orange county family photographer

down by the seashore // family portraits / laguna beach

They spun around in circles, lifting the girls sky-high & making them shriek with glee. Dizzy and breathless, the parents laughed together and released the girls to play in the sand. The kids ran in my direction, using me as "safe" in their game. Their parents, still smiling, walked towards me and asked... "So, when should we start taking pictures?" With a joyful grin of my own, I replied, "We've already begun."

PLAY is a magical thing. It's something that's in us from childhood. And yet, we learn to set it aside and "behave properly" in front of others as we grow up. But sometimes it's important to simply remember the magic of it all. To release the FUN of play, and laughter, and the connection it can bring.

The girls were asked to close their eyes and spin around three times. Keeping their eyes closed and arms outstretched, they searched for one another. Only when they found each other could they open their eyes.

Although part of the family unit, parents have a connection all their own which should be celebrated as often as possible. Coloring books and crayons kept the girls occupied a few feet away so this couple could have a few minutes of "alone time." Alone, they are witty and in-sync, wordless touches and glances all part of the conversation. And although they're not used to lovey-dovey PDA, they crave images that will capture their quiet connections. But I get it... the camera comes up and awkwardness ensues.

Invite PLAY instead of posing, and the awkwardness disappears.

Picture this: a game of "Siamese Twins." You must stay connected in some way... whether it be your hands, shoulder, head, or even just  a toe. But you can never be separated, and need to stay touching at all times, even as you move around one another. Now... GO.

It's magical, right?


Approximately two weeks after the session, the fun continues when the family gets to see their edited images for the first time and select their photo keepsakes. Utilizing special software, we can create a custom wall collection from the family's images, even testing it out on their own walls. (See the client's mock-up below)

And below are the actual canvases the family selected. They decided on (2) 16" x 24" canvases and (1) 24" x 36" canvas for their dining room area, and (1) 11" x 14" canvas for elsewhere.

Want to learn more about how I incorporate PLAY into portrait sessions? Just drop me a line... I'd LOVE to hear from you!

Inspiration & Creation // Sweetlight Collective Workshop

Tears spring to my eyes, my vision blurring as I stare at my computer screen. Hands quickly dashing the tears away so I can see what's in front of me. Only to have the tears come again. This is a good thing.

I did this. Wow... I did this? Yes.

I did this.

Childrens Portrait on Carousel Horse by The Suitcase Studio

My heart is so full it feels it might burst through my chest. My mind is exhausted but still racing... planning, thinking, creating.

Stylized Childrens Portrait in Teepee by The Suitcase Studio

It was a process. I'd forced myself to slow down, to take the time to envision. Create it, direct it, mold and shape the scene. Then add touches in post-edit to complete my original vision.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like a true artist.

And I'm excited to see what other creations await.


Stylized Childrens Portrait in field wearing animal mask by The Suitcase Studio

I am still reeling from my photo adventure last week. I'd attended a 2-day Sweetlight Collective workshop held by Skye Hardwick of Work of Heart Photography, where the focus was completely on learning to stylize children's portrait sessions, as well as incorporating posing techniques for the full effect. (Which will definitely be utilized in upcoming offerings of mine... hint, hint.)

On Tuesday morning, 12 photographers arrived at the Condor's Nest Ranch in Pala (just past Temecula)... bright eyed and eager to learn. By Wednesday evening, we left with smiles on our faces, but were bone-tired, knowing we had given it our all. It was fantastic.

Not only had Skye set up beautiful scenes for us to photograph, but had provided fantastic models, to boot. It's still strange to think of them as "professionals," but they were very much so. The kids ranged in age from 3 to 15, and most of them had been doing this for years.   You might even recognize a few from Gap  or Ralph Lauren ads.

Childrens Portrait in grass by The Suitcase Studio

That's not to say they weren't still kids. I fell in love with one girl in particular, who held herself in such a soulful way... until the cameras went down. THEN she'd launch into a crazy song and dance about a cheeseburger, or runaway lips, and I couldn't help but laugh right along with her. (I'm happy I pulled my camera back up to capture a few of those moments, as well.)

These two days with Skye and the others have been instrumental in helping me find just what I need to make my latest ideas come to life. Inspiration, execution, and all the in-betweens.

Stylized Childrens Portrait in Pink Chair in Field by The Suitcase Studio

There are soooo many amazing photos that I want to share from this experience that I will be adding them to several different blog posts instead of simply adding them all here.

Enjoy the journey.

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psssst: if you haven't heard yet, I will SOON be offering stylized sessions of my own. Make sure you're signed up for my newsletter (click the red tab on the left) to be among the first to find out when this new service is launched.


A New Kind of Family Portrait

The Barone family decided that they wanted something just a bit different than their traditional "sit on the rocks at the beach in matching clothes and smile at the camera" family portrait. And so they came to me, ready for something new. Ready to PLAY. Shelby and Steve were still a bit nervous... as all parents are in new circumstances when they're not quite sure just how the kids will respond. But once we got started, they breathed a deep sigh of relief and were able to really relax and enjoy themselves for the afternoon.

Because we let go of the "rules" of traditional portraits. You know... sit, smile, look here, scoot closer, place your hand here, tilt your head, hold that, do it again, etc. Bleh. That doesn't sound like much fun, and if I was a kid I'd certainly get restless in a portrait session like that, too.

Instead of capturing families in a "perfect pose," I celebrate their personalities. Their interactions, bonds, and everything special about each member of the family as individuals, too. I let each person be themselves, and am there to capture it along the way.

How? By making it interactive. We have conversations. We play games. Which leads to LOTS of natural smiles and laughter.

I focus on capturing what I call the "in-betweens." It's what happens when the person is able to forget about my camera and simply reacts to what's happening. They radiate joy and their personality just SHINES. And all the things that make that person unique come shining through... the way they wrinkle their nose or tilt their head or smile widely... the way they REALLY are when nobody is watching.

THAT's what I strive to capture. Pictures of the people you know and love... cute quirks and all.

Because seeing someone as their true self is to see how beautiful they really are.

Click here to read Shelby's review of her portrait experience with me. TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0001.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0002.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0003.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0004.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0005.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0006.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0007.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio-OrangeCountyFamilyPortraits-Barone_0008.jpg

Ready for your own portrait experience with me? Contact me to learn more and get started!



documenting the everyday

I document my life on a daily basis. It's just what I do. Long before Facebook told me it was cool to share what I ate for lunch, and Foursquare allowed me to "check in" with my location, and Instagram let me instantly share my view with others... I was still documenting. I was collecting, journaling, scrapbooking. And taking lots and lots of pictures of my everyday. Because in the long run, it's the everyday moments that count.

I still journal, and I still take daily pictures.

And I invite you to do the same.

Not sure what to document, exactly? Try starting with this:


There are lots of different daily prompts out there to choose from, but the one from Chantelle Ellem on Instagram is one of the more popular ones to play along with. (You might recognize her as @fatmumslim.)

I'll be playing along with this one in December, too. Follow along with my own daily adventures here: http://instagram.com/thesuitcasestudio

I'd LOVE to see how your December goes. Be sure to tag me in posts on Instagram and Facebook (@thesuitcasestudio) so I don't miss a thing!

santa baby

Here's a sneak peek from a recent portrait  session... just a little something to get you into the holiday spirit. Santa Baby by The Suitcase Studio

LOVE what you see?  Share the love by simply leaving a comment below. If this blog post receives 25+ comments, the family will receive an 8×10 print of their choice.


Still need to take your holiday family photo? There's still time to book a mini-session with me, which includes a photo session and 25 custom holiday cards. Taking place this Sunday, December 2nd only. Don't delay... click here to book your mini-session now!

Holiday Mini-Sessions are HERE!

  HolidayMiniSessions2012 with The Suitcase Studio


The holidays are a GREAT time to update your family photos or even just get new pictures of the kids. And photos make FANTASTIC gifts... hint, hint.

Space is limited.

Click here to reserve your spot.



Each mini-session is only $125 and includes:

  • 20 minute portrait session
  • 15 fully-edited images hosted in an online gallery for 2 weeks
  • 25 custom holiday cards (and we're talking the nice, big, 5x7 folded cards here, people...)

Digital packages and other products will also be available for purchase.


Mini-Sessions are taking place on Sunday, November 11th in San Juan Capistrano and Sunday, December 2nd in Irvine (specific locations to be shared with participants)

Each mini-session includes up to 5 people; there is a $10 fee for each additional person. Your final images will be ready for viewing within one week. Images will be hosted online for 2 weeks, at which time you will select your holiday card design. You will also have the ability to purchase additional items at that time.


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to my favorite boys and ghouls... Tonight is where ghosts and goblins come out to walk alongside the superheroes. And where kids of ALL ages are encouraged to dress up and PLAY. (Grown-ups, I'm talking to YOU)!

No matter where you end up tonight... whether you're handing out the candy or gobbling it up yourself... HAVE FUN! And don't forget to take plenty of pictures along the way!

(images from a "Trunk or Treat" event at my nieces' & nephews' school a few nights ago):


Have a holiday party or other special event coming up? Let ME photograph it so you can actually relax and ENJOY your day! Click on "Let's Talk" at the top of this page to get started.