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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How to Run Successful Holiday Santa Mini Sessions