minted magic and holiday fun

Several months back, Minted.com asked if they could use a few of my photos as samples for their new holiday cards. It was fun to see my images start to pop up in several new designs, but yesterday was a FABULOUS surprise...

Out of THOUSANDS of entries, a card design which showcased one of MY images was selected as one of four Guest Judge winners of the Let it Snow! Holiday + New Year’s Photo Card Challenge! (squeeeeeeeee!!!!)

Guest Judge Elaina Sullivan, Market Editor at Domino selected the "Handwritten Noel" design by Sarah Curry.

Here is a snippet of this fantastic announcement, as seen on Minted's blog:

minted card design winner - photo by The Suitcase Studio
minted card design winner - photo by The Suitcase Studio

(See all the winners by clicking here.)

Although I REALLY should give a lot of the photo credit to my fabulous clients... this family was SUPER-adorable and it was their idea to bring the little car with the tiny tree tied up top. And, oh yeah... they all showed up in JAMMIES! (I puffy-heart people with this kind of creativity.)

Check out how much FUN we had together during last year's mini-session:


Ready to PLAY? I am holding Holiday Mini-Sessions this year on October 11 and November 9. Contact me to learn more and sign up for a session of your own.

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.

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.






What's your bio pic REALLY saying about you?

It's a brand new year. I'm sure you hit the ground running, right? A new year means it's the perfect time for a fresh start for your biz... new pricing, updated marketing plan, logo, branding colors and business cards in place, and even a new look for your blog/site. Whew! But there might be ONE thing that was overlooked....

What about your BIO photo?

Now, I'm not talking about the one on your personal Facebook page. Feel free to switch those in and out to your heart's content. What I'm wondering about is a MAJOR component of your brand that often goes overlooked. Yup, your bio photo. If you're an entrepreneur (whether you be in the corporate or the crafty world, have your name on a book jacket or a blog), it's important that you have a PROFESSIONAL photo that is a good representation of yourself. No longer can you get by with using a spiffy logo in place where your face should be... business has become all about connections, and people want to know who they're doing business with.

And repeat after me... A PROFESSIONAL photo does NOT mean it has to be serious or stuffy. In fact, I highly encourage the opposite (and we'll get to that in a moment).

The Suitcase Studio-headshot bio pic

Wondering if you need to worry? Think about this:

  • People make snap judgments. I'm sure you've heard that you have only seven seconds to make a first impression, but did you know that it's even LESS in the online world? A behavioral study showed that people can decide within 50 milliseconds whether they liked a website or not.
  • And that snap judgment can LAST. In what psychologists refer to as the "halo effect," whatever feeling the viewer had at first sight will spread to other areas, such as the website's actual content. And since people like to be right, they will continue to use the site that made a good first impression (as this action confirms their decision was a good one).

Here's what having a good bio pic can do:

  1. Make a quick and clear statement about YOU... who you are as a person and also as a business person/entrepreneur
  2. Help to make an easy (and instant) connection with your target market
  3. Help with brand recognition and reinforcement

The Suitcase Studio-business casual headshot in Orange County

 So... if a picture is worth 1,000 words, what's your bio picture currently saying about you?

And what would you like for it to say instead?

Let's figure it out together, shall we? In my Business Casual portrait session, we get into the nitty gritty of it all... to figure out what message you'd like to convey, how you want people to view YOU, and how to put it together with a few marketing tricks in order to capture the REAL you.

Not ready for a full session? No worries... I'll be giving you a few tips in upcoming posts to help you put it all together yourself (so stay tuned for those! And I won't leave you hanging, either:

MINI Business Casual sessions will be available at the studio on February 22 and 23.

Registration will open for these mini-sessions early next week, and space is extremely limited. So be sure to click here to sign up for my newsletter and be among the first to be notified when registration is live.

See you soon! And stay tuned for more tips on capturing the perfect bio picture. (Next up: how to quickly convey your message.)





Valentine's Mini-Sessions

love, love, love...

It's like magic. Even when frustrations are mounting, fuses are running short and tempers are high, all it takes is that one little look from them (you know the one) to melt your heart and make you grin. And just like that, you're falling in love all over again.

Whether it's with your husband, your adorable offspring, or even your fur-baby... there's nothing quite like them in this world.

Let me capture just a piece of their personality so you can remember it always.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I'm offering ONE DAY of Valentine's themed Mini-Sessions.

date: Saturday, January 25th location: Costa Mesa studio

Only FIVE sessions are being made available... click here to reserve your spot!


the look: classic white wall, wooden floor and pops of pink & red. Light and bright so that the personalities POP!


the cost: a $50 session fee to reserve your space, and the purchase of a portrait collection (beginning at $175). Valentine's cards and gifts are also made available through Minted.com. Full pricing information below.

Click here to reserve your mini-session now!


Okay... so ONE LAST CHANCE...

Click here to snap up one of my five Valentine's mini-sessions, and let's CELEBRATE your love!

Hope to see you soon!!!

Holiday mini-sessions are HERE!

Holiday-Mini-Sessions2013 Cost:

$200 for 30 minute session + 5 digital images -or- $325 for 30 minute session + all 15 digital images + choice of keepsake 4x6 print of each image -OR- keepsake magazine of your images

A $75 non-refundable retainer fee is required to reserve your timeslot. The remainder of payment will be due on the day of your session.

Additional prints + products will also be available for purchase. Holiday cards are available for easy purchase through Minted.com.


Saturday, November 23 Sunday, November 24 Saturday, November 30

To book your session, click on one of the dates above.

Location: my studio

765 Baker St., Suite A Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Background Options: Select one (or both) of the following:

1.  outdoor/backyard area featuring a vintage silver Airstream trailer 2.  indoor chalk-art wall scene with a cozy fireplace/snowy window, and a touchable tree

Heads up... these are the LAST mini-sessions I'll be offering for 2013! There will be NO minis offered in December, so don't wait too long to snag your spot!

Click on a date below to learn more/save your session time:

Saturday, November 23 Sunday, November 24 Saturday, November 30


Have something else in mind for holiday photos? Would one of my Signature Sessions work better for you? I've only got THREE dates left open for full sessions in 2013, so contact me ASAP if you'd like to sign up for one of them.


THANKFUL // short stories

Why should models have all the fun? Ever wanted to play in some of those scenes you've seen on Pinterest or in your favorite magazine? You know... the ones of the dreamy, creamy shots of the perfectly put-together people in the most creative places? The ones you instantly add to your "must do this someday" board that grows ever-longer by the hour? (But resign yourself to only staring at as your time and budget dwindle?)

Worry no more, my creative peeps. This dream-land CAN be your reality.

Enter: SHORT STORIES (styled mini-sessions).

Each month I'm offering a new scenario, complete with props and accessories to make it all your own.

because pretty pictures + personality = awesomesauce.


This month, it's all about being THANKFUL.

Sessions are taking place on two dates only (click each date for full info/sign-up):

Sunday, October 20

Saturday, October 26

Perfect for solos, siblings and the family. (And would make a GREAT alternate to the more traditional red-and-green themed holiday card this year... hint, hint.)

With minimal posing, this is more of an EXPERIENCE, full of conversations that center around giving THANKS and showing LOVE. It's a bit difficult to explain, so instead, let me SHOW you just a snippet of what you can expect.


I borrowed 2 nieces and a nephew last weekend to take a few sample THANKFUL shots to show you what it's all about.

And let me tell you... these might be beautiful kids (and I know I'm a bit partial since they're family), but they are NOT models. There was the usual sibling teasing, horsing around, shyness and silly faces whenever the camera swung their way. And that's totally normal, and totally expected. Because it's all about the in-between moments. The ones they don't even know I'm aware of. The moments where they lovingly hug a sibling for no reason, or smile at them in their own private way, or spin in a circle because they feel like it, or lose themselves in their own little world of play. The moments where the conversation turns serious, they say something lovely and totally unexpected, and it's something that imprints on your heart forever.

THOSE are the moments I capture for you.  Those are the moments we are all thankful for.

I love visual storytelling. And in keeping with the more editorial-style of these "short story" sessions, images from each session will be made available as its own unique printed magazine. Because in this digital world of ours, there's still magic in holding onto something tangible and being able to turn the pages. A print magazine sample will be present at the sessions, but click here to view the digital version  (ironic, I know).


Click on each date below for more info and to sign up for a THANKFUL mini-session of your own:

Sunday, October 20

Saturday, October 26

Hope to see you there! Can't wait to PLAY!

Short Stories (styled mini-sessions)

I was a beautiful mermaid and my younger brother was a handsome mer-butler (ha!), and the tupperware lids we'd bring into the pool with us became our pet jellyfish. We knew we weren't supposed to swim into the deep end... because that's where the shark lived. But we'd test our bravery by going deeper and deeper into the shark's cave... where the only way in or out was to touch the 4' marker at the side of the pool, and the little ladder at the end was our refuge on the rocks. (To this day, plastic butter dish lids still remind me of jellyfish.)   Remember what it was like to PLAY? To be a kid? Where imagination ruled and ANYTHING was possible? Yeah... I'd like to bring a bit of THAT back into our everyday lives.



SHORT STORIES. (styled mini-sessions)


30 minutes in length and styled to perfection, my "short stories" series is the perfect length of time to be able to relax in front of the camera & connect with your loved ones in a super-fun way, all while ensuring that your family looks like they stepped out from the pages of a magazine. Because why should models have all the fun?

Each month I'll be offering a new themed mini-session. Not only is it a great way to update all your kiddos' seasonal photos without them looking the same as everyone else's, it's also a fabulous way to experience custom portraiture without breaking the bank.

Upcoming themes for this year and next (with others to be announced along the way):

superheroes pajama party winter wonderland carnival mommy & me fairies

(and I'm open to suggestions, as well...)

Which leads me to this month's theme:


The scene: Sessions will take place inside my studio, and the scene will be a bit "boho chic." The main focus of the setting will be a 5' tall teepee draped in lace and cloth banners. Quilts and pillows will cover the floor, with hardback books, wildflowers and burlap-wrapped mason jars completing the look.

The experience: If you've had a full session with me, you know that I enjoy conversation and interaction amongst those involved... and this experience will be brought into my new "Short Stories" sessions, as well. With the holiday season right around the corner (and friends and family on our minds), I'd love to talk about what YOU are thankful for, what makes you happy, and see the little ways you show affection for one another. Perfect for photos of children and/or complete families (this would be a fresh take on the holiday family photo, as well). Please note: any children not able to sit on their own will need to be HELD at all times, whether by a parent or a sibling.

THANKFUL mini-sessions will take place on Sunday, October 20th and Saturday, October 26th

Info: Each mini-session is 30 minutes of FUN (though you'll be spending a total of one hour with me). The session fee is $49, with prints and products to be purchased separately.

CLICK HERE to sign up for an Oct. 20 session and see all the details. CLICK HERE to sign up for a Oct. 26 session and see all the details.

And because I really want to THANK my friends, family and fans for believing in the power of the imagination...

sign up before Oct. 12 and pay the reduced rate of $39

That's RIGHT. Some people need to see to believe, and I will be setting up the actual scene early and taking sample pictures this Saturday, October 12. But if you believe in the power of the IMAGINATION, and trust me enough to know that these sessions will be fabulous... you will be rewarded. Not only will you get first pick of your preferred session time, but you'll receive your session at the reduced rate of $39 (a $10 savings)!

Just be sure to enter the code IMAGINATION upon checkout to receive the savings.

Here are those dates to click on again to book your mini-session ASAP.

October 20 October 26

Hope to see you soon, and can't wait to PLAY!