Mini Sessions are short family photography sessions scheduled in 20 to 30 minute time slots, with multiple sessions occurring in a single day. Most commonly used for holiday family portraits, these sessions are a great way to get new clients in the door and earn some supplemental income to your core photography business. In this tutorial, we’re going to teach 10 Tips for Photography Mini Sessions Success.
The information in this article is from our Free Mini Session Guide. Click here to access the full FREE written guide.
Tip 1: Mini Sessions Are Not Discounted Sessions
Mini sessions are not regular photo sessions offered at a cheaper rate. This approach would undermine your value as a photographer and set unrealistic expectations for the session. When compared to full family sessions, Mini Sessions have significant differences and limitations. Below is a brief summary of key mini sessions features:
- 10-20 minutes long
- Set location determined by photographer
- A reserved time slot on a date of the photographers choice
- Includes 3-10 images (depending on your pricing model)
- Quick delivery dates
- One look, no outfit changes
Be sure to communicate and enforce the differences and limitations to your clients.
Tip 2: Determine the Best Mini Session Dates
You can photograph mini sessions many different times in the year, but the holiday time frame of late October through November typically has the highest demand and the most potential for profit.
We recommend at least 2 different dates. If you’re going through all of the trouble of setting up the landing pages, payment systems, and marketing assets, you’d might as well make it worthwhile and hold at least 2 different sessions. I know some photographers who hold 8 mini session dates per year (with 100% bookings). However, a more realistic number is 2 to 4.
Tip 3: Maximize Your Number of Sessions
Booking 15-minute Mini Sessions, scheduled in 20-minute increments, lets you book 3 every hour, which maximizes your revenue. If this is your first time doing mini sessions or if you just prefer to give yourself a less stressful experience, consider expanding the time to 20 or even 30 minute sessions. With more time, you’ll have more freedom to explore different poses and family groupings.
However, booking 30-minute Mini Sessions, scheduled in 40-minute increments only lets you book 1.5 every hour, which is half of the number and half the revenue you can book with 15 minute sessions. Be sure to run the numbers to understand your revenue, costs and profit. More info on this in our full guide.
Tip 4: Select the Ideal Location
Here’s what to look for in a mini session location:
- A location where photography is allowed (and permission is verified) – Double check the permit requirements and rules before scheduling your session at a location.
- Consistent, soft light the majority of the day – This maximizes the number of shoots you can schedule in one day. It also speeds up your post production because you’re able to sync most of the photos in Lightroom.
- Easy to Find – Your mini session location needs to be easy to find. This eliminates large parks where the address listed doesn’t lead the client directly to where you’re shooting.
- Not Busy – Minimize the use of Photoshop, minimize the time you have to wait for backgrounds to clear, and minimize the number of photographers you have to work around for your ideal spot.
- Convenient for your clients – Choose locations that are central to most of your clients. Or choose a location for one day of shooting in one area and offer a different location in a different region/city for another day. Most clients won’t want to drive more than 20 minutes for their sessions.
IMPORTANT: Have a backup location in case there are issues with your original location. Construction, closures, an over zealous security guard, or any number of other issues could force you to change plans. Have at least one more location in mind before your shoot.
Tip 5: Determine The Ideal Pricing Structure for You
When it comes to mini sessions, there are 3 pricing options that photographer’s typically follow:
- Shoot and Burn – With a “shoot and burn” model, the photographer typically includes the full resolution digital downloads for all of the final images from the shoot. For a mini session, that number could be anywhere from 5 images to 20 images.
- IPS (In Person Sales) – With an IPS model, the photographer typically doesn’t include any final images. Instead, he or she charges a low sitting fee (often $50 to $100) for the session and then charges on a per image basis. Some photographers will allow the purchase of prints only and other photographers have pricing for prints and for full digital rights.
- Hybrid – With a hybrid model, the photographer typically includes a very low number of full resolution digital downloads from the shoot, such as 1 to 5 photos, and then charges on a per image basis for the remainder of the photos. The initial fee would be somewhere lower than the Shoot and Burn model but higher than the sitting fee of the IPS model.
The right model for you depends on a variety of factors, including what your clients are used to, your risk tolerance (since IPS revenue is not guaranteed), and how refined your process is (since IPS requires a more polished and thought-out approach).
Tip 6: Find a Good Scheduling and Payment System
Here are the features you’ll need in a scheduling and payment system:
- A system that allows you to accept payment (ideally credit card)
- A system that allows the client to reserve a time slot
- A system that gives the clients email confirmation and information about the shoot
The first place to look is your existing studio management system so that you do not have to incur any additional costs or sign up for any additional services. Many of these systems already have everything you need. If your studio management system doesn’t have the features you need, we recommend using Acuity Scheduling (which was acquired by Squarespace). We recommend purchasing the “Emerging” plan and paying monthly, since you won’t need to use this service year round.
Tip 7: The Most Effective Marketing Is Likely Email Marketing
Your previous clients will be your best source of mini session clients, whether they are family, newborn, wedding, headshot or even commercial photography clients. They’re already familiar with you and the experience that you provide and should be ready for more!
In addition, don’t forget about your lost leads. Most photographers don’t book 100% of the leads that come through their contact form. You may have been out-of-budget or already booked. But either way, at one point or another, they were interested in YOU. The mini session is the perfect way to recapture some of those leads.
For more information on how to set up your emails, including when to send the emails, sample subject lines and email content, recommended software and more, see the full guide.
Tip 8: Create a Landing Page on Your Website with Great SEO
The next step in booking mini sessions is to create a landing page on your website with clear information and great SEO. The content on this page should include the following:
- Basic Information
- An emphasis on urgency
- Newsletter Signup
- Text and Images Optimized for SEO
Optimizing your page for SEO is critical for long term success. This is especially true if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a large email list to notify. Ranking for the term “mini sessions” in your area will drive signups over time and give you a huge advantage over your competitions.
Tip 9: Maximize Your Social Media Marketing
After you’ve sent out an email, it’s time to continue spreading the word on Social Media. Hopefully you already have accounts set up on all of the major social media networks. If you have these set up and you’ve been participating actively, then you likely already know the type of content that does best for your audience.
If you do not have all of them set up, then we recommend making a goal to do so in the long run. But for your mini sessions, focus on the ones you already have going.
Post information about your audience on the following networks:
- Instagram/Facebook Stories
- TikTok (Optional)
- Twitter (Optional)
For the specifics of each network, see the full mini session guide.
Tip 10: Be Prepared with the Right Gear and Items
After figuring out all of the logistics, it’s time to get to shooting! Mini session days can be long and physically exhausting, so you’ll want to prepare for that. Also, since these sessions are quick, you’ll want to keep your gear kit simple and versatile.
Here’s a full list of items to bring:
- A Zoom Lens in the 24-70mm range
- Flash and Umbrella (optional just in case)
- Camera Batteries
- Extra Memory Cards
- Printed Schedule and Contact Info
- Snacks for yourself and your clients
- Attention-Grabbing Toys or Lights
- Props, Chairs or Blankets (optional)
Tip 11: Plan Your Shots Prior to the Session
Since the mini sessions are so short, you’ll need to keep a mental shot list to ensure that you get everything you need. If you’re coming from a genre like wedding photography, this might be a departure from your normal approach that allows for more creative exploration. While your mini sessions should still involve an element of creativity, be sure to get the traditional, must-have photos first.
Here are some of our favorite combos:
- The entire family looking into the camera full body – This is the most important photo of each session. We encourage having the client approve this photo in the back of the camera prior to moving on. Take a variety of crops (wide and medium) and orientations (landscape and portrait) for this set of photos.
- The entire family looking into the center
- Each child individually. – Often times you can simply zoom in to each child in the existing pose
- Just the kids as a group
- Action poses (walking, kisses on the forehead, laughing swinging, etc)
- Just the parents (Optional)
- Each child with each parent (Optional)
It’s highly unlikely you’ll have time to complete this entire list in just 15 minutes, but do the best you can to make sure you are getting a variety to choose from. If you need a quick refresher on posing and inspiration for family photos make sure to check out Family Photography 101 for a rundown! You might also be interested in our article on Family Photography Poses.
Tip 12: Keep Your Image Editing Workflow Efficient
Full editing tutorials are beyond the scope of this article. However, here are some tips to follow to ensure a quality product and timely delivery.
Use your favorite presets on all images – We recommend using presets to efficiently edit all of your mini sessions within a few hours. Even if you’re just providing proofs in an IPS model, running a set of presets and making a few basic adjustments will help you put your best foot forward. If you’re looking for a great set of presets, we recommend using the set that we created with Visual Flow Presets.
Batch Process and Don’t Overdo Them – Hopefully you photographed your sessions in Manual mode (including your white balance). If you did, you should be able to sync the color correction, exposure and other basics across all of the images for each part of the day. Don’t get into detailed retouching and try to do everything in Lightroom. If your clients come back with specific advanced retouching requests, have per image or hourly pricing ready to quote them.
For more photo editing tips for family photography, see our full Lightroom workshop in Premium.
Conclusion and Additional Resources
The demand for family photography is as strong as ever, and adding mini sessions to your list of services is a great way to fill that need. Some clients may never be able to afford your full sessions yet come back every year for holiday photos. Others will experience your mini sessions and keep you in mind for future family sessions. Once you have the process of setting up, marketing, shooting, editing, and delivering images for mini sessions, the momentum will build and it’ll become a sustainable source of annual revenue.