How to Run Successful Holiday Santa Mini Sessions

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How to Run Successful Holiday Santa Mini Sessions

mini sessions

A magical experience, through a Santa photography mini session!

A lot can be said for mini sessions. They are stylized, fun, and more affordable for your clients and a nice way to make some money in a day!

Here’s a really exciting way to do some Holiday Portraits in a lifestyle fashion that speaks to the kids and families like no other.


I knew as soon as I laid my eyes on this Santa I wanted to use him for mini sessions. I’ve worked with him in the past when I worked for a portrait studio and then he came to my husband’s company holiday party to pass out gifts to the children. If his looks aren’t enough for you, his personality tops it all!! So, I asked him for his card, let him know that I would be in contact, and the rest was history . . .


This was an ASTOUNDING success and will definitely be a tradition for years to come! Here’s how I did it, my thought process, pricing, what I learned and things I’d do different next time.

How to do a Santa Photography Mini Session

Really, the sky is the limit on what you can do with these types of sessions. Get your inspiration jiving and let’s see what you come up with! Let us photographers unite and give these children a magical experience to NEVER forget!!!

Step 1: Book Santa. Ideally book one early. He is a busy man. I booked on September 1st for early in November ensuring time for holiday cards and such. Once booked the spots filled up fairly fast.

Step 2: Market the photography mini sessions to past customers, through social networking, etc.

Step 3: Find a location. Look for a good indoor environment as you don’t want to risk bad outdoor weather. Since I found it was rather pricey, I decided to do them at my house and utilize the natural light and fireplace. I have very large windows along the whole backside with gorgeous light.

Step 4: Decorate. Can you believe I didn’t even use a Christmas tree? I wanted an earthy, organic feel to it. I browsed the stores for Holiday décor inspiration and I came up with making yarn balls, purchased some moss balls, wrapping my presents in the tones I wanted, making my own banner, and found a friend with an awesome Santa chair! Everything really was just falling into place.

Step 5: Just do it. For more day of tips, keep reading.

Step 6: Promote the sessions after the fact for more business. After the first round of sessions, 2 days later, I posted ‘teasers’ on facebook. One shot of each child(ren). The response was overwhelming! Everyone started asking when I was going to do these again, if there was another round they wanted in, please do more, etc . . etc . . etc . . So, I called Santa and scheduled him again.  This round filled in just 10 hours. Again . . . people asked for more. So, I scheduled a third day and it filled up again.


Above: I loved getting a shot of all of their hands. Who gets cookies straight from Santa’s hands?

Above: These are my 2 kids. Dad was getting ready to take them out for the day, but how could I NOT give them the opportunity to see Santa himself in THEIR house! The expressions on their faces say it all . . .


Above: They were all telling Santa what they really, really wanted the most.

How It Worked: Day of.  The process went pretty smooth. It was actually like a revolving door. I had an assistant with me, which I felt was a necessity to make this run as smoothly as it did. It allowed me to stay focused and not get caught up in other tasks. My assistant, Patti, let people in, help them get ready if needed, had people pay (who didn’t upfront), sign a model release, help the kids smile if needed, offered snacks (clean finger foods of course and it was important to keep Santa happy!) Basically, kept them out of my way and happy while I was shooting.


Schedule: We booked every 30 minutes. No wiggle room like I usually allow for mini sessions. Each family/child got 30 minutes with Santa (WAY better than the tradition mall experience). We had cookies and milk, went over their list if they wanted, they got to ask questions, take pictures with him, tell secrets, do a story . . . the possibilities are endless. I also offered a plain backdrop for variety of something to give as gifts and not be so ‘christmas-y’.


Money – What to Charge: I said I would talk about pricing. My favorite topic . . . not. I learned the hard way, after the fact. I only charged a wee bit more than my typical standard mini session fee. I normally charge $100 for a mini session. For Santa sessions I charged $125, to help cover the cost of Santa. I didn’t think of all the other costs involved. Maybe this was a good move also to get people in the door and get the hype going, but I’m going to do it differently next year though. This isn’t your standard session. For one, it’s 10 min. longer, faster paced and let’s not forget, MAGICAL! Nobody had any issue paying that fee. In fact, people said they were surprised. So next year’s price will be higher as I need to factor in the costs of everything… decorations, santa, assistant, cookies, snacks and any other misc. costs, and a location if I decide to rent a space. I’d love to hear your thoughts on pricing also.

In the end this is a very exciting event for all! The families love it, Kids love it, Santa loves it, and well…


I LOVED every minute of it.

Wendy Magee is a photographer in the Cincinnati, OH area working with mainly children, families, newborns and seniors.  She’s a Canon girl and has been shooting for 4 years. Visit her on Facebook and let her know what you think about her first ever blog post… This article ran in 2012 here on the MCP Blog – but we ran in in late November.  This year we want you to get an earlier start!

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  1. December 4, 2013 at 7:35 pm —

    This is the most cutest idea! I just love it..!

  2. November 21, 2013 at 3:08 pm —

    This is the location/setup that I used for my mini sessions this year. This was my first time doing them, but won’t be the last. I really enjoyed it. We did some photos with this setup, then walked around the building to the Christmas tree farm where we did a second set of images.

  3. November 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm —

    HellO! Can anyone tell me where I can get those string trees on the mantle?

    Thank you!

  4. November 7, 2013 at 8:47 pm —

    Really great insight and inspiration, thank you! May I ask, how many hours did you shoot each day? thank you!

  5. November 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm —

    GREAT BLOG! Loved it! And, what a fabulous idea! 🙂 With your mini session charge of $100 (or $125 in this case…) do you include digital files? And if so, how many? I’m just finishing up some editing from mini sessions from last weekend and was curious how you priced it. Pricing seems to be the hardest part, as everyone wants a bargain…but from a fellow photographers point of view there’s A LOT more that goes into it, so I completely agree with you, especially for these Santa mini’s to charge more!

  6. November 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm —

    Thanks for the inspiration! Perfect timing as I’m putting together my flyer for Christmas card preparations too. Did you given any product/file with the session fee? Other photographers have suggested you do an all-for-one price which would include the 30 min. shoot, an 8×10 and 1 digital file for $150. In your case, it looks like you would need to work with each client afterwards to get their product sale, right?

  7. November 6, 2013 at 11:19 am —

    Did you burn the photos to a disc for your clients?

  8. November 6, 2013 at 9:46 am —

    Love this, gave me a great idea. I will be quiting my full time job and jumping into photography full time in June of next year. Thanks so much for this post.

  9. November 6, 2013 at 9:42 am —

    Thank you for the great post! I will definitely be looking into doing this next year! I wish I had thought of it this year as we just opened up a studio! It’s not a typical studio (more for boudoir), but it would do the job!!!

    Thank you!

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How to Run Successful Holiday Santa Mini Sessions