8 Top Portrait Photographers in Chicago

The good news: As one of the most populous cities in the United States, Chicago has an incredibly robust and thriving arts community, giving you a truly rich resource of local professional talent to tap for help with your wordpreneur business—and, of course, personal—portrait needs. Even better news: Here we’ve got assembled some of the top professional Chicago portrait photographers around to get you started and progressing quickly. Check them out!

It never ceases to amaze us how an artist’s visual sensibilities and preferences—their style—will tend to consistently come through in their work, even with something technically-oriented like photography, and a tight niche like portraiture. This becomes more evident over time, as the photographer compiles a significant body of work to examine. This is certainly the case with portrait and headshot photographer Michael Schacht. You’ll immediately pick up on Schacht’s approach to portraits, with a discernable look and palpable slightly darker cast over his images (you’ll find them on his Instagram account).

But head on over to his website to check out his headshots, and you’ll see another stylistic shift! Not surprisingly, Schacht’s brighter headshot style differs from his portraits, but what’s not so apparent—unless you see a lot of other photographers’ work like we do—is how he differentiates his headshots, giving them a hint of softness, but not so much it jumps out at you. This level of attention to detail and quality definitely elevates Schacht to among the top of the pool of Chicago portrait photographers.

Describing what Jon Rauschenberger does is easy: He photographs headshots and portraits. Very good ones. And he takes a distinct pleasure at being able to do so. He says he loves “creating images of people that surprise and delight them,” and judging from his portfolio, we guess he gets to do that a lot.

Shot in studio, Rauschenberger’s images are simple and direct, typically with solid backgrounds and hardly any props, if any. His headshots are undoubtedly professional workhorses, perfect for visually kicking up those social media profiles more than just a few notches. His Instagram account is dedicated to these, showcasing the same subjects in different headshot styles. For slightly more elaborate image needs, his portraits fit the bill quite nicely. Although still visually simple, they communicate more personality, and are great options for, say, author portraits on book covers.

Aaron Gang started his photography business over two decades ago, in 1998, so without even taking a look at his work, we know he’s doing something right. Going through his portfolio just confirms it: Gang not only knows his way around a camera, he’s also a master at directing and interacting with his subjects to get the best, most genuine shots. This latter quality is most apparent with portraits—it’s just something you can sense. It’s a curiosity how something so intangible comes through in a static image, but it does. In many of his pictures, you can feel how comfortable and relaxed Gang’s subjects are—having fun, even—and this translates into great, natural, and impressive portraiture, as we can clearly see with our own eyes.

Shooting actor headshots and model comps are their specialty, something they’ve been doing together for nearly a decade and a half, so we know that besides shooting a heck of a whole lot of portraits, the Popios are gosh-darned good at it. Their clientele won’t put up with anything less, and any photographer who doesn’t consistently deliver the quality required just won’t be serving that client base for very long. Unlike with more generic Chicago portrait photographers, when serving a very targeted market segment, word really does get around that community. And the word about the Popios is all accolades. “One would be a fool to go to anyone else,” as one non-word mincing casting director put it. “A darn fool.”

A professional photographer going on three decades now, Brian McConkey started with actor headshots, and proceeded to then establish himself as one of the top actor headshot photographers around. Going through his modestly-sized Instagram portfolio can be like an Easter egg hunt—there is quite a number of recognizable actors and celebrities in the mix (and as formal clients, not stolen paparazzi shots). McConkey has since branched out his enterprise, putting his talent and skills to work with corporate headshots, event photography, and family portraits. finding his professional skills and expertise playing a more pivotal role in today’s visual, digital environment.

“It’s not about what you look like,” says photographer Maia Rosenfeld, “it’s about who you are.” And it goes without saying that capturing your authentic, true self is key to a powerful, effective portrait and headshot that people notice, and that people will remember. With her work packed with one impressive image after another of normal people, oozing their real life personas, Rosenfeld clearly knows what she’s talking about, and what effectively cements her leading position among Chicago portrait photographers. Her website is just as packed with testimonials from happy clients. That shouldn’t be surprising. As one satisfied client simply puts it, “I had never met her before getting my head shots the other week, and I fell in love with her work and her amazing-ness as a human right away.”

If you sense an edginess in multi-disciplinary artist Alexa Viscius’s pictures, you’ll be glad to know your artistic style radar is in tiptop shape! Besides photography, Viscius is a musician, art director, and designer, an eclectic mix that manifests itself fully in her visual approach. If you’re looking for standard, conservative, and safe, Viscius would be a silly choice, with many other Chicago portrait photographers a better fit. But if her preferred retro-ish muted color palettes and often unsettling artistic sensibilities and compositions are just the look you’re going for, well, here she is! And you wouldn’t be alone, with high-profile media outlets like Paper magazine and Pitchfork—even Nike!—among her clientele.

Fashion photography’s influence on brand photographer Bekah Wriedt’s style can hardly be described as slight. Her very clean, minimalistic compositions with their bright, typically white, and totally uncluttered backgrounds, are a great complement to her seemingly innate sensitivity to the stylish and beautiful. It’s those same instinctual elements that play very well in her ability to manufacture and capture really striking portraits. There are no stray hairs in these portraits; that Wriedt would leave nothing to chance to maximize the visual impact of her perfect images is, we suspect, a really good bet.