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5 Tips for Successful Mini Sessions

Have you ever heard photographers marketing their ‘mini sessions’ and wondered what that means? A mini is an abbreviated session. A compact version, if you will. Where a normal session can include hours of shooting, many locations, 30 photos to choose from, etc., a mini offers a shorter time, a small number of edited photos to choose from and a lower price. Here are 5 ways that us professionals use ‘the mini’ to our advantage:

1. Theme – To do a successful day of minis, schedule a specific date, venue and theme and invite a limited number of clients to attend your ‘Valentine’s Day mini sessions’ or your ‘best friends mini sessions’. Limit sessions to the theme.

2. Keep it brief - keeping a session brief and restraining yourself from going overboard is key. If you promise only 15 minutes of shooting, keep it to 15 minutes. Planning your sessions around a theme (see tip #1) can help give the session focus and direction which will cut down on the amount of time you’re feeling things out or trying to get inspired.

3. Sets – Keeping with tip #2, setting a stage will help your clients (mine are usually children) to get in the swing of things quickly and keep you to your shortened session time. Sets can be photo-booth style sessions for Valentine’s Day, a faux (or real) bonfire for winter minis (complete with tree stumps to sit on, s’mores to roast and blankets to get warm) or a tea party set in the park for spring.

4. Results – offer a choice of around 5 or 10 finished products to choose from instead of the usual 20 or 30. You’ll probably get way more keepers, but keep your business brain on and don’t give more than they paid for! You could offer an add-on gallery post-session which would include more choices or something like that.

5. Tokens – You could include a product in your mini if you’d like. More of a token than an actual finished product. You want them to order afterwards to give you a profit. My tokens would be something like one digital web-sized (branded) image to share online. For my winter minis, I offered a digital e-card clients could email to friends and family or post online.

Mini sessions can be a great way to boost business in slower months, play with new ideas and give clients who wouldn’t normally go for a full-blown session the chance to try you out. But be careful not to do them too often or let them be a free for all without restrictions (remember – theme!) because then you’ll just be teaching your clients to wait for what they consider to be a ‘sale’ and that won’t be good for business in the long run.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin'photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english". She's addicted to Facebook and can be found answering photography and business questions every day here on her page

  • Shannon

    Great ideas. I’ve been toying with the idea of a mini session, just really unsure how to go about it. Now I have a starting off point.

  • http://www.lafango.com/epk/fortunato_uno fortunato_uno

    This post brings some questions to mind. I’m just getting things ramped up, so I am sorting out how many images I should give (and what size) to the client. I hadn’t really thought about giving the 20-30 that you mentioned. I was thinking more along the lines of only giving the 5-10 mentioned. I’m not really even sure what I want to charge for that many. Is it really important to give 20-30? After all I believe (and I’d be glad to be corrected) that people only want 5-10 shots. Am I wrong in my thinking?
    Thanks again for a thought inspiring post, Jamie.

  • http://texidorphoto.wordpress.com/ Tito Texidor III

    This was an insightful read, thanks for sharing! I am in the very early stages of starting up my photography business and am still very much a noobie. Do you think that doing these mini-shoots would help build up clientele?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/summerbl4ck/ summerbl4ck

    I think mini-sessions are a great idea.

    But for regular sessions that take “hours of shooting, many locations”–only “30 photos to choose from”? That seems like an awful lot of work (for both client and photographer) for so few images. Am I really understanding that right?

  • http://www.wix.com/EL0519/elspics El Anderson

    Mini-sessions are a great idea. I also didn’t know where to start, so I came up with a game plan for myself, I am perfecting my website & just going for it. Make or Break, I could at least try! Thank you. This information is very valuable TOO ME.

  • http://cdostudios.com Rachel

    I’ve not been shooting “professionally” for long, but something that learned/am learning, is that less is sometimes more when it comes to the number of images. I think that because I’m proud of my own work that I really want the client to see all of their great photos. However this ends up being confusing for them when it comes to picking prints and such. My hubby, and partner, keeps reminding me to ONLY show the very very best. It’s something I’m working on. But I think that 20 to 25 images, in a typical photo shoot, is at the very top of what you should present. Less than that would probably be even better. Just my thoughts.

    I like the ideas of the mini-sessions and think that if I were doing them, especially with a short shoot time like 15 min, I’d offer 2-5 images per session. And I really like the idea of the Tokens or giving them something. I always try to include something “free” even if it’s an extra print they weren’t expecting to get. Keeps them wanting to come back! :-)

  • http://madaboutportraits.blogspot.com/ matabum

    Great article. I think that mini sessions are really great for people who dont have a big budget, but still want some good photos made by professional… and it’also sometimes inspirative to work under the pressure when you don’t have enough time.

    Anyway, I started a new blog focused on portrait photography. You can find there interviews with both professional and amateur photographers about their portrait work and many more.

    If you want to be featured MoP blog please don’t hesitate to contact me and we’ll see what happen.

    Stay tuned!

    http://madaboutportraits.blogspot.com/

  • http://gwendolynmortonphotography.com gwendolyn morton

    I love the guidelines you’ve offered here and will use them to finish a project I started last year to launch my business career called “the 50 faces project”. i was naive and over-promised, quickly realizing I couldn’t do what I wanted for free. during this year, I’ve taken images of 18 of the original and have gained a higher level of self-confidence. I will set up my mini-sessions to keep my word to the rest with a high and low-res cd to give as my thanks. I would like to continue with the mini-session idea late in the year. How much would you recommend charging for each 15-minute session?
    Thanks!
    gwendolyn

  • http://digitalphotographer.sulit.com.ph manilaphotographer

    Very insightful, this gives me an idea to plan out and schedule ‘minis’ for the whole year and post schedules for my clients a month before the actual session to avoid overlapping other shoots.
    Thanks!

  • http://websitecenter.ca Iouri Goussev

    Thanks for sharing. I hate winter, I just can take more photos of snow. I’ll try to come up with some photo theme to stir things up.

  • Greta S.

    Where do you set up this “mini-session” at?? In the front of your own house or where?? Stupid question, I know, but the location part is left out!

  • http://elizabethhalford.com Elizabeth Halford

    @greta: anywhere you’d do a normal session! :)

  • Greta S.

    Thanks Elizabeth!

  • http://www.larissaphotography.com/blog TJ McDowell

    Another great thing about mini-sessions is that they’re one of the types of sessions that you can usually promote on Craigslist and get pretty good results. With more expensive sessions, Craigslist bargain hunters usually don’t even pay attention, but tell Craigslister’s that they can save a buck and they’ll schedule in a heartbeat.

  • http://kuhlphoto.ca deb kuhl

    thank you so much for the inspiring idea elizabeth! my husband/business partner :) and i have been racking our brains on how to drum up more business in this slow season. will have to try this!! thank you again, love all your articles we see in DPS.

  • Rick Buch

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read lately. The idea is very usefull and workable. Even the discussion is all positive and adds to the article. Great job Elizabeth,

  • Rich

    Thanks for the tips! Very good and applicable info. Opens the thought process up on getting more sessions in.

  • SwissJon

    It would be very nice to see some answers to the questions raised above. :)

  • http://elizabethhalford.com Elizabeth Halford

    @swissjon: Unfortunately, there’s no way I can advise on price or number of images that’s a personal decision :) What questions do you have in particular?

  • SwissJon

    @Elizabeth. You just answered my questions thanks. I’m a little Niaive at the moment, so I guess I’m asking obvious questions.

  • Liz

    Great article Elizabeth. I admire your work and follow your posts. Several of my photog friends promote the “mini” sessions, which work out really great for little kids because sometimes their attention spans are short anyway, and this keeps the wee ones engaged for only a short time. Thanks for another great article.

  • http://www.PamelaSoperPhotography.com pam soper

    This was a very helpful article. I ALWAYS go past the allotted time, and always offer ore options than I should be offering on my minis or specials, and customers DO write and ask me when my next special will be. Thus, I have a lot of customers for the specials only. Ugh! Thanks for the tips. I’m going to try harder to hold more firmly to my offerings.

  • http://alteredphotos.net Terri

    Thanks for all this helpful information. But for some of us we might need a few more suggestions for places to shoot. I don’t necessarily want shoppers from craigslist coming to my house. Any suggestions for neutral places? Maybe parks, quaint towns, etc. As for prices, I realize it’s personal and there is a wide range but if anyone can give a range that would be something for us to consider. Thanks!

Some older comments

  • Terri

    May 20, 2011 11:57 am

    Thanks for all this helpful information. But for some of us we might need a few more suggestions for places to shoot. I don't necessarily want shoppers from craigslist coming to my house. Any suggestions for neutral places? Maybe parks, quaint towns, etc. As for prices, I realize it's personal and there is a wide range but if anyone can give a range that would be something for us to consider. Thanks!

  • pam soper

    April 17, 2011 03:19 am

    This was a very helpful article. I ALWAYS go past the allotted time, and always offer ore options than I should be offering on my minis or specials, and customers DO write and ask me when my next special will be. Thus, I have a lot of customers for the specials only. Ugh! Thanks for the tips. I'm going to try harder to hold more firmly to my offerings.

  • Liz

    January 18, 2011 05:13 am

    Great article Elizabeth. I admire your work and follow your posts. Several of my photog friends promote the "mini" sessions, which work out really great for little kids because sometimes their attention spans are short anyway, and this keeps the wee ones engaged for only a short time. Thanks for another great article.

  • SwissJon

    January 16, 2011 08:52 am

    @Elizabeth. You just answered my questions thanks. I'm a little Niaive at the moment, so I guess I'm asking obvious questions.

  • Elizabeth Halford

    January 14, 2011 04:48 pm

    @swissjon: Unfortunately, there's no way I can advise on price or number of images that's a personal decision :) What questions do you have in particular?

  • SwissJon

    January 14, 2011 06:54 am

    It would be very nice to see some answers to the questions raised above. :)

  • Rich

    January 13, 2011 10:24 pm

    Thanks for the tips! Very good and applicable info. Opens the thought process up on getting more sessions in.

  • Rick Buch

    January 13, 2011 05:55 pm

    This is one of the best articles I've read lately. The idea is very usefull and workable. Even the discussion is all positive and adds to the article. Great job Elizabeth,

  • deb kuhl

    January 13, 2011 04:33 pm

    thank you so much for the inspiring idea elizabeth! my husband/business partner :) and i have been racking our brains on how to drum up more business in this slow season. will have to try this!! thank you again, love all your articles we see in DPS.

  • TJ McDowell

    January 12, 2011 03:37 am

    Another great thing about mini-sessions is that they're one of the types of sessions that you can usually promote on Craigslist and get pretty good results. With more expensive sessions, Craigslist bargain hunters usually don't even pay attention, but tell Craigslister's that they can save a buck and they'll schedule in a heartbeat.

  • Greta S.

    January 6, 2011 07:04 pm

    Thanks Elizabeth!

  • Elizabeth Halford

    January 6, 2011 08:57 am

    @greta: anywhere you'd do a normal session! :)

  • Greta S.

    January 6, 2011 02:55 am

    Where do you set up this "mini-session" at?? In the front of your own house or where?? Stupid question, I know, but the location part is left out!

  • Iouri Goussev

    January 5, 2011 04:24 am

    Thanks for sharing. I hate winter, I just can take more photos of snow. I'll try to come up with some photo theme to stir things up.

  • manilaphotographer

    January 4, 2011 09:09 am

    Very insightful, this gives me an idea to plan out and schedule 'minis' for the whole year and post schedules for my clients a month before the actual session to avoid overlapping other shoots.
    Thanks!

  • gwendolyn morton

    January 4, 2011 05:53 am

    I love the guidelines you've offered here and will use them to finish a project I started last year to launch my business career called "the 50 faces project". i was naive and over-promised, quickly realizing I couldn't do what I wanted for free. during this year, I've taken images of 18 of the original and have gained a higher level of self-confidence. I will set up my mini-sessions to keep my word to the rest with a high and low-res cd to give as my thanks. I would like to continue with the mini-session idea late in the year. How much would you recommend charging for each 15-minute session?
    Thanks!
    gwendolyn

  • matabum

    January 4, 2011 01:34 am

    Great article. I think that mini sessions are really great for people who dont have a big budget, but still want some good photos made by professional... and it'also sometimes inspirative to work under the pressure when you don't have enough time.

    Anyway, I started a new blog focused on portrait photography. You can find there interviews with both professional and amateur photographers about their portrait work and many more.

    If you want to be featured MoP blog please don't hesitate to contact me and we'll see what happen.

    Stay tuned!

    http://madaboutportraits.blogspot.com/

  • Rachel

    January 4, 2011 12:31 am

    I've not been shooting "professionally" for long, but something that learned/am learning, is that less is sometimes more when it comes to the number of images. I think that because I'm proud of my own work that I really want the client to see all of their great photos. However this ends up being confusing for them when it comes to picking prints and such. My hubby, and partner, keeps reminding me to ONLY show the very very best. It's something I'm working on. But I think that 20 to 25 images, in a typical photo shoot, is at the very top of what you should present. Less than that would probably be even better. Just my thoughts.

    I like the ideas of the mini-sessions and think that if I were doing them, especially with a short shoot time like 15 min, I'd offer 2-5 images per session. And I really like the idea of the Tokens or giving them something. I always try to include something "free" even if it's an extra print they weren't expecting to get. Keeps them wanting to come back! :-)

  • El Anderson

    January 3, 2011 10:45 pm

    Mini-sessions are a great idea. I also didn't know where to start, so I came up with a game plan for myself, I am perfecting my website & just going for it. Make or Break, I could at least try! Thank you. This information is very valuable TOO ME.

  • summerbl4ck

    January 3, 2011 09:24 pm

    I think mini-sessions are a great idea.

    But for regular sessions that take "hours of shooting, many locations"--only "30 photos to choose from"? That seems like an awful lot of work (for both client and photographer) for so few images. Am I really understanding that right?

  • Tito Texidor III

    January 3, 2011 05:35 pm

    This was an insightful read, thanks for sharing! I am in the very early stages of starting up my photography business and am still very much a noobie. Do you think that doing these mini-shoots would help build up clientele?

  • fortunato_uno

    January 3, 2011 03:57 pm

    This post brings some questions to mind. I'm just getting things ramped up, so I am sorting out how many images I should give (and what size) to the client. I hadn't really thought about giving the 20-30 that you mentioned. I was thinking more along the lines of only giving the 5-10 mentioned. I'm not really even sure what I want to charge for that many. Is it really important to give 20-30? After all I believe (and I'd be glad to be corrected) that people only want 5-10 shots. Am I wrong in my thinking?
    Thanks again for a thought inspiring post, Jamie.

  • Shannon

    January 3, 2011 02:34 pm

    Great ideas. I've been toying with the idea of a mini session, just really unsure how to go about it. Now I have a starting off point.

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