The Complete Guide To Booking, Shooting, & Selling Photography Mini Sessions
Reach new photography markets, create photo collaborations, and quickly fill empty calendar spots with Mini Sessions! Here’s your complete guide to doing it RIGHT. (Photos by JUSTINE MILTON.)
What are Mini Sessions?
A Mini Sessions is exactly what it sounds like: a smaller version of the portrait photo packages you already offer as a photographer.
For example, if your typical portrait client experience or photo session lasts an hour, this photo session should only last 15 – 20 minutes. “Fifteen minutes?!?” you say. “But that’s not long at all!” You’re right – it’s not! That’s why it’s mini!
A Mini Session is designed to give clients a taste of what you do.
These Sessions are NOT:
- your regular photo session 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. A Mini Session works best as a limited-time offer!
Don’t damage your brand (or your wallet!) by confusing these photo sessions with cheap photography. What makes this photo session more affordable is its size. Learn more about mini session pricing in our complete guide.
Just as you’d pay less for one scoop of ice cream versus three, your new clients will pay less for a mini session versus full sessions!
3 Marvelous Session Scenarios
Offer your Mini Session to your clients with intent and purpose for maximum impact.
#1: Reach New Markets
A Mini Session is perfect for families and clients who aren’t ready to commit to full sessions, but still want to experience your photography work. Some Mini Sessions clients may never go on to book a full session themselves – though some clients will, when a life event calls for it.
However, a WOW client experience will convert these new clients into brand ambassadors. You’ll be surprised by the number of full session client referrals that come from these photo sessions clients.
#2: Create Collaborations
Mini Sessions make for excellent promotional offers, such as seasonal shoots and holiday cards. (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 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, these photo sessions are easier to sell at the last minute. And because these photo sessions are a limited time offer, clients are more inclined to make the purchase while they last!
How To Market Your Mini Session
The most successful Mini Session begins with a bit of photography 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 Session and how a client can book their photo sessions.
If you’re a bit more adventurous, read Mark Condon’s tips for creating a search engine-friendly landing page for your photo sessions.
Customize Your Social Media Graphics
Adobe Spark and Canva are great FREE places to start if you’re design-challenged. Customize a marketing graphic, images and photos 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 TIP: Get Social Media Savvy
Your Mini Session info should be clear and shareable. Your marketing graphics, images and photos 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 for your client to see.
- Your brand. Your website (or better yet, the simple link to your Mini Session landing page) should be present on each graphic!
- An iconic image. Choose one of your beautiful portraits and holiday cards to entice clients to book. Make sure your clients 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 make sure you limit your emails and holiday cards 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 client list. Provide them with a brand-friendly graphic to help promote your sessions!
PRO TIP: Make the Most of Email Lists
Ready to grow your list? Make sure you 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 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: Schedule Smart
“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
Prepare Your Plan B: Terms & Conditions
Make your Terms & Conditions crystal clear at every level of the process to book one. The success of your booked Mini Sessions rests heavily on your ability to complete them on the day your clients book them, with no refunds or rescheduling.
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: Even A Mini Session Needs A Contract
Always use attorney-drafted contracts – even for tiny shoots like Mini Sessions. The ShootProof Marketplace has lawyer-created contracts for every genre!
Illness & Inclement Weather
Your Mini Sessions book contract will cover you should you become too ill to work.
In the case of inclement weather, have a plan in place to shoot your photos in a covered area. Consider:
- Parking garages. Open-sided parking garages can provide plentiful light for your photos! Just make sure there is a clean background in the photo – and that the garage owner is okay with you shooting photos there!
- Park pavilions. A large park pavilion offers cover from the rain and lovely light for your images! 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 your images in these spaces, but you’ll find beautiful light in orchid houses and other greenhouses at your local botanical gardens!
Client Cancellations & Rescheduling Requests
As a photographer, 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 a booked session can be a touchier subject for any photographer because we all understand that kids can get sick and family emergencies do occur. However, a strict book session 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 another 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 as a photographer against a client who is merely taking advantage of you.
Mobile Apps: Made for Mini Sessions!
Put your images 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 and images 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 photography client, settle on a date and time, and lock it in with a retainer.
A Mini Session is 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 Session bookings:
Along with being a fully-featured studio management solution, Pixifi offers a nifty feature specifically for booking a Mini Session!
“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 the seasonal photography session to make it worth the investment.
SCALABLE MONTHLY FEE
Acuity Scheduling does everything you need a photography 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 photography events (like workshops!)
If you’re comfortable copying and pasting a bit of code onto your website, you can sell your session using PayPal! Simply create Buy Now buttons, with each 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 session is over, your photography 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!
PRO TIP: SELLING
Create unlimited custom discount codes for your ShootProof galleries and images, 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 Session YOUR WAY
When it’s all said and done, these photo sessions are meant to boost your brand, cultivate your creativity, and WOW your wallet. Make your sessions and photos work for YOU!