Neil Colton Photographer: The Blog » Lifetsyle, Portrait, Travel & Fine Art Photography by Neil Colton


The Lincoln Memorial by Neil Colton PhotographerVietnam Womens MemorialWashington DC Photography Tours-FDR Memorial


Photographer Neil Colton leads private photography tours in the historic Capital City of Washington, DC. These personal tours are for individual photographers and groups of up to four. The focus is on architectural photography, travel photography, street photography and photojournalism. where you will capture images of the iconic and historic sites of this beautiful city and learn to tell the story of your visit with compelling photographic essays.

With its broad well lit streets, low skyline and easy access to monuments, memorials and museums, Washington, DC is one of the most photogenic and photographer-friendly cities in the world.

Photography tours are 4 hours long and open to any level of photographer. Sites can include:

  • The Icons of Washington, including the White House, The Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial and other iconic sites on The National Mall
  • Capitol Hill
  • DuPont Circle
  • Georgetown
  • Adams Morgan

Neil will lead you to the best places in Washington to create compelling pictures of this historic Capital City.  He will also lead you to sites that are off the beaten path, where tourists and visitors rarely go. As a former lead instructor for one of Washington’s most popular photography tour companies, Neil knows the city well.

Unlike the fast-paced, heavily scripted tours, your itinerary is flexible and can be changed on the fly. Throughout the day, Neil works alongside you, at your pace and without pressure, to make sure you see the city as you want to see it and that you capture wonderful images of the city of Washington, DC.

About Neil

Neil began his photography career as an architectural photographer, creating images of award winning projects for architects and design firms. He has worked as a photojournalist, a commercial lifestyle photographer and as a contract photographer for a media company in New York, creating portraits of CEOs and CFOs in the financial world. His travel photography has been featured in regional publications and travel magazines. His commercial clients have included ad agencies representing Airbnb, American Express, AT&T and Anheuser Busch. His documentary portraits of The People of Haiti were used as the stage backdrop for high profile benefit concerts in the US, following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010. They have also been used by several international non-profit organizations and NGOs for worldwide promotional campaigns.

His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Professional Photographer, Elan’ Magazine and Hilton Head Magazine, among others.


  • For solo photographers, the rate is $325.
  • For 2 photographers, the rate is $285 per photographer.
  • For groups of 3- 4 photographers, the tour rate is $275 per photographer.

To schedule a private photography tour or workshop, or for more information, contact Neil by email here.

Spring and summer 2019 tour and workshop dates are booking now. Please contact me if you are interested in a private tour of Washington or a personal photography workshop. I would love to share this beautiful city with you!



It was truly a great experience having you personally taking me around Washington, DC and teaching me excellent photography tips and insights from your considerable personal experience. “

Dr. Ian L., Santa Monica, CA

I was heading to Europe, ready to take great pictures of the cities and sights in England, Spain, France and Italy. My new camera was all that I expected, but my pictures were not. They were more like snapshots: flat and boring. A friend recommended that I take a travel photography workshop with Neil before the trip. I am so glad that I did! In a few short hours Neil showed me how to compose a photograph and ‘see’ the picture, before I snapped the shutter. He also showed me how ‘tell a story’ with my pictures. Working with Neil has given me the confidence to take on Europe with my camera!

I can’t wait for the plane to take off!

Steven S., Bethesda, MD

I have taken many workshops and tours, but Neil’s private tour in DC has been the best of them all. I learned more in 3 hours with Neil than I did in the 3 years I have owned my DSLR. His instruction is clear and simple and he takes the time to work with you individually. I definitely recommend Neil to anyone who wants to improve their photography and create great images.

Linda C., Washington, DC









Washington DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of an Author: Joel Backaler

Washington DC Potrait Photography: Portrait of an Author: Joel Backaler

The email was from friend and former client Joel Backaler.

Joel was close to finishing his first book,  an exploration of Chinese companies expanding internationally. He needed a distinct professional portrait that would be used for the jacket cover. According to Joel, this portrait needed a different look than the the ‘standard’ headshot and corporate portrait so often used for websites and media.  It would appear in his book, on his website, in major major media publications and at his speaking events around the world.

Based in Washington DC, Joel is a consultant with the international consulting firm Frontier Strategy Group. Before coming to Washington, Joel spent 5 years in Asia, working and traveling across Mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore. This gave him a unique and very personal perspective on the country and the commerce he explores in his book.  Although this is Joel’s first book, he is no stranger to writing or to being published. His writing has appeared in several major publications including Business Week, Forbes and Fortune.

To the session.

We discussed the setting.  Joel wanted a location portrait, somewhere in the city.  He wanted the final image to be about him and not about the background or the context. He wanted to convey professionalism, strength and confidence. I settled on a location near the edge of the National Mall;  the DC WW I Memorial. Lightly traveled, accessible and small in scale, it is a hidden gem among the iconic sights of Washington.

Joel made it clear that wanted a portrait that did not scream ‘Washington, DC’. No iconic monuments or memorials as a backdrop.  This was the perfect place. It was in DC, but not of iconic DC. Columns for framing, a dome for shade and a broad colorful landscape beyond, for context and depth.

The session wasn’t without it’s share of challenges, but what would life as a professional photographer be if every shoot was like a stroll trough on the mall, literally. There was a special event at the site the day of the session.  We worked between and among the people passing through, milling around and visiting.  No problem, right. Piece of cake.  Working quickly and quietly  we captured 6-8 good ‘looks’.  Within an hour we were done and on our way.

Joel’s book, China Goes West was released to critical acclaim.. A marathon of early morning, late night and non-stop weekend writing sessions finally come to a close. Now, the book tour begins!

Congratulations, Joel. It’s time to start racking  up those frequent flier miles, again.

 Inline image 1
Praise for China Goes West:
‘A thorough and thoughtful examination of one of the most important trends that will help shape the future of business, technology and society. Joel has written a clear account of the globalization journey, helping readers understand the challenges, opportunities, risks and rewards of ‘going global.”

Yang Yuanqing – Chairman and CEO, Lenovo Group

“Smart, practical and highly readable… In China Goes West, Joel Backaler brings an important, accelerating global business trend into timely focus.” 

Mark Duval – President, American Chamber of Commerce in China

‘Joel Backaler’s book is a real eye-opener. Written in a clear, precise, and ready-to-use manner, it tells the tale of contemporary China’s ‘Journey to the West’.’

Davide Cucino – President, European Union Chamber of Commerce in China

‘Joel Backaler’s comprehensive China Goes West will be the go-to-guide for those looking to get up to speed quickly on the greatest business story of our time.’ 
Julian Chang – Executive Dean, Harvard Kennedy School    
More information can be found here:

Professional portrait of author Joel Backaler in Washington, DC



Washington, DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of an Architect

Portrait of an Architect


The call came in around 3 in the afternoon.

It was Mark Yoo, an architect in Alexandria, a city that borders Washington, DC. He was referred to me by a fellow architect. Mark was looking for a photographer for his new project and he like my style of portraiture. He was building a new website and creating a new brand for his firm. He needed a new portrait, a new image, a new look: a new portrait that would match his vision of himself and his work and complement his new brand. He was not a fan of the ‘typical’ portrait experience. His last portrait session had been “brutal”, according to Mark. He was hoping working with me would be different.

That portrait was ‘professionally’ done in a local studio by a well known DC area photographer. The session checked all the usual boxes:  studio setting, studio lighting, black backdrop, smiling assistant, bathroom to the right. You get the point. The result was a predictably generic headshot: brightly lit, sharp from front to back, ear to ear awkward smile and lacking any connection to the viewer. It had all the charm of a marketing promo for a 3rd tier wedding DJ. Mark hated it.

For the next 20 minutes, Mark talked about architecture and his work, passionately. He spoke of his vision, of his new brand and the look he wanted me to bring to this new portrait.

Finally, he asked “Are you interested in this project”

I didn’t hesitate.  “Absolutely. I;m IN. Now, let’s talk about how to do this.”

Many portrait photographers are wary of working with architects. They occupy a unique place in the portrait universe.  Architects are often perfectionists, highly critical, consumed with detail and self absorbed. Traits that may lead them to success in the highly competitive world of architecture, but qualities than can be daunting for a portrait photographer.

I wasn’t concerned.

I spent years working for and with some of the top design firms and architects in the Washington, DC area. My career as a professional photographer began with architectural photography. I enjoyed working with architects, whether it was on a construction site, behind a graphics monitor in an office cubicle or, now, from behind a camera.

We made a plan.

Mark had recently designed a new dance studio at an arts center an hour south of the city. It was nearly finished. We would meet there and choose a location inside the studio for the portrait session.

A week later we met there to scout the site. I chose a spacious corner studio, with beautiful northern light falling into the room from the tall windows that lined the outside walls. The exposed brick interior walls, aged hardwood floors and barrs (ballet rails) added just the right touch of texture and an understated elegance to the setting.

We were set. This would be the environmental portrait Mark wanted, set in one of his projects, with beautiful backdrops.

We agreed on a date and time and to sort out the details.   Before I left, I scouted the studio and the grounds outside the studio, looking for alternate locations as a backup.  After years of location photography I have learned, the hard way, to have a Plan B (and even a Plan C and D) ready to go on session day.

The day of Mark’s session arrived.

It was high summer in the in city of Washington, DC. Outside temperatures were hovering in the upper 90s, with the usual high humidity. Typical DC summer weather. No problem. We would be working in the dance studio, in a beautiful room with soft northern light, right?

Not so fast.

The studio had just opened for the day and the afternoon students were rolling into our chosen studio, now! Really? I thought we had it booked, reserved for our well planned session. Nope. As these ‘well planned’ events often go, the studio administrator never received Mark’s message, sent to the studio owner, about our portrait session. The studio was bboked for dance for the rest of the day! No other suitable space in the entire studio was available. Everything was booked.

Remember Plan B? No problem. We’ll just move outdoors, right? We were on the move.

The locations I had scouted on the grounds were suitable, in a pinch, but they were not great, truth be told. First, shade was a problem. There was none. Next, the best spot I could find had a background with such strong backlight that it would be entrirely blown out.  I would have to overpower that strong backlight with even stronger light on Mark. I was not in love with that option. So, before we headed into the great, hot unknown of the outdoors, I looked intently for an indoor optionas we were walking out.

And there it was.

Nearly at the end of the entry hallway, I spotted a small room to the right, unoccupied. It was cluttered and looked to be used as a sort of conference room or employee lounge. It had high ceilings, brick walls painted a plae white, a killer tall window and a view of the buildings outside. Daylight was softly pouring in the through the windows and fading oh so quickly. And so was our time. The room would soon be needed, by the staff.  We had one hour, maybe less, to clean the room (full of furniture and staff gear), set up for the shoot and get our shots of Mark.

No problem. Let’s roll!

Mark was a great subject. It started slow, with Mark a bit nervous and uncertain, until my assistant decided that he was a Bradley Cooper look alike. aloud. Mark blushed and beamed!  That was it. He was was now relaxed and confident. Once I was able to calm my assistant down (be still her beating heart), things went well and they went quickly.

Less than hour later, the shoot done, we wrapped up, packed up and were on our way to our next photography adventure.


lifestyle portrait of a couple wearing shades near dupont circle in washington dc

[pp_gallery id=”6205″]Washington, DC Lifestyle Photography: Daniel & Kristy

As the long, cold winter drags on here in Washington, DC,  here is a post that is sure to warm up your day.

To some, things just come naturally.

Like being comfortable in front of the camera on a swelering hot day in Washington, DC. The brutal DC summer heat has arrived and the high temperatures this week are hovering at100 degrees. Add drenching high humidity and, well, you get the picture. It’s the reason air conditioning was invented.  For this session I’m in lightweight shorts and a Dri-Fit top, carrying the lightest camera bag I own, packed with the absolute minimum of gear. And still I feel the weight and force of this oppressive heat and matching humidity, like I’m in a perpetual sauna.

This is one session I won’t soon forget.

Why shoot in weather like this, right? Good question! We had planned for cooler times, but between Kristy’s travel schedule, Daniel’s work schedule and my jam-packed in-season bookings calendar, we just couldn’t get it done. But the window of time to shoot this session is closing quickly, so here we are on a blistering late summer afternoon in downtown Washington, DC, doing a lifestyle session for this remarkable couple.  ‘Remarkable’ may be an understatement. ‘Superheroes of the Summer Heat‘ may be a better description of these folks. Marvel should sign this couple to a conract!

Daniel & Kristy are in full dress-up mode. And they look amazing!

I feel like I’m dropping weight standing still.  Danile and Kristy look as fresh and as ready as if we were doing a studio session. Note to self. This couple would make great politicians, in case anyone asks, never breaking a sweat under pressure or cruel heat. Shooting a couple like this makes my job almost easy. Almost. There is still work to be done, but when it’s fun and the folks you’re working with are calm and cool it’s not really work at all, except for wiping the occasional foggy lens and keeping yourself and your gear dry.

So, even in 104 degree weather, this was fun. A very special thanks to my creative director for this session ~ Daniel, of Daniel and Kristy. Like I said, he’s a natural.

To schedule a Lifetsyle, Engagemnet or Portrait session, contact me for rates and availabilty. 2019 spring and summer session dates are booking now!