Color Index by Monling Lee in Washington, DC

This week’s Best of Instagram feature takes us to Washington DC through the local lens of Architectural and Urban Designer Monling Lee. We love Monling’s unique style! Her vibrant spot-on color palette create a beautifully unique consistency throughout her feed. It’s almost as if she is creating an alternate reality of her local city.  Lucky for us, she shares that beautiful reality on her feed. Be sure to check out Monling’s beautiful work here @monlinglee.

Name:Monling Lee

Place you live: Washington, DC

Occupation: Architectural and Urban Designer

Preoccupation: Developing the COLORINDEX narrative, which is a visual exploration of the intersection of personal style and the built environment through a highly colorful lens.

Place your Instagrams were taken? Mostly in and around DC with a healthy amount of travel snaps mixed in.

Can you sum up Washington DC? The Nation’s Capital has two parts: a Federally-owned Washington, and a local District of Columbia. For most outsiders, the city mainly conjures up images of the museums and monuments on the National Mall. Local residents, however, live and work outside of the monumental core in parts of the city that are far more diverse and real.

What is a perfect day in Washington DC? Mid-morning brunch followed by a stroll down 14th Street filled with people-watching, window-shopping, and photo-taking. Mid-afternoon visit to a favorite museum to check out a new installation or exhibit, followed by a late-afternoon power nap. Evening activities commence with a cocktail with friends, followed by a meal at a recently-opened restaurant. Not someone who enjoys staying out late, a stroll home would bring the night to an end.

If Washington DC was a person or character who would it be and why? A government employee who has a creative side hustle.

How long have you been using Instagram? About three years.

Do you shoot with your phone or other cameras or both? I used to exclusively shoot with the phone for the first year or so after creating an Instagram account. More recently, with the launch of the website (, I started working with a photographer for the creation of personal style images. Images of the built environment, however, remain largely products of the iPhone.

What is your editing process? As an amateur photographer shooting on an iPhone, the images I shoot do not always reflect a scene’s true vibrancy. The editing process that follows are attempts to reconcile the saturation levels between how colors are experienced by me and how they are sometimes inadequately captured. Depending on an image’s particular editing needs, I use a combination of apps, mainly Snapseed and VSCO, to apply various properties.

Has Instagram/phoneography affected how you shoot? Phoneography and Instagram happened to me simultaneously when I first switched to a smartphone (an iPhone 5) three years ago. Before then, I used to only take photographs with a humble point-and-shoot camera while traveling, which simply points to how little photography played a part in my life. The combination of iPhone and Instagram completely changed my relationship with photography, as maintaining my Instagram feed has now become my primary hobby, and sometimes more. An iPhone allows me the readiness to capture the mundane urban scenes that I find inspirational while Instagram provides a platform to connect and engage with various creative and visual communities from around the world.

Can you give a couple tips to aspiring Instagram photographers? Develop a clear visual line of inquiry and remain faithful to it.

Who are your three favorite Instagrammers? I follow more than one thousand Instagram accounts, but my favorite feeds are by far the ones that also study and catalog colors in the built environment. Individuals such as @teklan, @maryavocado, and @panuheikkijohannes capture mundane scenes and somehow create extraordinarily interesting graphic compositions out of them. Their individual curiosity emerges out of the images they create, and they continue to teach me how to see my surroundings in different ways.

Want more Instagram tips and inspiration? Check out all of our Best of Instagram features and learn from the masters.

Want to be featured on our best of Instagram series and bask in the glory? Follow Global Yodel on Instagram and tag your best local shots with #GlobalYodel!


Name:Monling Lee

City:Washington, DC

Best place to eat:

Brunch at Le Diplomate on 14th Street; Falafel bar and fries at Amsterdam Falafel; Izakaya Seki for exquisite Japanese small plates.

Best place to drink:

The Wydown for coffee; Estadio for cocktails; American Ice Company for a beer while people watching.

Best outdoor activity:

Strolling around different neighborhoods on a crisp fall day.

Must do:

First time visitors to DC should always spend some time on the National Mall for the monuments and museums. However, itinerary on the Mall alone can vary depending on one’s interests and affinity. As a designer with a modern sensibility, my favorite spots are those that are not predominantly historic: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Gallery of Art East Building, The Vietnam Memorial, and the Washington Monument. There are also a number of well-designed public spaces that are a little bit off the beaten track, including Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, the Gateway Pavilion in Anacostia, and Canal Park in Navy Yard.

Local tip:

As a small city that consists of interconnected neighborhoods with well-appointed properties, DC is ripe for explorations on foot. The city also offers various transportation options for those who would like to cover more ground at a quicker pace. The Capital Bike Share and the city’s network of dedicated bike lanes are great to get around while remaining above ground to absorb the sights.