Mini Sessions are the portrait photographer’s method of reaching new markets, creating collaborations, and quickly filling empty calendar spots. Here’s how to host a successful day of Mini Sessions, from scheduling to shooting! (Photos by JUSTINE MILTON.)
What are Mini Sessions?
Mini Sessions are exactly what they sound like: smaller versions of the portrait packages you already offer.
For example, if your typical portrait experience lasts an hour, a Mini Session should only last 15 minutes. “Fifteen minutes?!?” you say. “But that’s not long at all!” You’re right – it’s not! That’s why it’s mini!
Mini Sessions are designed to give clients a taste of what you do.
Mini Sessions are NOT:
- your regular sessions offered at a discount. This would undermine your brand, and negatively impact your bottom line!
- insanely good deals offered to anyone who wants them at any time. Mini Sessions work best as limited-time offers!
Don’t damage your brand (or your wallet!) by confusing Mini Sessions with cheap photography. What makes Mini Sessions more affordable is their size, not their price.
Just as you’d pay less for one scoop of ice cream versus three, your clients will pay less for a Mini Session versus a full session!
3 Marvelous Mini Sessions Scenarios
Offer your Mini Sessions with intent and purpose for maximum impact!
#1: Reach New Markets
Mini Sessions are perfect for families who aren’t ready to commit to a full session, but still want to experience your work. Some Mini Sessions clients may never go on to book full sessions themselves – though some will, when a life event calls for it. However, a WOW client experience will convert these clients into brand ambassadors. You’ll be surprised by the number of full session referrals that come from Mini Session clients!
#2: Create Collaborations
Mini Sessions make for excellent promotional offers, such as seasonal shoots. (Pumpkin patch, anyone?)
Atlanta photographer Alice Park grew her family portrait business by offering Santa Mini Sessions at a local upscale children’s clothing boutique. Her collaboration with the boutique connected her to numerous new portrait clients in a neutral, fun environment.
#3: Quickly Fill Empty Calendar Spots
If you’re looking at a lull in your schedule, consider filling it with Mini Sessions! Because Mini Sessions don’t require a large financial commitment from your clients, they’re easier to sell at the last minute. And because they’re a limited time offer, clients are more inclined to make the purchase while they last!
How To Market Your Mini Sessions
The most successful Mini Sessions begin with a bit of prep. You’ll need to:
Launch A Landing Page
You need one place where clients can get all the Mini Session details! This can be as simple as a blog post describing your Mini Sessions and how to book.
If you’re a bit more adventurous, read Mark Condon’s tips for creating a search engine-friendly landing page!
Customize Your Social Media Graphics
Adobe Spark and Canva are great FREE places to start if you’re design-challenged! Customize a marketing graphic for each social platform so it will showcase at its proper native size, or see what Hubspot has to say about the latest social media dimensions.
PRO TIPS: SOCIAL MEDIA
Your Mini Sessions info should be clear and shareable. Your marketing graphics should incorporate three elements:
- A simple message. Don’t overload your Instagram graphics with text. Instead, stick with simple copy: Fall Mini Sessions – October 1st! Provide details and LINK IN BIO guidance in your caption.
- Your brand. Your website (or better yet, the simple link to your Mini Sessions landing page) should be present on each graphic!
- An iconic image. Choose one of your beautiful portraits to entice clients to book. They should see your image and say, I want that for MY family!
Curate An Email List
Announce your Mini Sessions directly to your favorite clients (or to a new target demographic) via email! It’s important that you aren’t spamming anyone, so limit your emails to people who have given you permission to email them – such as past clients, or folks who’ve signed up for your newsletter.
If you’re collaborating with another business, that business can share your Mini Sessions details with their email list. Provide them with a brand-friendly graphic to help promote your work!
PRO TIP: EMAIL
Ready to grow your email list? Create a signup form on your website so curious new clients can get notified when you launch your next Mini Sessions date! We recommend MailChimp for gathering email addresses and sending eye-catching emails. It’s FREE for most photo businesses!
Streamline Your Mini Sessions Schedule
The most profitable Mini Sessions are typically scheduled back-to-back, with multiple Mini Sessions photographed in one day.
Short Mini Sessions are ideal, allowing your clients a fast-paced dose of your work without a hefty time-commitment.
Every Minute Counts
While the difference between 15-minute Mini Sessions and 30-minute Mini Sessions may not seem massive, consider this:
You can book NINE 15-minute Mini Sessions between 9:00am and noon; but you can only book FIVE 30-minute Mini Sessions in that same time frame!
15-minute Mini Sessions, scheduled in 20-minute increments = book 3 every hour!
EXAMPLE: 9:00am, 9:20am, 9:40am
30-minute Mini Sessions, scheduled in 40-minute increments = book 1.5 every hour. That’s half as many!
EXAMPLE: 9:00am, 9:40am, 10:20am, 10:40am, 11:20am
If your goal is to reach as many clients as possible and maximize your profits, a shorter session is the way to go!
PRO TIP: SCHEDULING
“My very first mini-sessions were almost a nightmare because some sessions went over their allotted time, and some people showed up a few minutes late for their session, which skewed the timeline. If you plan ahead and add a five- to ten-minute buffer between each session, you’ll have some wiggle room when someone shows up late or wants ‘just five more poses!'” – Tim Hussey, Pixifi
How To Price Your Mini Sessions for Profit
Don’t just slap a number on your Mini Sessions and call it a day. Understand the true value of what you’re selling – and what it will cost you.
- How many photos do you expect to shoot during each Mini Session? When you’re working quickly in a limited time-frame, you may easily create 100 photographs in a 15-minute window!
- Will you hire an assistant? When time is short, you’ll want a second pair of hands to hold a reflector or diffuser, wrangle a running kiddo, or straighten a stray hem!
- How many photographs will you deliver to each Mini Sessions client? Will you pre-determine a set number of files to share? Or will you show “all the good shots” without limitation? Consider the time required to cull, edit, upload, and share!
- Will you conduct Viewing and Ordering Sessions for your Mini Sessions clients? This is an excellent way to increase sales, but you’ll need to allow time on your calendar to meet with a large number of clients in a limited window!
- How will you handle illness or inclement weather? Nothing will blow your budget like having to refund all your Mini Session clients because you were forced to cancel! Have a plan in place!
Build Mini Sessions Packages That Make Sense
We love these easy-to-offer Mini Sessions packages. Mix-and-match, or go the one-and-done route. Overlay your own unique In-Person Sales or Shoot-and-Share approach, and you have a custom-crafted Mini Sessions experience!
NOTE: Below are package suggestions complete with example pricing. Your actual pricing may be vastly different depending on your market! NEVER apologize for charging what you’re worth!
The Small Digitals Package
Offer a short session with a pre-determined number of digital files delivered through your clients’ private ShootProof gallery. For example: a fifteen-minute session includes ten files. Period. Cull the session to only ten images, and deliver exactly ten files. But narrowing the options, you’ve reduced your editing time, and given your clients only the best-of-the-best!
EXAMPLE: $349 for a 15-minute session with 10 print-ready files in a private online gallery! (Base gross profit, before online print sales: $3141 between 9:00am and noon.)
The Promo Code Package
Offer a short session and post ALL the usable images – watermarked! – in a ShootProof gallery. Provide a promo code allowing a one-time download of your clients’ favorites! Additional digitals (and prints!) can be purchased through their gallery as well. Now you can charge less up-front for the Mini Session, then earn more in sales on the back-end!
EXAMPLE: $199 for a 15-minute session with a private online gallery and five FREE downloads! (Base gross profit, before additional sales: $1791 between 9:00am and noon.)
The Session Fee-Only Package
Make Mini Sessions insanely accessible with an out-of-this-world inexpensive session fee, a short-and-sweet session, and a well-crafted Viewing & Ordering Session a week or two after the shoot. This is a safe way to try In-Person Sales for the first time – or bring in new portrait clients who weren’t previously familiar with your process!
EXAMPLE: $49 for a 15-minute session! Packages begin at $150. (Base gross profit, before product sales: $441 between 9:00am and noon.)
Prepare Your Plan B: Terms & Conditions
Make your Terms & Conditions crystal clear at every level of the booking process. The success of your Mini Sessions rests heavily on your ability to complete them on the day allotted, with no cancellation refunds or rescheduling to additional days.
While only you can know what works best for your business, these tips may help you craft Terms & Conditions that will keep both you and your clients happy!
PRO TIP: TERMS & CONDITIONS
It’s always best to have an attorney draft your contracts and approve any Terms & Conditions language! If you’re not in a position to hire an attorney for this task, keep your policies clear by using simple language. Don’t try to “speak lawyer” if you’re not one!
Illness & Inclement Weather
Your Mini Sessions should be governed by the same contract used for your other portrait sessions, with the same protections covering you should you become too ill to work.
In the case of inclement weather, have a plan in place to shoot in a covered area. Consider:
- Parking garages. Open-sided parking garages can provide plentiful light! Just make sure there is a clean background – and that the garage owner is okay with you shooting there!
- Park pavilions. A large park pavilion offers cover from the rain and lovely light! Just beware the exposure differences between the covered area and the outdoors.
- Atriums at botanical gardens. You’ll likely need a permit and/or individual family tickets to shoot in these spaces, but you’ll find beautiful light in orchid houses and other greenhouses at your local botanical gardens!
Client Cancellations & Rescheduling Requests
It may be difficult to set a firm boundary, but it’s important that limited time offers such as Mini Sessions be sold as non-refundable, final purchases. If a client chooses to cancel, they will not receive a refund.
Rescheduling can be a touchier subject, because we all understand that kids can get sick and family emergencies do occur. However, a strict rescheduling policy is critical if you are to maintain a sane schedule and streamlined workflow.
Consider this policy:
Because Mini Sessions are available on a limited basis, all Mini Session bookings are final and non-refundable. They cannot be rescheduled to a new date or time. If you are unable to attend your Mini Session, however, you are welcome to gift or re-sell it to a friend or family member.
You, the photographer and owner of your business, can always choose to make an exception for a special client. But a firm, clear policy gives you the backbone necessary to stand firm against a client who is merely taking advantage of you.
Mobile Apps: Made for Mini Sessions!
Put your portfolio in every client’s pocket with their very own ShootProof Mobile App!
Mobile Apps are the perfect companion to every Mini Session.
- Add up to 100 photographs to a single Mobile App – easily every image from a client’s Mini Session!
- Include your sign-up link for your next Mini Sessions!
- Mobile Apps are customized with YOUR branding, website, and contact details.
- Clients save the Mobile App to their smartphone’s home screen for easy viewing any time, anywhere!
- Unlimited Mobile Apps are FREE with your paid ShootProof account!
Make Booking EASY – for You & Your Clients!
Booking the occasional portrait session via phone or email isn’t too much of a chore. You chat back-and-forth with your client, settle on a date and time, and lock it in with a retainer.
Mini Sessions are different, however! Because they’re a low-cost, special offer, they need to be pre-paid to secure the session – no refunds or rescheduling! And with so many bookings taking place in a short time-frame, it’s impractical for you to manually handle each and every client’s request.
Simplify the Mini Session booking process by automating it! There are numerous tools available for streamlining your Mini Sessions bookings:
Along with being a fully-featured studio management solution, Pixifi offers a nifty feature specifically for booking Mini Sessions!
“Scheduling mini-sessions the old manual way was a PAINFUL process! You would announce your dates and time slots, and people would have to contact you to see which time slots were not yet taken. Then you would have to send those people contracts to sign, links to invoices, and manually track who had paid and who hadn’t. Sound like a logistical nightmare? Yep! It is.
But with Pixifi, you can create a simple booking page where your clients can choose a service, pick a date (or dates), choose a time slot, then sign a contract and make their payment all from the cart of the booking page! This saves you time, money, and the mental strain of having to coordinate it all.” – Tim Hussey, Pixifi
You’re probably already using Square to swipe credit cards on your phone or send mobile invoices. With Square Appointments, you can create an online booking link with a customized availability calendar, finely-tuned service options, terms and conditions, and a full-featured booking solution. There is a monthly fee, so you will want to use Square Appointments for more than seasonal Mini Sessions to make it worth the investment.
SCALABLE MONTHLY FEE
Acuity Scheduling does everything you need a booking tool to do: syncs with your calendar, connects with your accounting software, integrates with payment solutions – and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg! You can even offer coupons, sell gift certificates, and market group events (like workshops!)
If you’re comfortable copying and pasting a bit of code onto your website, you can sell Mini Sessions using PayPal! Simply create Buy Now buttons, with each Mini Session time slot as an inventory item (quantity: 1). There’s an easy tutorial HERE.
NOTE: Because PayPal isn’t a true scheduler, you may encounter bugs – such as time slots being double-booked if two people hit Buy Now at the same time. It is 100% FREE to use this method; just be aware of the kinks.
Use Automated Emails To Sell For You!
When your Mini Sessions are over, your sales are just beginning! Automated Emails can effortlessly encourage post-shoot print purchases.
In ShootProof, create a short Email Automation Series called Mini Session Emails and attach the series to your Mini Session galleries!
I’m so happy your family joined me for a Mini Session!
Click the button above to see your beautiful photos, and enter your password: PASSWORD
Download your 5 favorite Mini Session images for FREE with your one-time-use promo code: SMITH5
Additional downloads and prints can be purchased through your gallery as well! Get FREE SHIPPING on all print orders placed this week!
I hope you’re enjoying your Mini Session photos!
Have you thought about hanging one on your wall? Use promo code HAPPY and save 20% off all 8x10s!
Hurry – your gallery expires in 1 week!
Your gallery expires in 2 days – but there’s still time to download your favorite photos!
Save 10% off last-minute digital downloads with promo code: YAY
PRO TIP: SELLING
Create unlimited custom discount codes for your ShootProof galleries, and use them to prompt print and product sales!
PIXIFI & AUTOMATED EMAILS
“Last fall, a photography studio needed to schedule eight staff members in four different locations, and Pixifi was up for the challenge! In each Booking Page Service, you can specify which Staff Member will be assigned to a booking, add the location where they will be shooting, and even have it auto-apply a workflow template that will automatically send Questionnaires and E-mail reminders. Who wants to be emailing people the day before a session? Pixifi does that for you!” – Tim Hussey, Pixifi
Mini Sessions YOUR WAY
When it’s all said and done, Mini Sessions are meant to boost your brand, cultivate your creativity, and WOW your wallet. Make Mini Sessions work for YOU!