Neil Colton Photographer: The Road Less Traveled » Lifestyle, Travel & Fine Art Photography by Neil Colton

 

Lifestyle Photographyof a couple on the Georgetown Waterfront in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON DC LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY IN GEORGETOWN

The afternoon sun bathes the Georgetown waterfront in a warm golden glow, on a cool, crisp afternoon in late November.

Add a beautiful couple and the work of a Washington, DC  lifestyle photographer turns to the task of creating compelling images. For that, location matters. Fortunately, I work in Washington, DC, one of the most photogenic and photographer-friendly cities in the US. With its broad, well lit streets, low skyline and accessible architecture, this city never lacks for good locations.

Toady, I choose Georgetown.

Located on the western edge of the city, bordered by the Potomac River and an urban setting laced with style, light and texture, Georgetown is consistently one of my favorite places to work. I can shoot a dozen sessions there and create a different portfolio for each session, simply by walking a short distance. Depending on the look I want, Georgetown offers more distinct settings than other place in DC.  Along the C&O Canal are the gritty remnants of its industrial past. One block north, along Wisconsin Avenue, finds the energy of new architecture and the upscale urban life. A few short minutes away from the city center is the elegance of the historic architecture of the residential areas surrounding the street life.

I met Amit & Veronique at Dean and DeLuca’s on a beautiful day in late November. With clear skies, crisp fall air, temperatures in the high 50s and just enough chill in the air to add a touch of red to the cheeks, the day was near perfect. We spent the next two hours strolling along the Georgetown waterfront, looking for the right light and the right spots to shoot. At the end of the day, we had a wonderful collection of photographs for this couple and for me to add to my ever growing portfolio of lifestyle images.

A few of my favorites from the session with Amit & Veronique.

Candid portrait of a couple strolling along the Potomac River in Washington DC.
Candid portrait of a couple walking along the Georgetown waterfront in Washington DC.Lifestyle Photographyof a couple on the Georgetown Waterfront in Washington, DC.Portrait of Amit and Veronique strolling along the Georgetwon waterfront in Washington DC.Fine Art Portrait of Amit and Veronique on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington DC.Portrait of Veronique and Amit near the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, DC.Portrait of Amit near the Key Bridge in Washington, DC.Fine Art Black and white portrait of a couple on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, DC.

 

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POrtrait of a couple kissing on an escalator in Washington DC.

Cold weather coming? Winter in the air? No problem for a photographer in the very photogenic city of Washington, DC. Here’s a flashback to one of my favorite winter lifestyle sessions.

 

Washington, DC Lifestyle Photography: Sarah & Jake

 

The high temperature in Washington, DC may climb to a sizzling 30 degrees today.

Add winds gusting to 25mph and the real feel is near zero. For the residents of the city of Washington, this will be one very cold day. Today’s weather reminds of a nearly identical day in January last year, when I photographed Sarah and Jake during a lifestyle photography session here in the city.

Washington is a beautiful city for location photography, but when the temperatures drop and the winds start coursing through the National Mall, the location of first choice is not outdoors. Our original plan was to shoot on the National Mall, using the iconic sites and monumental architecture of Washington as a backdrop. But with high winds and brutally low temperatures, it was no place for an outdoor session, unless pink cheeks are your thing.

So indoors we went, to one of my favorite places – the East Wing of The National Gallery of Art.

I began my career as a photographer photographing architecture. Those who know me well, know that I love combining images of people with the built environment. At this point in my career, the contrast, context and the energy that the city brings to my photography are part of my photographic style. Good architecture adds an element that complements the visual story and provides a compositional anchor to build on.

So, shooting a location session in one of Pei’s creations was an absolute pleasure.

From the moment I first became aware of his work, I have been an ardent admirer of I.M. Pei. He has the unique ability to create architecture that is at once outside the box, by design, but somehow finds a way to blend into, and enhance, its surroundings. The East Wing is a perfect example – an ultra modern structure woven into the fabric of the tradtional monumental architecture that is Washington, DC and the National Mall. The East Wing is one of the first examples of iconic modern architecture in this city and it has held up well as the number of award winning modern buildings in the city has slowly increased.  Pei’s interior design, and the beautiful natural light of the East Wing, made this a perfect setting to capture images of Jake and Sarah.

Fortunately, January is not high season for tourism in Washington, DC so we had the unusual experience of being nearly alone. This session turned out to be one of my favorites. A delightful couple and award winning modern architecture. A combination hard to beat.

 

 

Canidid portarit of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.
Portrait of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.POrtrait of a couple kissing in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple kissing in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple during an engagement session in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple in a gallery in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple talking on an escalator during an engagement session in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple on an escalator in a Washington DC gallery.POrtrait of a couple kissing on an escalator in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple kissing inside a sculpture at a Wasgington DC gallery.
Candid portrait of a couple talking on a balcoony during an engagement session in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple on an escalator in a museum in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple talking on a pedestrian bridge in a Washington DC museum.Portrait of a couple in a museum on the National Mall in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple riding an escalator in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a couple on an escalator during an engagement session in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple during an engagement session in Washington DC.Portrait of a couple at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.Candid portrait of a girl kssing her fiancePortrait of a couple on the National Mall in Washington DC

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lifestyle portrait of a couple wearing shades near dupont circle in washington dc
lifestyle portrait of a couple wearing shades in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple walking along a street in the georgetown section of washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple in the georgetown section of washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple on a fire escape in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple on a fire escape in washington dccandid portrait of a couple kissing on a fire escape in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple talking at a table in front of a rowhouse in washington, dclifestyle portrait of a couple sitting at a courtyard table in washington dclifestyle portrait of kristy in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple in washington dc
lifestyle portrait of a couple in the residential section of georgetown in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple leaping in front of the national cathedral in washington dclifestyle portrait of a couple leaping in front of the national cathedral in washington dc
Washington, DC Lifestyle Photography: Daniel & Kristy

 

To some, things just come naturally.

Like being comfortable in front of the camera on a 100 + degree day. Really. 100 degrees and Daniel and Kristy look perfect. This is one session I won’t soon forget.

Over the past weeks, we had tried to schedule this session in cooler times. But between Kristy’s travel schedule, Daniel’s work schedule and my full session schedule, we could not get it done. So, here we are, on a blistering late summer day in the city of 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.

I’m in lightweight shorts and a Dri-Fit top, carrying the lightest camera bag I own, packed with the minimum of gear. And still I feel the weight and force of this oppressive heat and matching humidity.

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

I feel like I’m dropping weight from the stifling heat and humidity, as the moisture rolls off me. 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 and cruel heat. That makes my job almost effortless. 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 your gear dry.

We met on a sizzling Friday evening (104 + degrees was the high temperature for the day) near DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. I love to shoot in the city. The urban setting makes a wonderful backdrop. The scenes and settings just roll at you. And if the light is good, it is a joy to shoot.

So, even in 100 + degree temps, this was fun. A special thanks to my creative director for this session- Daniel, of Daniel and Kristy. Like I said, he’s a natural.

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington DC Lifestyle Photography: Olga & Sergio

 

Colton-washington-dc-portrait-photographer-sergio-and-olga-georgetown

 

Lifetsyle photography has many looks.

From golfers playing a challenging links course in northern Michigan to scenes of urban life in the newly gentrified sections of Washington, DC, it is a genre that defies a simple definition and it is one of my favorite types of photography. Lifestyle photography has always been an important of my work, whether it is photographing a couple in Georgetown or creating content for commercial clients, like Airbnb.

So, when Olga called to schedule a lifestyle session, I was delighted.

With clients who are not professionals, these sessions are a freewheeling, unscripted joy ride. No director or creative consultant breathing down your neck, telling you what shot looks great, what angle to shoot and when to break for a hair and makeup ‘refresh’.  I choose the time, the place and the images I want to create. Armed with a skeleton script written by me, we just roll.

Olga and Sergio are no ordinary couple. Either could find work in modeling, but together they make the work of photographing them like no work at all. As photographers often say when the subjects make their lives this simple, ‘the camera loves them’.

For their lifestyle session, I choose the Georgetown section of Washington, DC. Georgetown is that wonderful mix of historic and modern architecture, tony shops, bustling streets and an historic canal lined with former factories that hail from the industrial period, when Georgetown was a booming manufacturing center. BUt Georgetown is also one of the most popular spots in Washington, so my biggest challenge is isolating the subjects from the teeming crowds of tourists and residents that regularly fill the Georgetown streets and alleys.

Somehow, we did that. In the end, we came away with some wonderful images of this fashionable couple.

All thanks to Olga and Sergio and a place called Georgetown.

 

washingon dc portrait photography olga and sergio
washington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington dc portrait photography olga and sergiowashington 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.
    Anna

  • 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!

WASHINGTON DC PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY: PORTRAIT OF AN ARCHITECT

 

Washington, DC Portrait Photography: Portrait of an Architect

Portrait of an Architect

 

THE MAKING OF A PORTRAIT OF AN ARCHITECT

When the call came in.I was set up on the front porch, enjoying a rare quiet moment.  I love porches. I spend as much time on ours as I can. Looking back, it was likely the reason we built the house.

Framed  in crisp white trim boards, with a grey flagstone floor, it is a simple porch, spanning nearly the entire width of our Arts + Crafts style home.  Defined by white pyramidal columns, a white Shaker style railing and set against the pale yellow clapboard that wraps the house, it provides a warm and inviting entry into our home. With wide open views of the 280 acres of protected wetlands that border our land, it offers a quiet retreat. I retreat there as often I can.

Back to the call.

It was Mark Yoo, an architect in Alexandria, a city that borders Washington, DC. He was referred to me by a fellow architect. Mark told me he liked my portrait photography style, particularly my environmental portraits. He thought I could be the right portrait photographer for his new project. Mark was building a new website and creating a new brand. He needed a new portrait, a new image, a new look: a portrait that would match his vision of him and his work and complement his new brand. He was not a fan of the ‘typical’ portrait experience. He was hoping my approach to portrait photography would be different. His last portrait session had been “brutal”, according to Mark.

That portrait was ‘professionally’ done in a local studio by a well known photographer. That session checked all the usual boxes:  studio setting, studio lighting, black backdrop, bathroom to the right, you get the point. The result was a generic looking 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.  I was ‘In’.

Finally, he asked “Are you interested in this project”
I didn’t hesitate.  “Absolutely. 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 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, soon.  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 summer in the in city of Washington, DC. Outside temperatures were hovering in the upper 90s, with 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 business and the afternoon students were rolling into our chosen studio, now. Really? I thought we had booked it. Nope. As these well planned events often go, the studio administrator had never received Mark’s message to the studio owner about our portrait session. They were using our studio.  It was booked 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. First, shade was a problem. There was none. Next, the best I could find had a background with such strong background that it would be entrirely blown out.  I would have to overpower that strong backlight it 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 any indoor option, as we were exiting the studio.

And there it was.

As we were nearly at the end of the entry hallway, I spotted a small room to the right.  It was cluttered and looked to be in use, but it had high ceilings, brick walls painted white, a killer tall window and a view of the buildings outside. Daylight was streaming in the windows, but fading oh so quickly. And so was our time. The entire studio was filling up fast. 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. We were in!

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

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

 

 

 

 

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