Washington DC Professional Photographer Neil Colton » Professional Portrait , Lifestyle & Travel Photography by Neil Colton

A Washington, DC travel photographer’s view of Charleston, SC, in an ongoing series about travel and travel photography.




This was supposed to be Barcelona.

Instead, we are sitting on a hard plank bench at the front of a weather beaten covered wooden wagon, being pulled by two aging mules through the streets of this 350 year old southern city.  Yes, mules. From our tour guide, we learn that mules are best for this sort of thing. Less mercurial. More cooperative. Easier to manage. Who knew. As we start our tour, our resident-scholar-farm-boy-part-time-law-student-turned-tour-guide launches into a monologue about South Carolina’s glorious political heritage,  embodied in that great southern independent thinker, statesman and champion of free thought,  Strom Thurmond. Terrie and I trade concerned glances. I look at my watch. We are 10 minutes into an hour long tour. This is going to be a very long ride. The heat and humidity of high summer in the south is oppressive. We roll on.

Through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina.

Back to Barcelona. That is where this trip was to start. We would fly into El Prat Airport, in Spain, spend a few wonderful days in Barcelona, then hire a car and drive though northwestern Spain to Andorra. From Andorra, we would travel along the eastern coast of France to Marseille and Monaco. Slowly, we would wind our way to Paris, reveling in the French countryside and treating ourselves to the local cuisine, washed down with the wine of the day. It was settled. Done. Reservations had been made. Only the plane tickets were left to buy. Then, at the last minute, an unexpected change for us to come up with a new itinerary, stateside.

A trip to Paris and Barcleona had been easy for us to agree on. Where to go in North America would not be.

I lobbied to go north. Quebec had been wonderful. We fell in love with the city and vowed to return, soon. That was nearly 10 years ago. My vote was Quebec. No contest. Quebec with a Montreal chaser. Let’s book the flight. Terrie loved Quebec, right? Yes, she did, but not for this trip. This time, she decided, we were going south, to the Carolinas.  With day trips into the deep south, where we could enjoy “southern hospitality”, experience the “beauty of the old south” and “travel to places we had never been before”. Reluctantly, I was IN.

Next stop, Charleston, South Carolina.

Consistently ranked as one of the 10 Best Cities to visit in the US, Charleston knows how to take care of tourists and travelers.

From Wikipedia:

‘Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people, Charleston has received numerous accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly City” by Travel + Leisure in 2011, and 2013 and 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler and “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.’

Charleston is all that and more.

Looking back, I wish we had planned more time in Charleston. As it was, this was the third/fourth stop on our Southern Tour, after stops along the Carolina coast and a trip to Savannah, Georgia. By the time we arrived in Charleston, I had one eye on the road north, heading home to Washington, DC. This would be the last leg of this trip and we had clearly saved the best for last. In the end, we only allowed for a few days in Charleston. It deserved more.

Back on the covered wagon.

The tour picked up pace, politics made way for historic architecture and stories of this charming city. A cool evening breeze moved in, clearing away the heat and humidity of the day. Our tour guide even taught us how to make southern fried cheese. Really.


For Travelers and Photographers

Charleston is a very photogenic city, as you can see. Lots of good eye candy there. I was drawn to the French Quarter on this trip. My background as an architectural photographer, and history buff, led me there. The French Quarter, alone, could keep a photographer busy for days. I had an hour and a half. I tried to use it wisely.

The images I have included for this post were captured on two separate days over a combined period of about three hours. That’s not a lot of photography, at least not for me. On an assignment, or traveling alone, I’ve been known to shoot from dawn to dusk, grab some for fuel, then out again after dark. Depending on the place and the assignment, that could on for days or longer.

Like most vacations, I was not alone.  I shot this more like a vacationer might. A snapshot of the city, but not the whole story. Not compelling content, but rather a collection of photographs that convey a sense of place.

Most of us don’t travel alone to beautiful cities, alone, simply to photograph them. We are traveling with friends and/or family. The challenge for photographers on vacation, and vacation travelers with cameras,  is how to capture a place with memorable images, without straining relationships with friends and family. Here are a few tips that can help you capture the sense of a place and still keep the peace with your significant other.

  • Scout before you go. Take a virtual tour of the city or place you’ll be visiting. Identify the areas, and things, that will help you tell the story of your visit. Have a plan for your photography, before you get there.
  • Work your photography into the flow of the vacation. Wedge an hour of photography into a shopping trip or the like. Take a stroll, together, through parts of the city you want to photograph, with a shared event, like lunch or dinner at a special place, as the end reward for patience.
  • Travel light. I carry one camera body and 2/3 lenses. max. In Charleston, I used my Nikon D4 and 2 lenses to capture all of the images here. The 24-70 f/2.8 is my workhorse for travel photography. For details and tight shots, I use the 70-200 f/2.8. I prefer the VR II version. On this trip, the 70-200 wasn’t with me, so I used a 20 year old 80-200 f/2.8 as my long lens. No VR, but still a great lens. You don’t need the latest and greatest gear to create good images. What matters more is technique.
  • Know your gear. This seems like common sense, right. Funny, though, how people (photographers included) often wait until the moment they are about to press the shutter release (or after…) to learn their way around the gear they have in their hands. Know before you go. Your pictures will be better for it.
  • Keep it simple. Visual story telling, for travel photography, is about creating  a collection of images that convey a sense of place. Trying to capture that singular image that your friends, family (or editor somewhere) will swoon over, will take valuable time away from the rest of the story. Odds are that a completely unscripted, unintended, brilliant scene will come along and you’ll be there to capture it.
  • Be conservative, but be good. This is not a political suggestion, even though this is Charleston. No, this is about doing the best you can to capture images quickly and well, then moving on to the next image. If you’re a professional photographer, you know this. Enough said. What I often find, working with amateur photographers in workshops, is a need to overshoot. Dozens of images of the same scene. Control this and your work, and life, will be better for it. Think quality, not quantity.

To join Neil for travel photography workshops in Washington, DC, visit DC Photography Workshops.

Now, to Charleston.




The capital city of Washington, DC is one of the most photographer friendly and photogenic cities in the world. With its broad well-lit streets, low skyline and classic monumental architecture, it is often compared to a European city. For photographers and travelers alike, Washington is a wonderland of photographic opportunities!

Spend the day with award winning photographer Neil Colton capturing images of some of the most iconic architecture and historic sights in the world. Whether you are a veteran photographer, in search of new content, a visitor to Washington interested in capturing images of city and it’s historic sites or a traveler preparing for a trip, looking for tips on creating great travel photographs, this walking tour and photography workshop is a perfect choice for you!

Neil Colton is a Washington, DC  based professional photographer, who began his photography career as an architectural photographer. He has worked for several of Washington’s leading design firms, photographing award winning architecture.  He has also worked as a photojournalist, a travel photographer and a documentary photographer. Neil’s travel and documentary photography has been published and featured in publications such as The Washington Post, Elan’ Magazine and Professional Photographer. He understands the power, and the craft,  of visual story telling. Working with Neil, you will not only learn about the city and the sites you will visit, but also how to create a photographic story, with compelling images of some of the world’s most iconic and historic buildings and monuments.

 At the end of the day, you will have a new portfolio of wonderful images of the Icons of Washington, DC and the city that is home to them.

What You Will Learn

We will discuss both the technical and the creative aspects of travel photography, including:

  • Best gear choices for travel photography
  • How to photograph architecture on your travels
  • How to compose your images for impact
  • How to create extraordinary images from ordinary scenes
  • How to create compelling portraits of people on your travels
  • Creating a visual story of your travels
  • Quick and simple post production options
  • Creating a ‘sense of place’ in your work
  • Photographing people on your travels

Sites You Will Photograph

  • The White House
  • The Vietnam War Memorial
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The Korean War Memorial
  • The WW II Memorial
  • The Jefferson Memorial
  • The FDR Memorial
  • The Martin Luther King Memorial

Date: Saturday, October 15, 2016

Time: 9am-2:30pm

Cost: $150

Who Should Attend: This workshop is for photographers and travelers interested in travel photography and general photography. Technical instruction is  aimed at DSLR and mirrorless camera owners with interchangeable lenses.

Questions?: Contact Neil Colton using the Contact Form.

Register here: DC Photography Workshops

To see more of Neil’s work click here and go to the Travel Portfolio. Neil’s  Facebook page is here.






Washington DC Portrait Photography-The Next Step-Julia


Washington, DC Portrait Photography-Mark Yoo Architect

Neil Colton Photographer

Washington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Fine Art Maternity Portrait


For more than a decade, I have photographed subjects ranging from award winning architecture to beautiful babies and brides.  No complaints here.

I love using my photography skills to create content for a broad and diverse range of clients. As a freelance photographer in the modern marketplace you take whatever assignments come your way. But freelance assignments can take you through an alphabet of subjects, styles and locations.  One week it’s photographing a young couple on a farm, creating content for their new website  promoting organic products and a healthy, alternative lifestyle. Another week finds you deep in the heart of the city, capturing images that tell the story of the people and neighborhoods they live in, creating content for an ad agency. It’s like being a utility player on a soccer team- one week you’re an attacking  midfielder, the next you’re starting at right back. Still, no complaints.

Through the years, there is one subject that has consistently drawn me in and captivated my interest more than any other- the portrait.  I never tire of creating images of people.  Though portraits have been a part of many assignments, rarely have they been the focus.  As it turns out, I am a portrait photographer at heart.  I have had the good fortune to work with some wonderful clients to create a few memorable portraits, while creating thousands of images of everything else. I have decide it’s time that changes

I have joined a new commercial photography studio, fully equipped with great lighting gear, hair and makeup artists,  changing rooms, visitors areas and 3 separate studios, each with a different look. Located in Alexandria, VA,  just outside of Washington and minutes from Reagan National Airport, the studio will be convenient to local and out of town clients alike.

Studio portrait services will include:

  • Professional headshots of actors, entertainers, musicians, artists and professionals
  • Professional portraits and portfolio sessions
  • Executive portraits and headshots
  • Fine Art portraits
  • Maternity portraits
  • Black and white portraits

I will still continue to provide location portrait location portrait services, including:

  • Outdoor portraits
  • Home or business location portraits
  • Environmental portraits
  • Lifestyle portraits

If you are in the market for new portrait or a new portfolio, contact me. Together, we will create great images of you!

A sample of portraits from my current portrait portfolio is here:


Washington DC Portrait Photography-The Next Step-Julia
Washington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step-ChildrenWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Children IIWashington DC Portrait Photography - The Next Step- Child- HeadshotWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Professional Portrait-AuthorWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step-Professional Portrait-ArchitectWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step-Studio PortraitWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step-Professional Portrait- EntrepreneurWashington DC Portrait Photography-The Next Step-Lifetsyle Portrait-McKenna FarmWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Studio Portrait of a Father and NewbornWashington DC Portrait Photography- The Next Step- Lifetsyle Portrait-Mc Kenna Farm IIWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step - Portrait of an Artist
Washington DC Portrait Photography- The Next Step - Female HeadhotWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Location PortraitWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Portrait of a ModelWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Maternity Portrait of a CoupleWashington DC Portrait Photography -The Next Step- Fine Art Maternity PortraitWashington DC Portrait Photography-The Next Step- Location Portrait of a ChildWashington DC Portrait Photography-The Next Step-Lifetsyle Portrait-McKenna Farm III


  • Jacklin Kido - The next step, Id love to see what we can do


Another in an occasional series about travel and travel photography. This post features Arcadia Bluffs, one of the premier public links golf courses in the United States.


Portrait of golgers at sunst at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia MI.


Every photographer experiences a period of struggle, when the creative mojo disappears.

Mine arrived when I made the decision to stop covering weddings, which had dominated my work for years.  On the heels of that oh so sublime moment I was elevated emotionally, but I soon realized that I was also burned out, creatively. Tens of thousands of pictures of brides and their merry maids can do that to a photographer.

So, I took some personal time to recharge my creative batteries and to spend time with friends and family, in beautiful Northern Michigan.  After intense periods of work, with endless deadlines and demanding clients, time away from camera and clients can be therapeutic. New places and new projects can be a tonic for renewal. It was for me. Unlikely as it would seem,  I got my photography mojo back during a round of golf on one of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses I have ever set foot upon. A place called Arcadia Bluffs.

From Wikipedia:

Golf Digest selected Arcadia Bluffs as one of the 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the United States in 2005. The course was ranked #10 in America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses list and #56 in the 100 Greatest Golf Courses list. In addition to the Golf Digest ranking, Golfweek magazine ranked Arcadia Bluffs at #24 in their listing of The 100 Best Courses in United States.”

Arcadia Bluffs is a links course, in the style of the early Irish and Scottish courses, carved into the bluffs on the shore of Lake Michigan. At its highest point, it sits a few hundred feet above Lake Michigan. The views from the elevated tee boxes are simply stunning. It is challenge enough just to play this course, without the pull of amazing vistas to complicate your vision and your swing. I have no complaints, though. I am convinced that in the heart of every amateur golfer lies a belief, however fantastic, that on one day, in one place, all of the hours, days and weeks spent in toil will coalesce into a perfect round.

On this day, in this place, for a few brief moments, that happened to me, at a place called Arcadia Bluffs.

Portrait of Arcadia Bluffs golf course with golfers in the distance along Lake Michigan
Portrait of a golfer as he tees of at Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan.A gollfer tees of at Arcdia Bluffs Golf Coirse set against the brillaint summer Michigan sky.Silhouette portrait of a golfer teeing off toward Lake Michigan at Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course against a brilliant blue Lake Michigan.Still portrait of a golf ball on a green at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Candid portrait of a golfer putting at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of one of the majestic greens on the Arcadia Bluffs Glof Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of a lone golfer planning his approach shot on a fairway of the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan. bathed in late after Michigan summer sun.Portrait of a golfer driving his cart along the fairway as the sun sets on Lake Michigan at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Action portrait of a golfer powering his way out of a bunker on the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.
Candid portrait of a golfer chipping onto a green at the Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of a golfer chipping onto the green as the sun sets on Arcadia Bluffs golf course in Arcadia, MichiganSilhouette portrait of a golfer putting on the back nine of Arcsdia Bluffs with Lake Michigan in the background.Portrait of golfers on the tee at Arcadia Bluffs golf course, with Lake Michiga in the background.Portrait of the setting sun on Arcadia Bluffs Gof Course in Arcadia, Michigan.Portrait of the course at Arcadia Bluffs as the sun sets on Lake Michigan.Portrait of three golfers on the back nine of the course at Arcadia Bluffs.Night portrait of the clubhouse at Arcadia Bluffs, as viewed from the 18th fairway.

A note about that water color. That blue is real. I kid you not. I capture all images using the Neutral setting on my Nikon pro bodies. For you Nikon shooters that’s a setting below standard. By below, I mean less saturated. Nikon’s Standard setting is too ramped up for me. The colors seem unnatural and over saturated, with too much pop. I do all of the color work in post production (after the image is in my editing software). I actually had to ramp down (reduce saturation) the colors in many of these shots, because they were so powerful they seemed supernatural. A local resident tried to explain why the lake was sooo blue, but he lost me at kelp.



Lifestyle portait of Sarah and Joe at McKenna Farm

Just a brief trip north of Washington, DC lies the historic City of Frederick, MD.

From the City of Frederic website:


Here, museums meet martini bars, scenic landscapes provide thrill seekers with adventure, and cutting edge cuisine is served up in Civil War-era buildings alongside unique specialty shops, galleries, museums, and theaters.

Located less than one hour from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Gettysburg, the city of Frederick, Maryland is surrounded by mountain views, wineries, orchards and vibrant Main Street communities. Visitors can hike on the Appalachian Trail, visit Maryland’s largest brewery, and tour a battlefield all in one day.

This is Frederick County, where hip meets historic every day.

It is there, in the beautiful rolling hills and lush countryside of Frederic County, MD that you will find McKenna Farm, the country home and rural retreat of Joe Mckenna and Sarah Brennan. I spent the day there, recently, creating lifestyle and portrait photography content for the new McKenna Farms website.

About Sarah, Joe and McKenna Farms, in their own words:

Our Journey

In every city dweller, there are dreams of an escape to the country. But what happens when a city couple from D.C. purchase a 220 year-old farm house to try and live out their “Downton Abbey” dreams?

Well……that’s where our story begins and we can assure you that the execution of that dream has been far more difficult than anticipated; and our confidence often outshines our abilities and resources at every turn. But we find opportunity in every crisis and we are slowly mastering our new domain. We hope you’ll settle in and follow our journey from the Capitol to the Country.

The beginning. Like most city couples, we wanted to be part of the farm-to-table movement, eat locally, support smart farming, reduce our impact on the earth, etc. However, our participation stopped at our local farmer’s market because we didn’t have the time or the know-how to bring the country into our city lives.

We toyed with the idea of buying a little country house for years and when we finally did it, we imagined great weekend escapes with afternoons of skeet shooting and evenings of dressing-for-dinner. To our surprise, we quickly replaced those activities with eight-hour days in the garden and enough manual labor to make even the biggest outdoor lovers shutter. Somehow, and to our great surprise, we both became slightly addicted to a simpler lifestyle and all of the amazing things we were learning.

We had no idea just how happy we would be playing in the dirt, learning to grow our own food, raising animals, and bringing an old house back to life.  This is our journey from Capitol to Country.

Joe & Sarah


Portrait of Sarah in the garden at McKenna Farm
Lifetsyle Portrait of Joe building a stone wall at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of products at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography of Sarah at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of Joe at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography of the garden at Mckenna FarmLifestyle Photography of Sarah in the garden at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of products at McKenna FarmLifetsyle Photography of a table setting at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography at Mckenna FarmJoe & Sarah at the main house at McKenna FarmLifestyle Photography of Sarah and Joe at McKenna Farm
Mckenna Farm Lifestyle Photography Sarah