Ever wondered what the secret ingredient is to holding successful mini sessions? These 20 minute sessions are of benefit to both professional photographers and clients alike. Held in a public setting, they give clients the opportunity to update family photos or give a beautiful, timeless, gift for Mother’s Day. The images can even be put together for holiday cards or to commemorate the beginning of a new school year. They are often a lower price point than a full session, with less formality, and a little bit more fun.
While they are a lot of work, the benefits are a no-brainer and make them completely worth it. Whether you are hosting your first mini session or trying to figure out how to make the most of your minis, follow my 5 steps to successful minis for a foolproof way to not only bring in a little bit of extra income, but to build your business too.
1. Details, Details, Details
When I first started doing minis, I went all out. My packages (yes, more than one) were extraordinary and I was certain that everyone and their mother would be chomping at the bit to participate. The truth is that I didn’t price myself right, and my “options” were killing me. Clients were getting overwhelmed and just opted out altogether.
I learned quickly to only offer one package for minis, and to keep the price point under $200. The package includes the 20 minute stylized session in a stunning outdoor location, one 11×14 print and a few 5×7’s. I also provide one watermarked image that is Facebook ready, usually as a sneak peek on my website for sharing purposes. Clients always have the option of purchasing additional prints as well as high resolution images once their galleries are up.
Wondering how many sessions you should try packing into the weekend? Some people prefer to go over two weekends, some people prefer to get everything into one. Truth is, it is all about the light situation where you are shooting. The closer you get to sunset, the better your light will be. However, you can only get a certain number of sessions in before you’re all out of light. A good balance for me seems to be 12 sessions over the course of 2 days. This gives me stunning light for all of my sessions while making sure I can book the smaller kids early to make sure that we aren’t messing with bedtime schedules at home.
2. Getting The Word Out
Now that you’ve got a good game plan for your minis, I suppose it might be a good idea to market them, right?
I’m pretty active in my community, so I make use of community groups and my personal network the most. I’ve used Facebook advertising before, but with mixed results. The trouble I’ve had with Facebook marketing is that if I target all 3500+ of my fans and their friends, I might be advertising to people who live in Texas. Targeting people in my area doesn’t give me the option of also advertising to people who are already my fans and their friends, so it’s a coin toss. I’ve had a few hits from people in my area, but you’re better off having clients, friends and family sharing your post on Facebook for others to see.
I am also a member of local play groups, and Mommas are always asking when I’m doing Minis again! Same goes for dance class, softball practice and swimming lessons. Look for community boards around town where you can put up posters about your minis. Spread the good word!
3. Location, Location, Location
Mini sessions are not the time to be adventurous with your location. Stick with a place you’re familiar with, even if you’ve shot there a dozen times. If that means a beautiful park in an urban location or a large hayfield with a big red barn, then do it. You need to make sure you know the lay of the land, and what the light looks like during the hours you’ll be shooting.
Initially, I was doing minis in a public park but eventually, I decided that I wanted them to be somewhere with less foot traffic that also felt more exclusive. After a little bit of string pulling, I was able to rent a large river shelter and the adjoining plot of land in a huge community park. Clients love it because they have their own entrance and place to park and play. Having the shelter was a huge bonus if for some reason, in the middle of August, it decided to rain.
4. The Day Of
Bring help, because you are going to need it. I set up an hour before my sessions and three people come with me. The first is responsible for greeting people at the entrance to the venue and directing them to the location. The second is responsible for offering clients who arrive some refreshments, getting them settled and helping to entertain the kids while they are waiting for their turn. The third is the muscle (usually my husband) who helps me bring some of the big things and set up. Person #3 magically re-appears as minis come to a close to help me pack it all up.
Write out a workflow for the day of, so you look as polished and professional as possible. Nothing looks worse to a client than running around looking like a chicken with its head cut off. Maintain a calm and composed demeanor at all times, even if things get a little bit hectic.
Bring everything you need including backup batteries, CF cards, hoods if you need them and plenty of refreshments. I like to do a baked good and some lemonade (or hot cocoa if we are doing holiday minis!). Try to bring a treat that won’t get the kids messy. There’s nothing more frustrating than photographing toddlers covered in chocolate, and you’ll only have yourself to blame! Once your session is all wrapped up, be sure to send the family off with a warm thank you and let them know you’ll be in touch soon via email.
5. Follow Up
What you need to keep in mind with minis is that while they are a great way to earn a decent income over the course of a weekend, they also serve a bigger purpose: bringing in new business. Depending on what kind of experience the clients have before, during and after the session, you could be looking at new repeat business and subsequent referral business.
I always like to send an email out to my mini participants two days after the session letting them know how much I appreciated them coming by. I also let them know that they should keep an eye out for sneak peeks on the Facebook page as well as another email from me within the next 2 weeks with information about their online gallery.
While I usually do proofing sessions in person for full sessions, mini sessions proofing is almost impossible to schedule when you’ve got 12 clients over the course of 2 days, so I have no qualms about doing the proofing online. The clients love it too because it is easy for them and lets them view the photos in the comfort of their own home, at their convenience.
Remember when I mentioned pricing at the beginning of this post? Some of you might scoff at setting a price point under $200, but the up-sell on minis is certainly not marginal. About 70% of my clients get all of their high resolution images (10-15) in addition to their prints. I price my high resolution digital images at a little under half of what I would for a full session.
Last, don’t be “that” photographer who forgets their client after the session is over. I can’t even tell you the number of repeat business I have had as a result of other photographers not keeping in touch. About a month after sessions, I send my Mini Session clients a $25-50 gift card (depending on their post-session order amount) towards a future full session with me. This business is all about relationships. Make sure that yours are strong and you’re guaranteed to succeed!
Veronica Gillas is a natural light portrait photographer in Portland, Oregon, specializing in newborns, children, families and seniors. When she’s not with her amazing clients she loves to knit, challenge her 8 year old to a high stakes game of Mario Kart, play dress up with her 5 year old, tickle her 4 month old’s feet and snuggle on a picnic blanket with her husband. Head on over to her website or Facebook page and say hello!