Confession time: I have a love-hate mini sessions relationship.
My clients love them, and love when I offer the micro-sized events. I hate mini sessions. HATE. They cause me more stress, anxiety, and dread than any other work I do.
More than once, I’ve wondered:
- Why do I hate mini sessions?
- Do I have to offer mini sessions?
- What can I do to make mini sessions a better experience for me?
In this article, we’ll explore these questions. And love ‘em or hate ’em, we’ll talk about how to make mini sessions a better experience for the photographer!
Why Do I Hate Mini Sessions?
Why do mini sessions cause me so much stress and dread? I sat down to think through my issues with them.
- Mini-Sessions require more planning than a typical session.
I love to plan and really want to be an organized person. But mini-sessions require more planning than a typical family or senior session.
- Where will you shoot?
- How many sessions will you offer?
- What timing do you need to follow?
- How much should you charge?
If you don’t own a studio, you’ll need to secure shooting space. If you’re shooting a set, you’ll need a background and props. Then you have to shoot promo photos to show potential clients what the set will look like.
Contrast this with a standard family or senior session and mini sessions feel like a ton of work.
- Sets are not my thing.
In order not to compete with my typical family and senior sessions, I only offer themed mini sessions. Clients love cute sets with adorable props. The only problem is sets are not my thing.
I struggle to turn a plain backdrop into an inviting full set. I prefer clean images without a lot of clutter, so sets with lots of props go against my usual style.
- Scheduling is Exhausting
Scheduling eight to sixteen clients at once is the most burdensome part of hosting mini sessions for me.
It requires keeping track of:
- Time slots
- Special requests
- Deposits received
- Welcome Guides
Once I had 20 clients lined up for sessions over two days. Then a blizzard hit my state. We had three feet of snow and lost power for 36 hours.
I had to reschedule/refund ALL twenty of those people. Talk about frustrating and a huge time suck.
- Too Many People to Manage
I’m an Enneagram 5, which means I’m introverted and a bit guarded when it comes to my emotional resources. Dealing with multiple families in the space of a few hours literally exhausts me. I come home completely wrung out and need several hours of alone time to replenish my energy.
- I Get Frustrated By People Looking for a Shortcut to Great Images
Some people participate in mini sessions simply as a way to save money on a full session. They expect the same product and experience in a 15-minute session as they’d receive in a 60-minute session. But it’s just not possible.
One woman requested four outfit changes for a 20-minute session. Another demanded her deposit back when I said my set wouldn’t accommodate her twelve grandkids at once.
- Not Enough Time to Connect with Clients
I struggle building connections with new or nervous clients during a mini session. Kids and adults take some time to get comfortable with me or warm up to the camera. We just don’t have that kind of time during a mini session. I also hate having to rush clients after their session instead of spending ten or fifteen minutes visiting with them.
- So Much Pressure to be “Fully Booked”
Mini sessions put a lot of pressure on us as photographers. I always feel like I’ve let myself down when my minis aren’t fully booked. When I first started my photography business, I had zero interest in my sessions. It was a crushing blow to my fledgling business.
Do I have to offer then if I HATE mini sessions?
I hate mini sessions for all those reasons above and more. Which forced me to consider…do I even have to offer mini sessions?
The answer is no. It is possible to have a successful and thriving photography business without offering mini sessions. There are plenty of successful photographers running lucrative businesses who don’t offer them.
So don’t feel pressured to offer a session that doesn’t fit your business model, personality, or schedule. Just because it works for other photographers doesn’t mean it works for you. Put your time and energy into projects and sessions you believe in.
Furthermore, don’t feel like you have to offer mini sessions because a few clients want them. Work on cultivating relationships with those who value what you value!
What can I do to make mini sessions a better experience for me?
Does the thought of mini photography sessions causes you some serious trepidation? That’s totally normal! I’d guess there are lot of photographers out there like you and me.
But if you want to keep offering mini sessions, here are some tips for improving the experience. A change in planning or mindset shift may help you master the minis!
Stare planning early!
If you want to offer Christmas themed mini-sessions, for example, begin planning in July. Mark them off on your calendar, buy your background, and secure your location. It’s easier to tackle planning one step at a time instead of trying to cram everything into a week. Trust me on this.
Get help designing a set.
Find someone in your community who is good at designing a set and ask for her help. Offer her a session spot and a complimentary image in exchange for her assistance.
Use a scheduling service or photography CRM.
I can’t tell you how life-changing this is. The photography CRM or scheduling service will allow clients to book themselves. Most will also automatically send the required documents such as contracts or invoices for deposits. I use Honeybook, but Dubsado and Acuity Scheduling are other popular choices.
Hire a host for the day of your session.
Empower your host to greet clients, make sure they are photography ready and answer any questions. The host can also escort the client out, explain what happens next, and answer any follow up questions. While you are managing the actual session, the host can manage the before and after. This allows you to get a small break between sessions and conserve your emotional energy.
Keep costs low.
Consequently, your profit margins per session will be higher, allowing you to offer fewer sessions. Borrow props instead of buy. But backdrops out of season or on discount. Trade sets with another photographer in a different market so you both win.
Offer mini-sessions as regular session add-ons instead of a stand-alone event.
Treat your minis as a luxury add on for regular clients! Clients would have to pay for a full-price session to be eligible for minis. This adds value to your regular sessions AND ensures clients aren’t just bargain shopping.
For example, I offer a complementary cap-and-gown mini session to all my senior photography clients. The mini-session adds value to my traditional senior photography experience. Meanwhile, I avoid the clients who are just looking for a cheap session.
Don’t shy away from mini-sessions simply because you’re afraid to try them. You might just love them.
But at the same time, if you’ve tried mini-sessions and don’t enjoy that format…Stop! Remember you make the rules. This is your business, your time away from your family. There is nothing saying you have to offer minis or make them part of your business.
Above all, focus your efforts on a project you truly believe in! You mental health and business will be the better for it in the long run!