Where to go for photos when you have to stay inside
It’s pretty common for family or special occasion photo shoots to take place outdoors, whether in a picturesque park setting or perhaps something with an urban vibe. But sometimes, the weather just gets in the way.
One of the most-asked questions we get from Chambanamoms.com readers is a plea for suggestions on where to go to take photos when the weather outside is downright frightful. This is especially common during cold-weather holidays, or during prom season, which often falls during one of the rainiest times of the year here in Champaign-Urbana.
No matter the season, rain and inclement weather can sour the best of family photo shoots. With the help of our readers, we’ve put together a Champaign-Urbana area list of places that are possibilities for indoor photo shoots.
While most of these locations are open to the public, some may not want photo shoots taking place in their building without permission. The rules vary according to whether a space is commercial, non-profit, or municipal. And the rules may be different still if a professional photographer is involved. When in doubt, please ask, and always be respectful of the space and its other occupants.
RELATED: Looking for a photographer? Check our photographer listings.
University of Illinois campus buildings
Note that some campus locations, such as the University of Illinois libraries, are not as amenable to hosting posed photographs. The below locations have been used by other locals. Be aware that many of these buildings have limited open hours (particularly if the university is not in session) and you might need to ask permission.
“The plant conservatory on campus is really wonderful and free. It’s full of tropical plants that make a great backdrop.” We have an article on the University of Illinois Plant Biology Greenhouse; limited hours.
“Krannert Center for the Performing Arts lobby. Lovely, open, and dry!” Located in Urbana at 500 S. Goodwin Ave.
“The Business Instructional Facility on campus has beautiful lighting great for photos.” Located in Champaign at 515 E. Gregory Dr.
“I have done pics at the Illini Union. There is a nice fireplace that I have used for a backdrop.” Located in Urbana at 1401 W. Green St.
“The revamped ceiling of Lincoln Hall is gorgeous at the top of the marble staircase.” “The courtyard in Lincoln Hall is a cool space.” Located in Urbana at 702 S. Wright St.
“The atrium in Temple Hoyne Buell Hall is lovely.” Located in Champaign at 611 Lorado Taft Dr.
Other ideas for campus buildings: Krannert Art Museum (especially the Kincaid Pavilion area) and Spurlock Museum (that staircase!) are both used to people taking a lot of photos. Readers have also suggested the Siebel Center for Design, the Beckman Institute, Smith Memorial Hall, and the staircase of the brand-new Campus Instructional Facility at the corner of Springfield and Wright.
Other public buildings in C-U
Illinois Terminal, downtown Champaign: The transportation hub for Champaign, the Terminal is our Amtrak stop and where buses transfer; it’s a hustling bustling place. We know that downtown Champaign is a popular place to take photos. So is Illinois Terminal, especially the second floor which has a lot of natural light coming through the windows facing downtown.
Market Place Shopping Center, Champaign: One of the most underrated picturesque indoor locations in town: the carousel at Market Place Shopping Center. Ride fees may apply for the carousel. “We rented the carousel at marketplace mall for wedding photos. They are magical!”
Lincoln Square Mall, downtown Urbana: This is a good option for daylight hours during the winter; the skylights let in plenty of light especially in the main atrium area. We have an example below. We can’t vouch for rainy day light, though.
Champaign Public Library: “Lots of natural light and you can get creative with the background.” A magical place for a photo shoot. Seek permission; photos could disrupt library patrons.
Willard Airport, Savoy: Open long hours, lots of natural light, and plenty of interesting nooks and crannies. And escalators! However, you could raise a few eyebrows as airports have significant security issues, of course.
Area museums and attractions
Monticello Railway Museum, Monticello: Only open seasonally, one of the more unique options on this list: get on the train and snap away. There are other indoor locations at the museum, but on a train car — what could be better? Generally open on weekends only, May through October.
Allerton Park, Monticello: Most people think of Allerton for outdoor photos. But there are some indoor spaces there too. The mansion isn’t always open, but the visitor’s center renovation will be completed soon. Greenhouse environments can be great for indoor photos.
Virginia Theatre lobby, downtown Champaign: While the building isn’t always open to the public, sometimes during the winter holidays there are designated times when people are welcome to use the sumptuously decorated lobby space for their own personal photos. It never hurts to ask!
The informal nature of cafes could probably accommodate a photo shoot better than fancier sit-down restaurants. A few Champaign favorites include Pekara on Springfield and Prospect; Hopscotch Bakery; and Avionics on First Street. A newer option downtown combining food and books: The Literary. In Urbana, try Caffe Paradiso, made recently famous by former President Obama’s stop there; Cafeteria and Company downtown; or the very spacious Broadway Food Hall.
Remember, private businesses may not welcome photo shoots.
Hotels can be great especially if larger groups are involved. A couple of the most popular options:
The I-Hotel and Conference Center, Champaign: The most grand hotel lobby area in town, there is a ton of interesting artwork around the conference center as well. Always well decorated at the holidays, too.
The Hyatt Place, downtown Champaign
Ask your place of worship if you can “borrow” the building for photos. Churches, temples and synagogues tend to have unique backdrops and often have lots of natural light. If feasible, this could be a great option — even if you’re not commemorating a religious occasion.
What suggestions would you add? Please email us with your favorite indoor photo spot.
Where to Take Spring Family Photos | Where to Take Fall Family Photos | Champaign-Urbana Area Photographers Guide