6 Tips for planning successful photography mini sessions
The period between October - December is the perfect time to consider offering mini sessions to clients. Everyone is getting into the holiday spirit, wrapping up their year and brainstorming on gift ideas for family and friends. There’s high demand for family photos that will be printed as holiday cards and sent to grandparents and aunties. There’s also lots of interest in styled portrait shoots that people can use for New Year’s resolution posts. As a result, mini sessions are a great opportunity to fill out your calendar and get some additional income during the low season.
If you’ve never offered mini sessions before, if you’re not sure where to start and how to plan them — this article is for you. We’ve included everything you need to know to plan your first mini sessions. You’ll also find advice and brilliant insights from Pixieset photographers who have been doing mini sessions for years. Take notes and enjoy!
What are mini sessions
A mini session is a smaller version of the photo experience you normally provide to clients. They usually take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes. Due to a shorter duration, they come with fewer images as deliverables and at a lower price range, compared to your regular photo sessions. To optimize the process, photographers plan multiple mini sessions back-to-back, all in the same location and on the same day. For holiday mini sessions, you’d include props and themed decor, though these are not a prerequisite.
Types of photo mini sessions
Depending on your photography style and your target clientele, you can organize a variety of mini sessions. Here are some ideas, but don’t limit yourself to these. Think about what’s popular and in demand among your clients, in your location or within your community.
Holiday mini sessions
Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, St. Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween or Thanksgiving, any upcoming holiday can be a good reason for mini sessions. All you have to do is choose the appropriate location, decor and props, to get clients excited about having their photos taken. A good practice is to include holiday cards into your mini session deals.
Back to school mini sessions
What proud parent wouldn’t want to have some beautiful photos taken of their kids, all adorable and ready for a new year of school? Or maybe their first year of school! Grandmas, grandpas, aunties and uncles will surely appreciate the cute photos and printed cards.
Senior mini sessions
Don’t forget about senior mini sessions. Classmates usually talk to each other and help book multiple mini sessions on the same day, and there’s always demand for senior portraits.
Portrait mini sessions
These can be organized at a studio or outdoors. They can be limited to one person or include the entire family. You can do them lifestyle or have formal portraits taken. It’s all up to you.
Pet mini sessions
No one can resist the chance to get some cute photos together with their beloved pets. Pet mini sessions can be a great opportunity to meet other pet owners, promote local animal causes and shelters.
Why offer mini sessions?
The main reason why you should offer mini sessions is to get on the radar of potential clients. Since mini sessions come at a smaller cost and a shorter time commitment, compared to your regular sessions, it’s easier to get more people on board. Use mini sessions as as a way to build a network of connections and leads. Because once those clients get to experience your service and photography skills, they’re more likely to come back and pay for a full session. Or recommend you to their friends.
Mini sessions can also help you fill out your calendar faster. Due to the limited amount of spots and an affordable price, they sell out quite fast (given you also put some efforts into marketing - check point #5 in the section below).
6 things you need to know when planning your first mini sessions
If you’ve never offered photo mini sessions before, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Date & Duration
Typically, mini sessions are organized back-to-back on a single day. Each session lasts around 15-20 minutes, with a short gap in between to allow everyone to get ready. You can extend the duration to 30-40 minutes, if you feel more comfortable with that timeframe and want to offer clients extra time to loosen up in front of the camera. It all depends on your end goal. If your goal is to connect with as many clients as possible in a short period of time and increase your revenue, we recommend opting for 15-20 minutes per mini session.
On to choosing a date for your mini sessions. While you can organize them all year round, the most popular and in high demand periods prove to be the ones approaching fall and winter holidays. Think Halloween, Pumpkin Patch sessions, Christmas or general family portraits that your clients can print as holiday cards and send to their family and friends.
When it comes to pricing your mini sessions, there are two important aspects:
- Your mini sessions are not a discounted version of your regular sessions. They are separate packages, that are shorter in length, have fewer deliverables, and come at a lower price.
- The price of your mini sessions shouldn’t be based off of your regular session pricing. For example, if you charge $300 for a 1 hour portrait session, and deliver 30 images to the client — it doesn’t mean that a half an hour mini session needs to cost twice less, and deliver 15 photos.
When pricing your mini sessions, think about organizational, business and marketing costs. From location rental, props and decor expenses, to photo equipment, lighting gear, booking and editing software, the time you invest into photographing, editing and delivering the photos, etc. Once you calculate all these costs (also known as your cost of doing business), you’ll determine the sum you need to have on hand to organize your mini sessions.
Take that number and divide it by the amount of mini sessions you plan to offer in a day. That’s your cost of doing one single mini session. Now, you’ll need to mark up that amount based on how much profit you want to make from each session. It can be anything from $50 to $500. It all depends on the type of clients you serve and want to attract.
Lastly, check out the current prices on mini sessions within your area. This will help you get clarity on how your pricing fits within the industry. It will also help you determine whether clients are willing to pay that much for a mini session. Based on your findings you can adjust your mini session price either by cutting down on expenses, or leveling up your profits.
Bonus Tip: Since mini sessions are usually priced at a lower fee, consider invoicing your clients in advance. This helps reduce no-shows, keeps everyone committed, and gives you a stable cash flow for expenditures. If you use a tool such as Studio Manager, you can collect a full or partial session fee right during the booking process. Thus, the client needs to pay in order to reserve their spot, everything happens online, and doesn’t require any action on your end. Learn more here.
When choosing the location for your mini sessions, you need to take into consideration several criteria. Lighting is the most important one. If you’re photographing outside throughout the entire day, the light will change. You need to be aware and prepared for that. Either pick a location that you’re already familiar with and know how the sunlight moves in a certain season, or scout and observe the location thoroughly a few days before the photoshoot. If your mini sessions are happening indoors, consider packing some extra lighting equipment, sun reflectors, flash diffusers, etc.
Choosing a familiar location versus a new one can also help you speed up your process, as you’ll know exactly what to do on the day of the photoshoot. From parking spots and dressing room options, to where you can keep your equipment, set up a table with refreshments, etc.
One last thing: if you’re photographing outdoors in a public space, be mindful whether taking photos is allowed there. Also note that the place can get crowded on the weekends. If there’s people moving back and forth, getting into the frame and disrupting your process, it can be a blocker and throw off your entire mini session schedule.
4. Tools & software
When you have the right tools by your side, any task, big or small, becomes a breeze. Here are some of the processes that you’ll want to optimize with online tools, to save time and reduce your work load.
- Booking & scheduling - when you need to confirm and schedule more than 6 sessions in a single day, things can get stressful quite fast. From confirming time slots, to answering questions, sending confirmations and collecting payments. This requires a lot of time and energy. Consider automating this process with an online booking tool. Create a dedicated page for your mini sessions, so clients can read more, pick a slot based on your availability and book you. A hands-free experience for you, and a smooth process for your clients. Here’s how to automate your booking and scheduling process with Studio Manager. Also check out this tutorial on how to set up your mini sessions workflow.
- Contracts - protecting yourself and your business from tricky situations, unforeseen events and force majeures, is a must. Have a mini session contract template in place that you can easily email to clients once they book you, and have it digitally signed prior to the photoshoot. Haven’t had a contract before? Here are some essential things we recommend including in any photography contract.
- Payments - as mentioned earlier, with mini sessions it’s a common practice to collect the session fee in advance. This provides you with more security that the client will show up for their session, plus it offers additional financial resources to cover the logistic costs (i.e. location or gear rental, props, gas, etc). With Studio Manager, you are able to collect the mini session fee right during the booking process. Clients will be prompted to pay a full or partial price, using their credit card or PayPal account. Learn more here.
- Questionnaires - even though you’ll spend only 15 to 20 minutes with each client, you can still offer them the best experience ever. For instance, send a questionnaire to each client prior to their session. Gather insights on their expectations and photo preferences. If it’s a family mini session, find out who will be in the photo, what are their names and age, what type of compositions do they want, do they intend to print the photos? All this information can help you create a tailored experience for each client and impress them with their final gallery. If you’re not sure what to include in a photography questionnaire, we’ve shared some question examples here. Ideally, you’ll want to prepare a questionnaire template in advance, and send it out to all clients once they book you. Additionally, questionnaires can be wonderful for collecting feedback and testimonials after you’ve delivered all photos. There’s always room for new ideas and improvements to your current process.
- Photo editing - whether you use Lightroom, Capture One or any other photo editing app, make sure you also have some of your favorite presets ready. This will help you speed up the process. For mini session photos, we wouldn’t recommend any heavy retouching done, unless the client requested it and is willing to pay extra for it.
- Photo delivery - the fastest and easiest way to share your photos with clients, is through an online photo delivery tool, such as Pixieset Client Gallery. Consider creating a collection default with all your pre-configured settings (from gallery cover design, to grid style, color options, etc). Apply the collection default whenever you upload a new mini session gallery. Here’s how to create a collection default inside Client Gallery.
During your mini session you’re likely to take more photos than what’s included in the package. But how do you choose the photos the client ends up getting? The easiest way is to share the entire gallery, and have the customer choose their preferred photos. Pixieset Client Gallery makes this process simple thanks to the built-in proofing system called Favorites. If your mini session package includes 15 retouched images — create a predefined Favorites list inside your Pixieset collection and set the limit to 15. This way, the client will be able to mark photos as favorites up till they hit that limit. You can then review the list and email it to the client, so they can download it. When you share the entire set of lovely images you took, you open up the opportunity for extra purchases on top of the original package that the client got.
- Selling prints, holiday cards and digital downloads - a great way to upsell your mini session clients is by offering prints and holiday card options directly inside their photo gallery. With tools like Pixieset Store, you can turn on personalized product previews so clients see their own photos applied directly to the products and get excited about ordering them. You can also sell photos as digital downloads — in case clients want to purchase extra images. AND, you can encourage them to design their own custom-made holiday cards.
Store comes with a built-in card designer, which allows your clients to choose their preferred layout, personalize the colors, fonts, images and message, then place the order. Learn more about holiday cards inside Pixieset Store. This feature is available for US and Canadian users.
5. Marketing your mini sessions
Deciding on a theme, calculating pricing, and planning out the logistics is part of the work. Promoting your mini sessions is equally important if not more. When it comes to marketing there’s no right or wrong strategy. Based on your audience, photography style and area — the marketing tactics you pick may vary and produce different result. We recommend starting with those that you’re most comfortable with, then expanding your efforts and channels for future sessions.
Tip: the sooner you start communicating about your mini sessions, the better chances you have to book all spots and even build up a waiting list.
Social media posts
Your social media channels are a great medium to promote your mini sessions. Your friends, past clients and potential clients follow your posts and may be interested in having their photos taken.
Get creative with how you announce your upcoming mini sessions. Record a video for Instagram Reels or TikTok, where you talk about the concept of the mini sessions, and let people know what to expect. Don’t forget to include beautiful examples of photos you’ve taken, to offer a good taste of what will be delivered.
Post about your mini sessions on Facebook and encourage friends to spread the news. If your sessions are dedicated to families, find some local Facebook groups where parents hang out. Share a post in there.
Most importantly, stay true to your voice and your style when marketing your mini sessions. This will help attract like-minded clients who appreciate your work.
Dedicated landing page
Once you start spreading the word about your mini sessions, you need a page where you can send interested people to learn more and reserve a spot. You can either create a dedicated page on your website, or you can opt for a tool like Studio Manager and create an elegant Booking site for your mini sessions. Here’s an example of how a Booking site built with Studio Manager looks and works. Clients will be able to read more about your mini sessions, check out your available time slots and book one.
If you have a list of subscribers that you’ve been building up — it’s time to put it to good use. This list may be a mix of your past clients (people who’ve experienced your services) and potential clients (people who inquired about your work, but didn’t have the budget or the timing was off). Send them a friendly newsletter about your upcoming mini sessions. Even if your past clients won’t be booking you, they may recommend you to their friends and family.
If you don’t have a mailing list, consider this a sign to start building one for next year.
Have you run or participated in any giveaways before? If yes - you know the drill. If not, it’s a fairly fun and easy process that allows you to get in front of a larger audience. Instagram or Facebook are great for organizing a mini session giveaway. All you have to do is decide on the duration and contest rules. We recommend keeping it short — up to 3 days, as people won’t be booking a session until they find out who’s the winner. Hence, the sooner you announce the results, the better for your calendar.
Some common giveaway rules that photographers use:
- Liking the giveaway post.
- Following their page.
- Commenting. This can be on a specific topic — you can ask participants to share why they want to win a mini session, what’s their favorite part about a certain holiday.
- Tagging up to 3 friends.
Once the giveaway entries are collected, you can use a website such as random.org to pick a winner at random. Share the results, announce the winner, then remind everyone else that they still have a chance to book a mini session with you.
Bundle up mini sessions with prints
Mini sessions, especially the holiday ones, are a great opportunity to bundle up several products into one. These are more convenient for your clients, since they don’t have to print their photos somewhere else. You provide everything in one place and ensure great quality. It also allows you to earn a bit extra from each mini session.
For example, for Christmas mini sessions you could offer the photoshoot, 15 digital photos, plus 10 printed holiday cards with the client’s images of choice. For family mini sessions, you can bundle up the photoshoot with the digital gallery and 2-3 framed prints. If you’re not sure what type of printed products would make for a desirable bundle, look back at what type of products clients have purchased or requested in the past. That’s your best source of inspiration.
Discounts and coupons
While we don’t usually encourage photographers to discount their work, here is a little tip on how you could benefit from coupons/discounts. A few months after your mini sessions, email your client and offer them an exclusive, limited discount (or coupon) that they can use towards booking a full session with you. The discount could be the exact nudge they needed to hire you for a full photoshoot.
Though mini sessions don’t last long, they’re still a good opportunity to get to know your clients and anticipate their future photography needs. For example, if you’re doing mini sessions and one of your clients is pregnant, make a note and follow up with them in a few months about a newborn session, or a family photoshoot. If you use questionnaires to collect details, be sure to scan through those and get insights on what type of services your clients may be open to in the future. Set calendar reminders so you don’t forget to reach out to them.
6. Other things to consider
Some additional items that you may want to think about when planning your mini sessions:
- Do you include photos within the mini session fee, or do you sell them separately? Some photographers choose to price their mini session lower, then sell images as extra deliverables. Other photographers set one price for everything and deliver all the photos that they’ve taken during the mini session. There’s also a third type, which is a hybrid between the two approaches. You’d offer mini sessions with a given amount of photos (10), deliver the entire gallery, with all the photos. Then have the client choose 10 of their favorite ones with the ability to purchase additional images. Learn more about selling digital photos through Pixieset.
- Cancelations and rescheduling policy — with mini sessions, most photographers opt to not allow rescheduling, because of all the logistics involved. Yet, if you’re flexible on this, make sure to include your cancelation and rescheduling policies into your contract, so all parties are aware and respect the terms. Learn more about what to include in a photography contract.
- Plan your compositions and poses in advance — it’s always good to do some research and gather ideas for poses and compositions prior to the photoshoot, so you’re prepared and confident on the day of the mini session. Pinterest is a wonderful platform to gather inspo and create entire boards with ideas.
- Prepare client messages and email templates — to optimize your time, it’s good to have message templates drafted long before clients start booking you. Create a message for each of the following:
- A thank you note when a client books a session, along with some details about the photoshoot.
- A short reminder a couple of days before the mini session, with any details about the schedule, things to be aware of, recommendations on what to wear, etc.
- A thank you message after the mini session with information about when they can expect their photos delivered.
- A message that will accompany the photo gallery, along with instructions on how to download, pick favorites, order prints or holiday cards.
- A final thank you note with a request for feedback and a testimonial.
- Snacks, drinks and other mood setters - bringing some delicious snacks, tasty refreshments and fun music to play in the background, are always a good idea. They help put everyone in a good mood, keep those who are waiting entertained, and set the right tone for the photoshoot.
Tips and recommendations from Pixieset photographers:
To make this entire read even more useful and filled with golden nuggets, we reached out to some photographers from our community and asked them to share helpful advice and recommendations on how to successfully organize mini sessions. Here’s what they said:
“BE ORGANIZED!! Be prepared well in advance for your day by having a schedule printed out with time blocks including the names of everyone in the session and the ages of the kids. Include any special needs or requests and their cell phone numbers in case of emergencies. Have a copy for anyone assisting you and highlight them as you go! Have an End of Day Thank you message prepared for all the clients you worked with that day! They didn’t have to book with you so show them you’re grateful for their business! And I always have home-baked cookies or stickers for the kids! That way everyone leaves with a smile!”
“With mini sessions there’s limited time for a ‘warm up’ and you’re often straight into shooting right away. To make your clients feel at ease, offer as much guidance as you can in the build up to the session. Put together a session guide about what to expect, tips on what to wear, and a few tips on how to ‘pose’ (or how not to). Send out a little questionnaire so that you can get to know the families a little better and make sure they can get to know you too - with a killer about me page. And make sure you show your face on social media, so by the time it’s shoot day it’ll be like meeting a friend.”
“I think mini sessions are a great way to bring in new clients, build relationships with recurring ones and to get a bit creative! We all get stuck in that creative rut every now and then and I think minis can really help dig you out. My advice to someone who is planning your first set of minis… don’t overthink it and don’t over do it! Sure, Pinterest is a great start and it has so many awesome examples! But make your mini sessions unique and special to you! Some of my most successful minis were a simple blanket in a tall grassy field. I think when you’re confident with your mini setup (big or small!), your clients will take notice and that builds that foundation of trust between you and your clients which in turn will have them (and friends and family!) coming back for more each year!”
“Mini sessions are a great way to PRACTICE & experiment different poses with your couples, with kids and families. With minis you have more flexibility on time, whether it’s early morning or sunset hours, because it’s a short session. But you want to make every second count! Remember, while investing in your potential is GREAT, do not go too crazy. Make sure you’re able to profit from your work. What I mean by that is PROPS!”
“As a wedding photographer, during my off-season, I like to offer mini sessions to my past clients. If you are starting out or thinking about adding mini sessions here are a few tips: Have your clients book your sessions at least two months in advance and make it easy for them to book. Using Pixieset's Booking and Scheduling you can view a calendar that will display all your upcoming sessions. The most exciting part for me is the booking site for clients to view ALL of your upcoming sessions. Can't wait to host all of my sessions with Pixiset from now on!”