This is Real Life - From Air Force Veteran to Pin Up Girl

Her confidence was beautiful to behold as she climbed onto the 62-ton tank in stilettos. Her smile was beaming, her unicorn hair was being tousled by the wind, and she was having a blast. 


Meet Peggy Sweet, a 59 year old Air Force Veteran and local Redmond resident who now bears the title of Miss Shakedown 2017. 

For the third year in a row, the Miss Shakedown Pin Up contest was held at the Car + Motorcycle show to benefit the Redmond VFW, and put on by the Patriotic Pinups of Central Oregon to help raise awareness for veterans. The winner received hairstyling and makeup by Cydnee of LemonDrop Salon, and a Pin Up photo session with ME. 



But to Peggy, winning Miss Shakedown was worth so much more than just the title. 

Did you know that 1 out of every 7 Oregonians is a veteran? And as Peggy herself stated, "women veterans are often forgotten." After 10 years of service in the Air Force, Peggy returned back home to Redmond to become a part of the community, went on to get married and have a son, but only recently rediscovered a piece of herself. No longer recognizing herself in the mirror, she grew inspired after seeing last year's Shakedown Pin Up contest, and told herself she'd lose 60 lbs, get in shape, and be a part of the contest the following year. So it was a beautiful surprise when she WON.



Her next challenge? She might just take up modeling. 

See even MORE. Peggy Sweet was interviewed for War Stories, and you can see her full interview here.  (And you'll even spot me doing my thing in there from time to time.)


Reaching for the stars | Lifestyle Fashion Photographer in Bend, Oregon


Stretch high + reach for the stars.

Who knows... you might just become one, yourself.

Truth time.

There's been a LOT of stretching + reaching.

And a lot of growth.

When I first started out as a photographer, I was HORRIBLE at posing people.

Like, deer in headlights kind of horrible.

See, I loooooove candid photos, and excel at capturing real moments.

But back in the day, I didn't realize how important it was to CREATE the moment + GIVE people a way to interact so they could express that emotion.

I was awkward.

They were awkward.

And thank GOD a friend who'd been in front of my camera finally told me just how awkward it really was.

Because then I got better.

And better.

I studied posing techniques for different body types.

I studied lighting techniques.

I learned how to make people comfortable in front of my camera.

I learned to multitask... keeping up a steady stream of conversation with my "models," while making technical calculations in my head + adjusting my equipment.

My skill set grew + I began to blossom as an artist.

And subsequently, time and time again, I've been told by those who nervously step in front of my camera that the experience was actually FUN.

They say "Wow... you made me look beautiful."

And my reply is always the same... "That beauty was already there. I just helped share it with the world."

Tomorrow, you can see for yourself.

Because tomorrow, the Fall Arts + Fashion Issue of @sourceweekly hits the stands, and one of their main pictorial stories (and the COVER) features 12 models of the zodiac signs, photographed by ME. And the "models" weren't actually models at all. They were REAL people. Which makes my heart even happier.

This was a collaboration of soooooo many awesome people here in Bend... project stylists, hair + makeup artists, jewelry artisans + more. And I can't WAIT to see our work in print.

Go grab the issue as soon as it hits stands... I'd love to hear what you think. ❤️

(Pssst... this isn't an image from that shoot. Those pics are secret till tomorrow. This image is from a past workshop, as I was working on some posing skills.)

Capturing the EMOTIONAL story

When it comes to taking photos, what's your WHY? 

Watch the video below to hear MY why, and see if you agree... 

For ME... it's to REMEMBER.

Not just the milestones, but all those everyday moments of love, laughter, and everything in between. 

You might laugh, but I've got the memory of a goldfish. Things come in and out, and the details disappear. But flash a photo and I'm instantly transported back in time... not just to the moment when the photo was snapped, but to that morning when I was picking out my clothes. I remember laughing hysterically at the joke told that afternoon, and I remember where we headed for dinner that night.  

Sometimes, taking photos is less about creating the perfect image, and more about remembering the perfect day.

So, please... no matter WHAT camera you're using, please keep taking photos. Just don't forget to hand the camera over to someone else or set the self-timer every now + again to get IN the pictures, too! Trust me, your family will THANK you... they want to have pictures WITH you, too.

Or better yet... sign up for a photo session with ME, and get ready for the most FUN + stress-free photo experience ever!

If you're in the Orange County, CA area, I'm heading your way at the end of the month, with sessions available on August 25 + 26.
Click below for more info + to reserve your spot.

If you're in Bend, Oregon + surrounding areas, I'm available for you NOW! Click below for more info + to book your spot!

Orange County, CA Sessions happening Aug 25-27 - BOOK NOW!

So, here's the scoop: I'm flying back down to Cali for a few days, and am opening up my schedule for a VERY limited number of sessions.

And heads up... while I AM planning on coming back down again in October + November, this just might be your LAST CHANCE to be a part of the WHO I AM Project till 2018. I'm entering my mega-busy season, which means it's best to snap up a session before they're all gone!

Below are the photo session types (and dates/times) available in August...



This is the no-stress solution to getting the photos you CRAVE.

Includes in-depth planning, 1-2 hours of camera time at the location(s) of your choice, and 50 final high-resolution digital images, as well as 4x6 prints of ALL images. Fine art products such as wall canvases and albums are also available for purchase.

Great for getting a jump on your holiday family photo session, or if you're a business owner, for getting brand new custom content for your website, blog + social channels.

cost: $499 ($199 retainer fee to hold your spot; balance due prior to receipt of photos) 


Friday, Aug. 25 from 10-noon

Friday, Aug. 25 from 2-4pm

Saturday, Aug. 26 from 3-5pm




Tired of Back-To-School Pictures that SUCK? I've got a solution for you...

Mini-sessions include 30-40 minutes of camera time at a favorite park of mine in Irvine, and 15 final high-resolution digital images. Products such as additional digital images, prints, wall canvases and books are also available for purchase.

Hint, hint... you can also book a mini-session for a FAMILY SESSION + get a jump on your holiday cards!!!

cost: $199 (due at time of booking).

Can also upgrade your package after viewing your final photos. Click to view full pricing info.


Saturday, Aug. 26 from 10-10:30am

Saturday, Aug. 26 from 11-11:30am

Saturday, Aug. 26 from noon-12:30pm




This is the photo experience that EVERYONE is talking about...

Geared towards instilling positive self-esteem in preteens, the WHO I AM Project is a special session type only available to tweens ages 10-12. There's NO session fee involved, and you're also gifted $50 towards the purchase of a package. ($149 value, for FREE!)

Includes 30-40 minutes of camera time at a favorite park of mine in Irvine. Parents are sent questionnaires to hand out, and a video featuring new images + positive quotes from loved ones is created for the tween + parent to watch together. Packages start at $299, and a la carte purchases are also available.

HEADS UP: This might be your LAST CHANCE to join in the "Who I AM" Project for the year!!!

$99 retainer fee to hold your spot (and applied as a credit toward your purchase when you see the final photos)

Click to view full pricing info


Sunday, Aug. 27 from 10-10:30am

Sunday, Aug. 27 from 11-11:30am

Sunday, Aug. 27 from noon-12:30pm

Sunday, Aug. 27 from 1-1:30pm


How to HAVE FUN at Your Wedding!

When the father of the bride whips out his cellphone halfway down the aisle + takes a selfie...


Yeah... THESE are MY kind of people!!!

In all the chaos of wedding planning, don't forget that this is YOUR day + it can be whatever you want it to be. Try not to get so caught up in all the details that you forget to have FUN along the way. With that in mind...

here are my rules for how to have a fabulous wedding day (and a great LIFE, too):

1. Always be yourselves.


2. Celebrate however YOU want.


3. Create new traditions (like rocking out to choreography with your dad instead of a father/daughter slow dance).


4. Have FUN.


5. Surround yourselves with JOY.


6. And remember... even though there's a timeline in place, this is YOUR day. Things will happen, and not always as planned. But that's okay. Because the day can't progress without you there, anyway! And because there will be tons of other insanely incredible, non-planned moments happening, too. And some of THOSE just might become your favorites. 


So breathe it all in. Take a few heartbeats to realize this is a celebration of your love, and notice you're surrounded by the best of the best to help cheer you on in your journey. So smile till your cheeks hurt. Dance barefoot. Hug everyone within arm's reach. Laugh till your sides hurt. And feel the LOVE.


Wanna see more? Check out this highlight reel from a recent wedding:

Befores + Afters


My life can be measured in a series of "befores" and "afters." 

Before and after the divorce. 

Before and after moving to Oregon. 

Before and after my renewed sense of self-confidence.

What I like to refer to as the OLD me and the NEW me.

The OLD me never would have done this. I mean, I would have WANTED to, but I never would have dared. The simple act of sitting alone in the middle of a busy restaurant, enjoying a solo meal. I mean, alone. And at BRUNCH... the one meal designed for gatherings of people. 

Gasp and swoon. I know. 

And while this isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff (and you just might be rolling your eyes as you're reading this), it took me YEARS to get to this point. Not just being okay with the solo-journey, but actually ENJOYING it. Seeking it out, on purpose

I could have invited my boyfriend along. I could have called up a few friends, too. But I wanted a different kind of experience this morning. I missed myself, and wanted to take HER on a date. 

So I sit here and indulge. Take time over my coffee. Sneak glances at the couples and families around me (making up stories in my head about them), and smile at the waitstaff rushing by. I read a new book, and journal a few words in the notebook that I keep stashed in my purse for such occasions. 

Totally content, caffienated, and ready to take on the rest of my day.

With confidence.

// pssssst... if you're ever in Bend, Oregon and have the chance to eat at McKay Cottage... doooooo eeeeeeet!!! 

Christina + Mark // Maternity Session in Bend, Oregon

"I can't really put into words what I'm looking for... but something that looks like natural poses without actually being overly posed. What we are looking for during this shoot is something a bit different. I don't like cliche poses. I want this shoot to capture our fun loving relationship and be as natural as can be while capturing the deep love we already have for our little guy."

Mission. Accomplished.

Christina and Mark were troopers. They'd picked out a spot for their maternity shoot ahead of time, but of course Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate. The temps dropped to below 50, and then it even started to rain a bit.

But they didn't care. They nuzzled, whispered wishes for their baby's future, and spoke aloud the many things they loved about each other.

And the magical moments unfolded before my camera. Click. Wow.

Check out a few highlights from this maternity session below:

Christina + Mark had come to me wanting a few photos to hang on the wall of their nursery. They left with the photos they'd desired... and a few beloved memories.

A sample canvas wall art display, showcasing a few of their favorite images. My clients can "try before they buy" to ensure their wall art is the perfect fit for their home.

A sample canvas wall art display, showcasing a few of their favorite images. My clients can "try before they buy" to ensure their wall art is the perfect fit for their home.

Interested in a maternity session or another photo session of your own? Contact me to get started!

How to: take SPLASH pictures

Photography has long been used as a way to freeze a moment of time. And now you can take that to the next level, with incredibly awesome SPLASH photos.

I recently challenged myself to capture some pictures of cookies splashing into milk as updated marketing photos for The No Bake Cookie Co.

And I was so thrilled with the outcome, that I wanted to share how I got those splash photos with you all! (Because some things are just better when they're shared...) So, ENJOY!

learn how to take milk splash photos by The Suitcase Studio // marketing photo taken in Bend, Oregon for No Bake Cookie Co

How to capture SPLASH photos

1.   ITEMS NEEDED: A mug or glass, milk or another liquid (coffee might be pretty awesome here, too), something to drop into the liquid for the big splash (I used a No-Bake Cookie), a table or ledge to set the mug/glass on, a backdrop of some kind (I used black cloth), a tripod for your camera, and a fast lens (able to open to an aperture of 2.8, 2.0, etc.)

2.   SETUP: I set up a folding in the shade (for indirect sunlight). I set an empty cardboard box on the table for some background height, then draped the black cloth over the box and the table. Ta-Da... instant mini-studio! The camera was placed on the tripod at the edge of the table (to avoid the splash zone), and tilted downward just a bit for my desired angle.

3.   CAMERA SETTINGS: I used my 50 mm lens for this one. My aperture was set to f/2, ISO 400, and a shutter speed of 1/3200. I set my camera to BURST mode, so I could hold the shutter button down, rapid-fire style, and capture LOTS of images in a short amount of time (because you never know WHEN the best splash will happen)!

4.   DO THE THING: The mug was set on the table and I framed my shot. It helped to fill the mug up all the way to the TOP with milk, to create a much better splash. It's also easiest to do this with an assistant, so you're not reaching awkwardly to drop the cookie and snap the pics at the same time. I had my helper hold her finger near the "drop zone," so my camera had something to focus on, using auto-focus. I then switched the lens to manual focus, so my camera wouldn't get confused and try to focus on anything else. NOTE: Once you've set your focus, don't move the mug , camera, or tripod!

5. DROP AWAY! Take pics. Play. Change the angle and framing from vertical to horizontal (and reset focus), till you get what you like. And don't forget to have FUN!

how to take milk splash photos - by The Suitcase Studio - marketing photos for No Bake Cookie Co in Bend, Oregon

Want some AWESOME marketing pics for your OWN business?

Like what you see? I'm available for hire in Oregon and California... hit me up to learn more!

Interested in learning how to take better pictures on your own? Sign up below!