The Suitcase Studio » FUN Orange County family photography by The Suitcase Studio

first birthday cake smash

People say it’s rude to play with your food. But I disagree. Especially if you just happen to be turning ONE year old, and it’s your birthday cake in question.

first year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange countyfirst year cake smash session in orange county

before and after…

first year cake smash session in orange county

Contact me to learn more about how a cake-smash session can be the *perfect* addition to a first year photo session, and a great way to practice for the real cake at your kiddo’s first birthday party.

Personal Branding is the New Professionalism

I’ve been chatting lately about the importance of having a great bio picture, and how it can really help get your message across. But today, it’s about pulling it all together.

Today’s post is by Nicole Longstreath of The Wardrobe Code:


Business Headshots in Orange County by The Suitcase Studio

There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

Oh, honey – that’s so twentieth century.

Before you can establish a name for yourself as business person and service provider, you have to have good personal branding. And part of branding is telling your story in a visual way.

Not the story you think the world wants to hear, but your unique, compelling story.

So this is it, baby! A photo shoot is your chance to tell the world who you really are, to differentiate yourself from competitors, and to create an urgent, insatiable desire for your services.

Because, as most of us are aware, clients don’t buy services – they buy YOU.

Clients don’t buy a haircut, they buy attention and pampering.

Clients don’t buy the result of months of dieting and training, they buy the accountability and motivation that comes with a personal trainer.

Clients don’t buy legal services, they buy security and peace of mind.

So, for an upcoming photo shoot, you want to take a look at your current branding to see how you can create some consistency. Not in love with your current branding? No problem. Having an updated photo shoot is a great way to course-correct.

Business Headshots in Orange County by The Suitcase Studio

And, speaking of branding, we’re not just talking type fonts and colors.

When you’re planning a photo shoot, you need to consider 2 very important things:

1.) What is the overall theme or concept for my business?

For me, it’s rebellion.

My target customers feel like they’re on the outside looking in when it comes to fashion. They’re dying to be themselves and not ruled by trends – but they do have a desire to be fashionable in their own way.

So, for my own upcoming photo shoot with Michelle, we’re going with a theme of rebellion to communicate to my target clients, I get you.”

2.) How does that theme translate visually?

Remember when I said, “clients buy YOU”?

No pressure, but you’re basically summing up your entire personality and business in either one or a brief series of photos. However, you can make the process easier by gathering some inspiration images to help guide you – and Michelle – toward the final result.

(Pinterest is a good tool for this, by the way.)

First you need to consider your surroundings – do you want studio or on location?

A studio shoot is going to feel more polished. Everything is more controlled – the lighting, the setting, wind/no wind – and it usually puts 100% of the focus on you.

But maybe that’s not your brand. Maybe you want the scene to be part of your brand. Maybe your brand is more outdoorsy or artsy, and a specific, on location scene would actually help you tell your story.

Business Headshots in Orange County by The Suitcase Studio

Now that you’ve figured out where you’ll be shooting, you must decide what you’ll be wearing. Here’s the deal: you can’t phone this in with a plain white button-down and hope that your sparkling smile will be enough.

Long gone are the days when the ultimate goal was to look “professional.” Yes, professionalism counts, but people want to know you get them.

To plan your look for your photo shoot, go back to your photo shoot concept (remember, mine is rebellion) and plan your outfit around that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to create a literal interpretation of your concept – like a costume – you simply want your outfit to be inspired by this concept.

I’ve been speaking a lot about

To help you put this together, imagine you’re your target client: what do you want them to feel when they see your photo?

The answer: this person gets me. They understand my troubles and have a solution for me.

See, it really comes down to being your true self – just dial it up half a notch for your photos by adding some interest with color, pattern, accessories. Even a simple, but spectacular, dress will do the trick.

And this is where making the investment of quality photography comes in.

Anybody can put a camera in your face and create a pretty picture – but what you need, as a business owner, is someone keen to helping you tell your story in a visual way. A way that compels your target client to imagine working with you, and how transformative it would be for their life.

That’s the thing about your clients – they just want to be understood. And they’re looking to hire someone to help them feel understood.


Nicole Longstreath is on a mission to save women from the dysfunctional shopping experience. She is a wardrobe stylist working with women across the globe to build personal brands that command attention and influence. You can find her at her home base,


Ready to update your bio photo? Click on the image below to learn more and save your spot!


Karen - Great photos of an incredible woman with great style! Love them all.

Knott’s for the Cure

“We want women to survive and thrive through breast cancer.”

And with that statement, applause thundered throughout the room.

Knott’s Berry Farm has proudly partnered with the Orange County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, and it was there at the celebration breakfast that the true power of it all began to unfold. The room was a sea of pink, but it wasn’t just the decor. Audience and speakers alike were decked out in the color that has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness, showing their support thereof and solidarity with one another.

Because everyone has a story.

Every. single. person. in that room had been touched in some way or another by breast cancer… whether they were a survivor, a support, or were there to honor someone’s memory. In Orange County, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. But, thanks to Komen’s funding of research, new treatments and awareness of the importance of annual mammograms to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most curable stages, the survival rate for breast cancer has risen dramatically over the 33 years of the organization. Leading to many more celebrations like this one.

Because there was a strength in that room as I’ve never before seen. These women were powerful, and many of them weren’t even aware of their strength and beauty. The survivors stood tall. And a few women, still undergoing treatment, stood the tallest of them all. These women will not go down without a fight.

They’ve taken their stories, their struggles, and their pain… and turned it into strength. Turning towards one another for not just comfort, but the recognition that they weren’t alone in this battle, and then taking that strength and bringing it out into the world to help others.

The mic was passed, and a few stories were shared. Many had a similar theme: “I can’t have cancer. I don’t have TIME for this.” Because it’s often overlooked… just because a woman deals with “the C word,” it’s not like the rest of the world slows down around her. One woman mentioned her own struggles in balancing real life again, and said she worried about spending too little time focusing on her son. But out of the mouth of babes sometimes come the healing words that are needed the most: “Mom, remember that day when we were helping to save lives? That’s what it’s all about.”

Breakfast was concluded the way it began… with thunderous applause and cheers… as Rebecca shared her own experience: “I am 4 years away from cancer, and every day I walk further away from it and give it the finger.”

It had been stated that the journey through breast cancer is like riding a rollercoaster. There are definitely ups and downs, any maybe even a bit of screaming and crying. But there is also strength in numbers, and no one needs to go through the journey alone.

With that thought in mind, the breast cancer survivors went for a symbolic ride together on the Pony Express… one of the rollercoasters of Knott’s Berry Farm.

Surrounded and empowered by those who have all “been there before,” their screams of fear turned instead to screams of joy.

Knott’s Berry Farm is playing a pretty big role in helping to find a cure for breast cancer. From February 1 through March 31, they are offering a special “Pink Ticket” for theme park admission (available for purchase online at, as well as limited edition specially designed “pink” merchandise. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen Orange County. And to kick off the promotion, Knott’s Berry Farm has generously donated $25,000, which will provide 400 women in Orange County with life-saving breast health services.

KnottsSusanGKomen-65Guests entering the theme park during the time of the promotion will be greeted by this special display, and guests are able to purchase a commemorative limited edition magnet to place on the display in honor of, or in memory of, someone affected by breast cancer.


KnottsSusanGKomen-59I, myself, left a magnet in honor of my mom’s best friend, Jackie. She is definitely a strong woman, and the world is a much better place with her still a part of it.

KnottsSusanGKomen-55These magnets, as well as special edition pink Knott’s for the Cure shirts, are available in select merchandise locations inside Knott’s Berry Farm, and all proceeds will benefit Komen Orange County.

KnottsSusanGKomen-46You can even take a picture in-park and share it with your social media network.

KnottsSusanGKomen-50Because it’s all about spreading the word. Touching people at an individual level, so that their voices as a collective become that much stronger.


KnottsSusanGKomen-42KnottsSusanGKomen-37For instance… Jacque is a survivor. She got through it, and didn’t let her cancer define her. Just a little piece of her story: She is a single mom, and had just started taking classes at a community college when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found out on her son’s 2nd birthday. When many women might crumble under the strain, Jacque decided that she was not going to let it win. She continued her classes and graduated with a full scholarship to UCI. Just having graduated from there with a B.A. in Psychology, she is about to continue her education by going for her doctorate.

KnottsSusanGKomen-39She is most definitely an inspiration, along with so many other women I had the pleasure of meeting that day.
As individuals, they are strong. As a collective, hear them ROAR!


Show your love and support by participating in this wonderful event at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Visit to learn more, or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Visit to learn more, or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


how to get a good bio pic // part 2

Calling all entrepreneurs, bloggers and business owners… we’re continuing the discussion on getting a better bio photo.

Last time I told you why it’s IMPORTANT to have a good bio pic of yourself. Now we’re going to start going a little deeper to show you how to make it happen.

How to Get a Good Bio Photo // Part Two: Incorporating Your Message

First of all, let’s agree that your website/blog/social media and branding (in general) are all working together to send a message of some sort to the people that view it/use it/interact with it. The better you know who your target market is, and the better you know yourself (how you’d like your target market to see you), the more customized of a message you can create with your bio pic.


Example one: you’ve got a blog filled with outings and crafts for the family, a mix of sponsored posts and ones of your own creation; your target market is made up of mothers in their early 30s who are the primary caregiver of the kids (whether they be SAHMs or work part-time or full-time), and your message might be something along the lines of “I’m a mom of 3, balancing work and motherhood just like you, and am here to offer a round-up of fun and family-friendly activities so you have one less thing to stress about in keeping the kids (or yourself) entertained.” With this in mind, you’d want to make sure your bio photo makes you appear friendly and casual (for example, through more casual dress/hairstyle, big smile or laugh, tilted body or head, and “movement” in body language).

TFSExample two: you’re an accountant charging $425/hour; your target market is a mix of men and women in their early 50s who own their own businesses. The message you might want to get across is something like “I’m confident, reliable and fantastic at what I do; put your faith in me and I will take care of everything for you.” With this in mind, the photo would be a bit more on the serious side (for example, through a dressier outfit, calm body language, and making strong eye contact with the camera).

TFSNow, that’s not to say that the person in example one doesn’t have a serious side, and the person in example two doesn’t laugh and play.

But the anatomy of a “good” photograph is different than the psychological structure of one.

What this means: Your bio photo should not only be a good photo of yourself, it should also mirror the message you want to send to your clients.  

Not quite sure what your “message” should be? Try these quick exercises to figure it out:

  1. List 3 words to describe your target market.
  2. List 3 words to describe your business.
  3. List 3 ways your business is unique.
  4. List 3 words to describe yourself, as you’d like your target market to see you.

Once done, look for patterns and select the strongest words, or the ones that resonate with you most. Ta-Da! You have your “message.”

Using myself as an example… the 3 words I keep in mind for all of my own branding/marketing: FUN, PERSONAL, and STRESS-FREE.

Now, keeping those three words in mind… look at the two pictures below.

TheSuitcaseStudio Business Casual Bio Photo_0003

I personally looooooooove the image on the left. Not to sound conceited, but I think it’s a great picture of myself. My hair is perfectly in place, my skin is smooth, my eyebrows and eye makeup look great, and the look in my eyes is a bit smoldering. Yeah… I rock.

As a comparison… I’m not quite as “pretty” in the picture on the right. I see my flaws a bit more: my eyes always “disappear” when I laugh, my face gets wider, my nose flares a bit, and my top lip pulls waaaaay up to expose a lot of gum above my teeth.

But… most people would NOT have noticed all the little details I just pointed out. Instead, most people are drawn to the PERSONALITY that is exuded in the picture on the right. It’s JOYFUL. I’m not only smiling, but LAUGHING. My pose isn’t stagnant but is in motion. I’m looking away from the camera, which is always a bit more playful of a pose (and in another psychological ploy, I’m looking towards the right which actually draws the eye in that direction). And, as lovely as it is, the same emotions do NOT apply to the image on the left.

And so, as you might have noticed, I’ve been using the image on the right as my bio pic. Because even though it’s not the most beautiful picture, it is perfectly aligned with my brand: FUN, PERSONAL and STRESS-FREE.

Make sense?  Now it’s YOUR turn.


Need a bit of help to get started, or would love for ME to snap your new bio picture? YOU’RE IN LUCK!

Business Casual MINI-SESSIONS are available on February 22 and 23

Registration is now officially OPEN, and space is extremely limited. So be sure to click here to save your spot!


 And stay tuned for part 3 in this series, when we talk about location and lighting.






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