Milwaukee is undoubtedly a gem of a city, and not just because of its cheese curds and beer (although those are pretty great, too!). With an abundance of diverse neighborhoods, interesting architecture, and natural beauty, there is no shortage of ideal locations for family photos. We’re so lucky!
I truly believe that the location you choose for your family photos can make all the difference in how much you love your photos. That's why I always encourage my clients to pick a spot in Milwaukee that resonates with their family's personality and interests.
Maybe your family loves spending time outdoors, in which case we can explore one of Milwaukee's many parks or nature reserves. Or perhaps your family enjoys the city's vibe or a local neighborhood, and we can find a cool urban backdrop to showcase that energy.
Whatever it may be, picking a spot that speaks to your family's unique identity will make for photos that truly capture the essence of who you are together. In this blog, I am excited to share some of my absolute favorite spots in Milwaukee where we can take some great family photos that will capture the spirit of your family.
I couldn't possibly list all of my favorite locations, but please enjoy the handful below. Where will we go for YOUR next family session?
One of my absolute favorite spots in Milwaukee for family photos is the Riverwalk and Third Ward. The Riverwalk offers a scenic stroll along the Milwaukee River, with great views of the city's skyline and some of its most iconic landmarks, like the Bronze Fonz statue.
The Third Ward, with its cool alleys full of urban textures and cream city brick, combines funky with historic architecture, which I think is a really unique backdrop for family photos. Both areas are full of quirky shops and cafes, perfect for a quick stop to grab a bite or a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine!) after your photo session.
What I love about the Riverwalk and Third Ward is the ability to take photos at any time of the day. Depending on the time of day and the season, these areas can take on a new look and feel. This opens up a lot of options for taking photos that don’t limit us to choosing “good light” hours in the early morning or at sunset, which isn’t always optimal for little ones or your dinner plans.
Also, older kids, teens, and tweens really like these areas of the city; they seem to find this area much “cooler” than suburban locations. It’s always an adventure taking photos in this area; even though I’ve been there dozens of times time, there’s always something new.
Because they are both located close to one another, we can easily capture a wide variety of shots in a small geographical area. So, whether you're looking for a unique and charming setting or a city skyline backdrop, the Riverwalk and Third Ward are excellent options for family photos in Milwaukee.
Another fantastic spot near Milwaukee for family photos is the Retzer Nature Center. Located in Waukesha with over 450 acres of forests, prairies, and wetlands, the area is a nature lover's paradise, perfect for capturing the beauty of the outdoors. Later in the day is the most magical time there and my favorite time to do sessions.
It’s gorgeous and just full of a wide range of backdrops, from a little forest to open fields and wildflowers. The changing seasons bring an ever-changing palette of colors, making each visit to the center a unique experience. In the fall, the leaves turn brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow, creating a beautiful backdrop for family photos. In the winter, the snow-covered landscape offers a serene and peaceful setting. And the wildflowers are in full bloom in the spring and summer, providing a riot of color and texture. Can you tell I love this place?!
What I love most about the Retzer Nature Center is that it feels serene; I can’t think of a better word to describe it. Something about it makes everyone slow down, offering your family a chance to connect with nature and each other. The natural environment seems to help put everyone at ease, so I can capture more genuine moments that don’t feel forced. Plus, the center offers plenty of activities for families, including hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing, so it’s a great “treat” for the kids before or after the session.
While Milwaukee may not be known outside of the Midwest for its beaches, it is home to some lakefront locations that make for fantastic family photo sessions. Having a beach session for family photos in Milwaukee can be a really wonderful experience for your family. I think Milwaukee beaches give Chicago a run for their money!
The beach provides a picturesque and tranquil setting that is perfect for capturing candid moments. Kids often feel at home on the beach; it brings out their natural playfulness, and the sessions are relaxed and slower.
There’s something about the waves crashing, and the warm sand that I think is good for everyone’s soul (teenagers included).
Forget sibling rivalry at the beach; it melts away. Dad relaxes, and it brings out the kid in mom. In the sand, all is forgiven, and these sessions tend to be some of my client’s favorites. And you can’t beat the backdrop of the city skyline in the photos in the background in some areas.
Dress like you would for a casual backyard party…no need to do the matchy matching thing like khakis and white shirts. Individuality is celebrated at the beach!
For best results, these sessions are taken in the evenings only. Make it a family date night; have dinner first and ice cream after! Everyone will sleep well when it’s done, and you’ll have some iconic and timeless moments for your walls.
Whitnall Park is located in Greendale, so it’s very Milwaukee-adjacent. It is a massive park spanning over 600 acres! The park offers diverse settings, from open fields and prairies to wooded trails and wetlands in Wehr Nature Center, which it surrounds.
The variety of locations is one of the reasons it’s a popular place for photos; there is an astounding variety of areas to take photos that changes with each season. Big, mature trees filter the light, and in spring, the park bursts with amazing blossomed trees. In the fall, it’s a riot of colors; there is probably every kind of tree imaginable in this park!
No formal permit is required for Whitnall, which also makes it popular. With a park this size, there’s potential around every corner, but one of my favorite parts is the tall, prairie-like grasses and the hidden waterfall (!), which is an awesome backdrop.
Whitnall is a park that comes alive near or around sunset, with some of the most beautiful light, so that’s when I photograph family photos there. Whitnall park is also full of wildlife, and it’s not unusual to see families of deer grazing around the park in the evening!
Elm Grove Park is a beautiful green space park in the heart of Elm Grove, a short drive just past Wauwatosa. The park spans over 22 acres, but the most picturesque place for photos is located by the man-made pond and in the areas near the aquatic grasses that grow around the park.
This is another location that is best in the (very) early mornings or late evenings. If you have kids that are up with the birds, sessions at 7 AM here are marvelous! There are gorgeous weeping willow trees along the shore which are especially showy in the spring and summer.
I love this park for dramatic shots like backlit sun photos and silhouettes, and all we have to do is let the kids' natural curiosity explore the areas where I can shoot them without them even knowing. Stroll around the pond with the kiddoes and get them giggling, and that’s all you need for a great family photo!
After the session, let them run off some energy at the playground and grab some ice cream in the village at The Chocolate Factory!
The Urban Ecology Center is a unique location for family photography sessions in the heart of Milwaukee. The center is dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability and providing urban residents with opportunities to connect with nature and has a wide range of natural settings for photos.
The center's location on the Milwaukee River gives it a serene and peaceful atmosphere. The center itself is a cool-looking building made of natural materials that provide a rustic and organic feel.
I love the tall native grasses here, it’s a great spot for family photos, and they are always adding new and interesting paths and plants. This is also a popular place for weddings because of its variety of backgrounds and natural beauty! I always find a little hidden treasure of a spot in the UEC that I didn’t notice the last time I was there.
Swing Park is a unique and quirky location in Milwaukee that is great for family photos. Who doesn’t love swinging?! The park is located in the Riverwest neighborhood and is known for its swing that hangs from a bridge over the Milwaukee River.
Kids love the swings, of course, but the bridge itself is really great, and nearby are some colorful murals and a small nature area. It’s got it all…urban, modern, the Milwaukee River and its natural surroundings, and I think it’s a spot that perfectly captures the city’s essence.
The lighting under the bridge can cast some cool patterns from the construction of the bridge, which I think adds interest to the photos and adds to the fun. It’s a great location for kids who love to be busy, and teenagers tend to think it’s cool, too. If you feel like you’ve done family photos in more traditional places and want to break out a bit, this is an excellent choice!
Whether it's at a nature reserve, park, or an urban location, we are fortunate that there are plenty of amazing locations in Milwaukee for family photography sessions. The key is to choose a location that resonates with your family and where you feel comfortable and relaxed.
Remember, the more fun you have at your family photo session, the more meaningful the photos will be to you and your children. Are you ready to go and explore all that Milwaukee has to offer? I’d love to photograph your family!
Ready to book? Let's chat!