city!

Out of Chicago 2016

Anyway, this last week was the Out Of Chicago Conference and I had the chance to teach a few classes there. First off, before I get to the photos, I have to say thanks to everyone who came out last week. It was an amazing group of people. Chris Smith (and his team) did a great job of putting on a conference that had over 400 people at it, but still felt like a small intimate workshop. I had the chance to really connect with people and actually see that what we were talking about was helping them. As an educator, that’s the best feeling. They have an Out of New York Conference coming up in October and if you can make it, I’d definitely recommend it.

The Photos

Okay, on to the photos. I figured I’d share a few photos that I took out of my hotel room. My wife Diana came with me on the trip and we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel. It had a cool vibe to it and it was in a great part of the city. As fate would have it, when we checked in, they gave us a really nice upgrade to a corner suite on one of the top floors.

I didn’t think much of it, but as soon as we walked in and saw the windows (on both sides of the room) we both just said “Wow!”. I’ve seen a lot of city skylines before, but Chicago is different. There’s a lot of care taken to the architecture of the city – more so than a lot of other cities. So when you get this high up, it’s an amazing view.

So, I did what any photographer traveling with his wife would do. I said “Honey, don’t you think you’d love a spa treatment of some sort?… It’s on me!” 🙂

She knew what I was up to though, and gracefully stood by while I got my camera/tripod out, and started to frantically take photos while there was still some color left in the sky at twilight (which is actually the best time to capture city photos).

This first photo was out of the right side of the room. I liked it horizontal, but there was a large building on the left side that was tough to get in. Even though it’s not fully in view, I still like this one a lot.


(Camera Settings: f/11, ISO 50, 30 sec. / Sony A7R II, 16-35mm lens)

I purposely set the ISO to 50 instead of 100, because I wanted to extend the shutter speed to make the head lights from the cars down below more streaky.

The next one is the vertical version of the one above. It was tough to get it all in and I had to cut some areas out, but I think it’ll look good printed large.

(Camera Settings: f/11, ISO 100, 30 sec. / Sony A7R II, 16-35mm lens)

The photo below was taken out of the right side of the room. The view is actually wider and you’re missing a decent amount on the left and right sides, but I like the cropped version better. I think it makes the river down below more pronounced.

(Camera Settings: f/11, ISO 100, 22 sec. / Sony A7R II, 16-35mm lens)

And finally, this last photo was taken on the North Lake Shore Dr. Bridge, right near Navy Pier. It’s a popular spot for photographers and I saw a bunch of people from the conference there. It was actually tough to get a sharp photo, since the cars going over the bridge made the bridge (and the tripod) move quite a bit. But I just timed it for when there was a break in the traffic and was able to get a sharp photo.

Note: Any political comments and references to the name on the building in the middle will be deleted 😉

(Camera Settings: f/8, ISO 100, 6 sec. / Sony A7R II, 24-70mm lens)

Well, there you have it. I have some more photos from other days and I’ll share those in another post. In the meantime, if you’re in the Chicago area, check out the Out of Chicago website. It’s got a ton of great info on it for photographers. Thanks and have a good one!


  1. Paul Symons

    Hi Matt, just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed seeing these images of Chicago. They bring back many fond memories for me. I have been to Chicago many times, although it’s a long commute for me , as I live in Sydney, Australia (used to attend a conference in Chicago back when I worked for Sony, so I have been there about 16 times altogether).

    I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for for all the great teaching over the years (I particularly enjoyed the long exposure couse you did at Kelby1) as well as all that you are doing now at On1.

    Many thanks,

  2. Eric N.


    Great pictures of Chicago. I grew up there and moved away a few years ago. I miss it much. It’s a great city to photograph–like you said, nothing quite like it. To me, it really is the great American city. New York is really an international city; not better, not worse, just different. But to really understand what it means to be a big city in the United States, I always tell foreigners they need to visit Chicago.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      I agree Eric – I grew up just outside of NY, so I know it well. I’d pick Chicago as a city to visit any day before NY personally. Like you said, it’s just a different city.

  3. Russ Lazar

    I was wondering as to the use of filters at night.. should you remove them or leave them on?

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Hi Russ. I only use ND or Polarizing filters. Both of which I probably would never use at night since you usually don’t need them.
      IF you’re referring to a UV filter, I don’t use them. But if I did, and was photographing in a room avoiding reflections like this, then I’d probably remove them. Thanks!

  4. R. H. Hollenbeck

    Greetings from an 88-year old newbie who fondly remembers the Kodak Box Brownie. Been trying to learn the trade for most of these years and believe with your help and tutelage, may eventually get there 🙂

    Dick H

  5. Paul S.

    Maybe a dumb question but how do figure out your long exposure times for these night shots?

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Not dumb at all. I use Aperture priority 99% of the time, so I just put it on f/8 (or whatever) and let the camera do the rest.

  6. Robert Olson

    I notice most of your shots were taken at f11. Did you choose that lens opening because it’s the “sweet spot” for the lens? I’m asking because it probably wasn’t needed for depth of field.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      I don’t know that the mythical sweet spot actually exists. I’ve always heard about it and read about it, but I’ve never had a lens company come out and say “this is the sweet spot of the lens”, so I never shoot based on that 🙂
      I usually shoot something like this at f/8 or f/11, and I get the depth of field that I need.

  7. Daniela Constantinescu

    I know how amazing your photos are, and still I am always surprised! Love all these shots of Chicago!
    A question: Did I understand it right? Did you shoot first two shots through the window? Or it was some sort of balcony or terrace? How come you don’t have any reflections?

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Thanks for the kind words Daniela – yes, the first two shots are through the window. No balcony or terrace. I shut off all the lights and put the camera up against the window to avoid reflections 🙂

  8. Amy

    I’m assuming you took the photos through your hotel window. If that’s the case, how do you not get any reflections? Where the windows clean enough? What about the lights in your hotel room, do you turn them off? Loved seeing the photos. Sorry I missed you in Chicago!

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Yep. Took them through the window. Shut off all the lights and put the lens up against the window. Luckily it was mostly clean 🙂

  9. Donnette Largay

    I have attended Out of Chicago this year and last year. Enjoyed your presentation. I signed up again. Hope to see you there again. I too love photographing Chicago.

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