Need answers to the BIG questions when it comes to organizing mini-sessions? Start here!
Mini-sessions can be a great addition to just about any portrait photography business. “Minis” can add an income stream, bring in new clients and provide a place for some serious creativity. But organizing mini sessions requires planning and forethought. Not sure where to start? I’ll guide you through the process! And for those of you who offered mini-sessions but couldn’t get any bookings…we’ll talk about that too!
What is a mini-session?
A mini-session is a shortened photography session. That’s it! The exact details of how long, what theme or what kind of products to offer is up to the photographer organizing the mini-session…You!
Mini-sessions shouldn’t just be your regular session offered at crazy low prices. Don’t undermine your brand or income. Think of them more as trial size photography! Give your clients a small sample of what a full session is like with you and leave them needing more!
Mini-sessions should also differ from your regular sessions in some way other than just time and price. Create value by making them something a client can’t get any other time of the year. Offer mini-sessions as a way to take advantage of a special time frame or special set. If your minis are unique and only come around once in a while, it gives clients an incentive to book AND differentiates them from your typical sessions.
How long does a mini-session usually last?
Mini sessions can last from five minutes to 45 minutes, or however long a shortened session is for your business! They should be shorter than your normal portrait sessions but long enough to accomplish the goals you set. You should also think about the average age and attention span of your clients and how many images you want to be able to offer your client.
How much does a mini-session usually cost?
Mini sessions are usually less expensive than standard portrait sessions. They are often cheaper because they are shorter and offer fewer image selections or products. You should determine prices based on your standard portrait pricing, costs, market, skill, theme, and number of products or images offered.
Pricing mini-sessions can be hard! You want to give new clients an incentive to try your services but also don’t want to sell yourself short. If you have a really elaborate set or props, or are shooting in a paid venue, some mini-sessions will be more expensive to produce than others. Don’t be afraid to adjust your pricing up or down from one mini-session offering to the next. You need to charge enough to cover expenses AND allow for profit!
It may take you a few sessions to hone in on the right price point for your clientele. Don’t feel locked into one price just because that was the price you offered the first time.
What products should I offer in my mini-sessions?
There are no rules when it comes to what to offer in terms of digital images or printed products for your mini-sessions. You can choose to keep your session fee low and generate extra income by selling prints or digital images. Or set a higher session fee that is all-inclusive. You pick the options that fit your business model!
When is the best time to organize mini-sessions?
You can hold mini-sessions anytime that makes sense for your business. Customers often enjoy mini-sessions themed around current holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day. But you can also offer generic mini-sessions a time that work s for your schedule or when you need some additional income.
Why should I offer mini sessions?
Organizing mini sessions can be a lot of work. And actually shooting them is kind of exhausting. So why hold them? Here are my top reasons for adding mini-sessions to my business model.
- Mini sessions offer a low-cost way for customers to work with you. You might have customers that can’t afford a full session with you. Or you might have potential customers that are willing to give you a try at a lower price point.
- Mini-sessions can add seasonal income to your business. A seasonal theme can bring in new clients who want something different than traditional pictures or want to capture their family between full family sessions. Structured correctly, a mini-session can give your business’s cash flow a boost just when you need it! And by serving a lot of clients quickly, it’s not uncommon for a day of minis to generate $500 to $2,000 or more.
- Shorter-sessions can work great for some clients that have a short attention span or wear out easily.
- Mini-sessions help serve multiple clients in a single day. Instead of spacing 15 families out over several nights, you can shoot them all in a single day, or weekend. When demand is high but time is short, such as in the fall or around Christmas, organizing mini-sessions makes a lot of sense.
- Mini-sessions are awesome for collaboration between other area businesses. You can partner with vendors on location, props, clothing or even food! With some brainstorming, it’s not hard to create a mini-session that will benefit you and some partner businesses.
- Mini-sessions create scarcity and prompt action. Because they are only available for a limited-time, mini-sessions prompt clients to book quickly or miss out.
What are the disadvantages of mini sessions?
So mini-sessions aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. Here are a few reasons you might not like the mini format.
- Mini-sessions take more planning than traditional sessions. You have to coordinate lots of people and time slots. Add in props, backgrounds, etc., and it can get overwhelming.
- Mini-sessions are fast paced. You need to be on your game from minute one. If you’re the type of photographer that takes some time to warm up in a session or to clients you might hate the pace.
- You have a limited amount of time to spend with each client. It’s hard to build much camaraderie in fifteen minutes.
- For younger clients, a short session may not be enough time for them to get comfortable with you or the camera.
- There are lots of images and expectations to manage after the sessions. Multiple your typical post-session workload by 8, 10 or 12 clients, as in 10 sneak peeks, 10 galleries to post, 10 thank you notes to write, etc.
Steps for organizing mini-sessions
Here’s my process for organizing mini-sessions from start to finish!
Step #1 – Choose a theme or feel for your session.
If it’s a themed mini, plan your set. Think about (and order, buy or borrow) your background and props.
Step #2 – Set a time and location for your minis.
Put down a deposit on the location if required.
Step #3 – Decide how many sessions to offer and how long each session will be.
I like to add in a few minutes between sessions to reset and regroup. If you’re shooting all day, consider adding in a short lunch break or an empty slot to use as catchup.
Step #4 – Decide how many and what ages of adults and or kids can participate in each individual session.
Because of the low price, mini-sessions are attractive to many different kinds of customers, including big or extended families. You must decide how many people you can and will accommodate in each mini-session. You might also need to set an age limit based on the size of your set or props. Set limits and be firm in those decisions. Remember, mini-sessions are designed to be a sample of a full-session! Setting boundaries and limits helps you keep the integrity of your brand and full-length sessions.
Step #5 -Set your price and package offerings.
How much will your mini-sessions cost and what will be included for the price? Will you offer a small number of images and try to upsell digital galleries? Will you offer small prints with the option to purchase more?
Step #5 – Create a backup plan.
If you’re shooting outside, what happens if the weather doesn’t cooperate? Is there an alternate indoor location or weekend? Have a plan BEFORE things go wrong.
Step #6 – Shoot some promotional images.
Customers like to see what is included in their session. It’s also a good way to test your set and see if there are any additional props or lighting you need.
Step #7 – Prepare your paperwork.
I like to prewrite my contracts and e-mails and use them as templates for clients as they book. Then I can quickly update each template with the specific client information. Not all of these e-mails need done before I advertise my sessions. But I find it’s easier to plan ahead and have everything ready to go from the start. I make templates for:
- Informational e-mail or text response. Give clients all the details of who, what, where, when and how much!
- Client questionnaire (new clients)
- Reminder e-mail
- After the session/follow-up
- Gallery is ready
- Product upsell
- Gallery is expiring
Step #8 – Advertise your mini-sessions!
Use your promo images to advertise your mini-sessions! Use your test images to promote your mini-sessions on social media or to your e-mail ist. If you’re advertising via paid Facebook ads, go ahead and run those, too. I like to advertise 2-3 weeks ahead of time. Other photographers like to promote their mini-sessions 4-6 weeks out. It might take you a few mini-sessions to find your ideal time frame.
When promoting your mini-sessions, highlight what makes them special. Why should an existing client book another session with you? Why should a new client give you a try? What makes these sessions different? Write you ad copy to emphasize those differences, whether is a special set, a special time frame or a special price.
Step #9 – Line up your assistant.
An assistant isn’t mandatory, but is a huge help greeting clients, finalizing payments, walking clients out, etc. I’ve shot without assistants, and it’s always a smoother morning when I have someone ready to help!
Step #10 – Hold your mini-sessions!
Take extra memory cards, batteries and comfortable shoes.
Step #11 – Edit your sessions and follow your typical post-session workflow.
Don’t’ forget thank-yous to your clients and any vendors that helped with your sessions.
Theme Ideas for Organizing Mini-Sessions
Here are just a few ideas to get you started!
- Holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Cinco De Mayo, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Halloween
- Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall
- Events: Back to school, graduation, first communion, confirmation, circus, local celebrations, fairs, festivals, carnivals, etc.
- Activities: baking and decorating cookies, painting, crafting, gardening, campfires, giltter blowing, picnics or snowball fights!
- Sports themes: football, baseball, rodeo, lacrosse, volleyball, track or softball!
- Fantasy or whimsical themes: superheroes, unicorns, mermaids, construction or cowboys
- Movie themes: Frozen, Moana, Spiderman, Toy Story, Captain America or the Secret Life of Pets!
- Historical themes: Old West, Roarin’ 20s, 1950s, retro pinups or 80s rockers!
- Food themes: ice cream, watermelon, tacos, spaghetti or donuts!
- Family themes: siblings, mommy and me, daddy and me, little girl in mommy’s wedding dress.
- Pets: humans don’t have to be the star of the show! Offer mini-sessions for four-legged friends!
My mini-sessions were a complete failure! What happened?!?
So you followed all the steps above but no one booked your mini-sessions. Now you are discouraged, frustrated and all out depressed.
Friend, I’ve been there.
It’s hard. Especially if you see other photographers in your area selling out their sessions in just a few hours. I honestly wondered if I had the chops it took to survive in this business when my first round of mini-sessions got zero bookings. ZERO. But don’t despair.
Review your unsuccessful mini-sessions for the following. Be BRUTALLY honest with yourself because that is the only way you can fix your mistakes and grow as a business owner.
How effective were you at spreading the word about your mini-sessions?
Did you advertise in multiple sources? Did you create a buzz? Or did you just throw up a promo on your own Facebook page with 300 followers and not get a single nibble?
Was your mini-session compelling enough to get clients to book?
Were your mini-sessions special or unique in some way? There needs to be something that sets them apart aside from just a lower price. Potential clients should see your entire offering this and think “I need this in my life!” Examine your theme and set. Did your set look a lot like another photographer’s in the area? Was it too specific and the theme didn’t appeal to a wide enough audience?
And scrutinize your promo images and ad copy…did they truly reflect the once-in-a-season opportunity vibe you were going for? Or did you just sort of say “I’m offering minis!” and expect folks to come running?
Do you have a big enough client base?
If you just started your photography business, it might simply be too soon to expect fully-booked mini sessions. You might have wonderful images and be the best photographer in a 200-mile radius. But if you haven’t built client relationships and found a base of your ideal clients for regular sessions, why should your mini-sessions be in demand? Maybe your time and energy need to be spent engaging with your community and building your reputation first. Mini-sessions can come later.
If your mini-session offerings fall flat and fail to book, examine your process and see where you can make improvements. Regroup and try again after you’ve spent some time building your client base and your business. One failed mini-session doesn’t mean that you’ll never be successful at minis!
Mini-sessions, Big Results
With forethought and planning, organizing mini-sessions can be a smart business move. Plan ahead and make mini-sessions work for you. Make decisions that support your brand, style and business goals and these micro-sized sessions can yield mega awesome moments for you.