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Lanthanide complexes with two push-pull diketone derivatives as sensitizers have been developed as synthons for near-infrared emitting materials. The ligand substituents consist of a carbazole moiety with hole-transport properties and an aromatic or heteroaromatic unit. According to quantitative NMR analysis and complementary HPLC experiments, the diketones are predominantly in their enolic form in polar solvents such as THF and MeCN at room temperature. The preferred cis-enol form contributes strongly to the binding of lanthanide ions (Ln = Nd, Gd, Er). The resulting tris(diketonate) ternary complexes with terpyridine (Ln = Nd, Er) display sizeable near-IR emission with long luminescence lifetimes.