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

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My schedule was full. I was booked for the season.

I was struggling to keep up with the pace of lifestyle photography and portrait session requests. Requests and bookings were coming at a fast and steady clip.  My available dates had changed when added professional portraits and travel photography to my services.  With long term personal projects and new commercial clients in the mix, my available shooting days were limited.

As Olga and I were talking, I began to stall for time, drawing out the conversation, uncomfortable with telling her that I wouldn’t be able to photographer her and her family.

Then, Olga casually mentioned that she was drawn to my portrait photography as art, from her perspective as an visual artist. That’s all I needed. I was IN.  She had me at artist’.

Full disclosure. I have a soft spot for artists and creatives.

That is likely why I have more portraits of creatives in my portfolio than of any other professional category.  Creating a portrait starts as a collaborative process. Creating a compelling portrait requires that collaboration to reach a high level. I confess that I simply may not connect with traditional corporate and legal types in the same way that I connect with creatives. Look, I enjoy the challenge of creating original portraits of anyone, but match me with an architect, a writer, a musician, an actor or an artist and I feel an immediate kinship, an understanding and an appreciation of a shared interest. A kindred spirit.

Back to Olga and Sergio. I found a way to work them into my schedule. Next, where to shoot.

For the family portrait session, we chose beautiful Meadowlark Gardens in Virginia. A perfect setting for for a variety of natural light family and individual portraits.

For Olga and Sergio’s  lifestyle photography and portrait session, we chose Georgetown. One of my favorites places to work in Washington, DC, Georgetown rarely disappoints for texture, context, light and setting.

Here are a few of my favorite portraits of Olga + Sergio from their lifestyle portrait session in Georgetown.

washingon dc portrait photography olga and sergio
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  • Anna - Neil, you’ve done a great job – the photos are absolutely amazing. You are a very talented photographer. I like the framing and the light, and the couple on the photos. Georgetown is definitely a very romantic place for a photo shoot.

  • Kvetka - Wow… What a great photo session! I love to see a couple so relaxed on the photos and so in love with each other. Georgetown is very recognizable and such a great spot for photography and at the same time the photos look as if it belonged just to Olga and Sergio! The light and the texture of the old walls, the canal with the shadows on the water and the walking path under the bridges – all looks just remarkable…

  • Irina - Beautiful photo session of one of the most beautiful couples I know!

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, Washington, DC 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, looking for new content, a visitor to Washington looking for the best images of the iconic sites or a traveler preparing for a trip, looking for photography tips and techniques that will make your travel images pop, this walking tour and workshop is a perfect choice.

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. 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, you will also learn 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 Lincoln Memorial
  • The Korean War Memorial
  • The WW II Memorial
  • The Washington Monument
  • The Jefferson Memorial
  • The FDR Memorial
  • The Martin Luther King Memorial
  • The East Wing of The National Gallery of Art (I.M. Pei’s Award Winning Design)

The Itinerary


8:30-9: Orientation

9-11:30:  Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Martin Luther King  Memorial

Lunch: 11:45-12:45: The East Wing of The National Gallery



The East Wing of The National Gallery, The National Gallery Sculpture Garden, Washington Monument, WW II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, The White House and The Executive Office Building

To see more of Neil’s travel photography click here and go to the Travel Portfolio and Facebook here.

Register Here


Welcome to DC Photography Workshops, offering comprehensive and unique photography workshops, seminars and tours set in the beautiful historic city of Washington, DC. Our goal is to provide the most informative, educational, inspirational and enjoyable photographic learning experience available in the Washington, DC area today.

To that end, all of our instructors are experienced professional photographers, working along side you throughout the day, sharing their technical and creative knowledge and experience. We believe this hands-on approach to be the most effective way to connect with our clients and teach the aspects of photography that cannot be learned online or in books. Our workshops, seminars and tours are kept purposely small to allow our instructors to work with, and respond to, each workshop client individually.

Our flagship series, Portraits of the City, offers photography tours and workshops focusing on the historic sights of Washington, as well as the less traveled urban scenes. The Icons of Washington workshop is the perfect way to capture images of some the most storied sights in the city. Take advantage of the introductory rate, while spots are still available. Coming in 2016, we will be adding new workshops to this series featuring Washington’s growing list of Modern Architecture (Yes! Washington is indeed home to wonderful modern architecture). The Urban Scene series will include photography tours of Georgetown, Adams Morgan and the DuPont Circle area.

In the spring of 2016, award winning photojournalist and acclaimed street photographer John Free will join us for a 2 day weekend workshop, focusing on street photography and visual story telling in Washington, DC.

For those looking for a truly unique photography learning experience, we offer a Custom Workshop option where you select the destinations and we write the script! This is the perfect solution for those individuals, or small groups, interested in more intensive personalized instruction.

As we continue to grow, we will be adding new workshops, seminars and tours to our offerings, based on our research and your feedback. I invite you to join our email list for announcements of future workshops and special offers only available to our email subscribers.

I look forward to meeting you at a DC Photography Workshop soon!

Neil Colton, Photographer

Lead Instructor: DC Photography Workshops

For the latest lineup of workshops, click here.


DC Photography Workshops was founded by Washington, DC based photographer Neil Colton. Neil’s professional photography experience includes architectural photography, photojournalism, travel photography, lifestyle and portrait photography and wedding photography. Neil is a Professional Member of the American Society of Media Photographers.



Another in an occasional series about travel and travel photography. This post features Arcadia Bluffs, one of the premier 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 creative struggle. 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 the camera and clients can be therapeutic. New places and new projects can be a tonic for renewal. Turns out, 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 Neutral setting on my Nikon bodies. For you Nikon shooters that’s a setting below standard. By below, I mean less saturated. Nikon’s Standard setting is still 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 (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. A local resident tried to explain why the lake was sooo blue, but he lost me at kelp.