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

a new kind of online love story

Way before Facebook and Instagram was the norm, I stumbled across Ronalyn’s blog and started following along. Comments led to discussions, discussions led to emails, and somehow we found ourselves as long-distance, online friends. She was in Maryland (and then moved to Alaska and later to Hawaii… they are an Air Force family), and I was here in Southern California.

And then my friend became my mentor. She was a photographer, and I was considering walking that path. I took a deep breath and asked if she had advice for me, where/how I might get started, etc. And while most people might do the opposite, she laid her soul bare to me, showed me the inner workings of her business, and helped me launch my own. From pricing to templates to vendor suggestions… then to ideas and support and even MORE support, she gave everything to this person whom she’d never met in real life.

I am, and will always be, eternally grateful for that… knowing there’s no way I’d be where I am today without her. (And she’s a HUGE reason as to why I try my best to pay-it-forward, as well, and help those who now come to ME for advice.)

Mentoring turned into deeper friendship, and I can honestly say that she’s one of my closest friends, and knows me inside out. We have come to know both the good and bad about each other. We email/text when we need to vent, when we need some support, and when we have something fabulous to share.

Finally meeting in person for the first time 3 years ago, we spent a few days together in Las Vegas for the WPPI expo, and it was as if we’d known each other a lifetime. (Seriously… it was like a 12-year old girls’ slumber party… with all the giggling and gabbing we did.)

Last night, we came together in person again… and it was like a slow-motion, running towards each other, mega-hug moment. Her family had come to California for vacation, and there was NO WAY I was missing out on seeing them! With limited time together, we met up at Downtown Disney for some drinks/dessert. Her kids entertained themselves on their phones for the most part, later mentioning how they don’t think any of us stopped for breath at all as we gabbed away. Ronalyn, myself, and our husbands… it was as if the four of us had been friends forever, and were just picking up where we’d last left off (even though the husbands had never met before, and we’d never met each other’s husband before this night). Magic. Simply magic. And two hours just flew by!

We left with promises to see each other again, not saying goodbye, but “see you later”… and were already texting each other again within minutes.






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

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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!


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  • 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.

Guests 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.


I, 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.

These 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.

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

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


For 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.

She 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.


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