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

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Award winning photographer Neil Colton leads private photography tours in the historic Capital City of Washington, DC. These personal tours are designed for individual photographers and groups of up to four. The focus is on travel photography, lifestyle photography and photojournalism,  capturing images of the iconic, historic sites of this beautiful city and learning 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



This post features Arcadia Bluffs, one of the premier public links-style golf courses in the United States. Rated the #3 course in Michigan, the #13 public course in the United States and ranked #68 of all courses, public and private, in the US, Arcadia Bluffs is ne awesome track.

Contact Neil for details about purchasing Fine Art Prints from this series available in the Arcadia Bluffs Collection here.

Portrait of a golfer at sunset putting as the sunsets on Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course in Arcadia MI.

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

When my mojo went south, I went north. To recharge my creative batteries in beautiful northern Michigan.  Spending some quality time with friends and family was long overdue. After intense periods of work, with relentless deadlines, endless editing and demanding clients, time away from camera, computer and clients was sorely needed.

But how to get those creative juices flowing again?

The solution? To the links, young man!  During a round of golf on one of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses I have ever set foot upon, I rediscovered my love for photography. A most inspiring place.

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.”

To the course.

I am convinced that in the heart of every amateur golfer lies a belief, however fantastic, that one day, in some unexpected place, all those hours, days and weeks spent in toil on the practice tee and fairways will coalesce into a near perfect round.

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

Arcadia Bluffs is a links course, in the style of the early, and legendary, Irish and Scottish courses.  Carved into the bluffs on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is at once awe inspiring and intimidating.  At its highest point, the links are more than one hundred feet above Lake Michigan. The views from the elevated tee boxes are simply stunning. To play this course well is a true challenge for the average golfer. But add the pull of breath taking vistas and a dramatic and this becomes much more than a simple round of golf.

On to the images of Arcadia Bluffs and that sublime late summer day once upon a time.

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.

About the water color. Lake Michigan is blue like no blue I have ever seen.

That blue is real. I captured the images this day using the Neutral color setting on my Nikon DSLR pro body, as I do for all images I capture. For those of you who are Nikon shooters, you know that is the setting below standard or ‘normal’. Out of the gate, Nikon’s Standard setting ramps up the colors far too much for my liking, so I choose the Neutral setting as a starting point and add color and saturation as I like. I actually had to ramp down (decrease) the colors in many of these shots, even in Neutral, because they were so strong that they seemed supernatural.


Washington DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of An Artist

Olga Bauer is a talented Washington, DC mixed media artist, specializing in abstract art. She is also a friend and a wonderful subject for portrait photography. Olga and I met a few years ago, when I photographed her and her family on a warm sunny day in May. We enjoyed that session so much that we decided to meet again in the fall and create a series of portraits of Olga alone.

For this session, I chose a location along the Potomac River, just north and west of the city. Bordered by a broad walking trail cut through a deep dense forest, the location was perfect for the day. We met there on a bright cool morning in November. The fall colors were stunning and so was Olga, as we spent the next few hours searching for the best locations to create a series of portraits for Olga’s personal portfolio.

Olga is not only a very talented artist, but she is also a wonderful model, with qualities of elegance, poise, beauty and patience that are admired and appreciated by this portrait photographer. Shooting in the studio allows control of every aspect of a portrait session. From the ambient temperature in the room to the color and quality of thelight, the photographer is in complete charge. No guesswork there.

Move outdoors and that all changes, dramatically.

Everything becomes a challenge and that continues through the session. From choosing the best locations to managing pink cheeks to harnessing (or avoiding) the power and beauty of a brilliant sun, creating portraits on location requires a patient (and adventurous) model and an experienced photographer. On this day, Olga brought the patience and adventurous spirit and I brought the camera, along with a bit of experience.

Many thanks to Olga for a wonderful session and to helping me create some great portraits of her!

To see Olga’s artwork, please visit

Thanks for checking out Washington DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of An Artist!


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.

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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