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How To Do Santa Photography Mini Sessions


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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 . . .

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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.

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

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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 . . .

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

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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.

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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’.

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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…

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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…


No Comments

  1. Kristie on November 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

    What did the $125 include besides the session, if anything? Any prints or digital files? Or did people order packages after, ala cart, cards, etc.?

  2. Wendy Magee on November 21, 2012 at 9:23 am

    $125 was the session fee and 10 images on a disk.

  3. Kim Carpenter on November 21, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I am first year photographer, and this was sooooo helpful! Thank you so much for the awesome details of your article. It’s a wonderful idea and gives me something to plan for next year (as I think it’s too late for me this year). I loved the pictures! And you are right, the earthy theme was perfect!

  4. Susan on November 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I’m wondering the same thing as Kristie. Would love to know exactly what was included for the $125 session fee.

    • Wendy Magee on November 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

      I forgot to add, in addition to the 10 images on a disk for $125, Santa will do an email with each child. The child emails him and he’ll email back!

      • Breanne Clemmensen on September 27, 2013 at 11:25 am

        That is amazing you were able to find such a great santa. I love that he emails them too! That is a great price, I would either lower the images for that price because you could change up a little of what your used but still would have to buy some new stuff or make it. But $150 I think would be a great price and totally doable. 🙂 Thank you for so much great information.

  5. Ashley on November 21, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I love this! Thanks so much for the detailed post. I’ve been slowly breaking into the children/newborn photography business here in my area and this is such a brilliant idea. Thanks and good luck in future endeavors!

  6. Suzanne D. on November 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Absolutely darling and beautiful! Love it! I wish I lived in your area!

  7. Pam M - Grand Inspirations Photo on November 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I was drooling over the images as soon as Wendy posted the first teasers, of just the setup. Wendy you really knocked it out of the park, but I already told you that. 😀

  8. David on November 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    This was great … thank you for sharing.I do have a question or two … can you speak to the ‘print’. How does the client select the ten (10) images that you (is it your assistant?) puts on disk? What is your process for your client to order prints, cards, etc.? Thx again for sharing.

  9. Emily Thies on November 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Congratulations, Wendy on being featured by MCP! You truly deserve it after all the time, energy and fantastic work you have done with these Santa mini sessions! We are so thrilled we’re going to be in the Cincinnati area for Thanksgiving and are able to participate in round two, traveling all the way from Chicago! My kids are going to be so surprised Saturday morning! Can’t wait!

  10. Kristie on November 23, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for answering the question earlier about what the $125 included …. forgot to say, those are amazing photos. Makes me wish my own kids were little again and that I still lived in Ohio, I’d be your next client!!

  11. Karen on November 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Looks like you had so much fun! This is a wonderful and helpful idea. Thanks for sharing all your details, too.

  12. Wendy Magee on November 23, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you so much everyone! It really is a lot of fun! Watching all the children in awe of Santa really is a magical experience. I’m happy to be a part of it AND be the one to capture these magical moments!!I will be doing 2 more rounds – Nov. 24 and Dec. 2. So keep checking back on my page for more Santa pictures and I’ll try to get some pull back shots for you too 🙂 Anything else you want to see?The amazing cookies I have this time around, maybe???

  13. Alicia Eads on November 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Hi Wendy, your photography is amazing! I love looking at your pictures! I was wondering if you use natural light or is this set up in a studio with lights. However you do it, it looks very natural 🙂 Great job!!!

    • Wendy Magee on November 25, 2012 at 11:16 pm

      Thank you, Alicia!I try to always use natural light and did so in this instance as well. I have a lot of natural light along the back side of my house 🙂

  14. Gary on June 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Love the natural light look. I have been hired to shoot a fundraising Santa set for 2013 and was told to expect 300 kids to come through the 3 day event. This is more like a cattle-call for kids, but has been very popular except for last year when the photographer didn’t light it right. (see below) I don’t have the large strobe lights but I have a lot of continuous light and I was hoping I could see how that would work. You did great! I really want to try the mini-session on my own, but I’m afraid this year will be too hectic. Thanks for sharing your Santa pics….any advice for dealing with parents would be welcome too.Nice work!

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