Man, I have always kind of had a love hate relationship with mini sessions. You’re going to learn why in this episode. In this episode, I’m going to give you the low down on if you should offer minis depending on your brand, and if so, how should you position them? What mistakes should you avoid that a lot of photographers are making? How should you price and market these mini sessions?
Mini Sessions in a Nutshell
The way most photographers do mini sessions is they offer a 15 to 20-minute session and include digital files for something like $100 to $300.
When I look back at the decade+ that photographers have been offering mini sessions, and this might be a little controversial, I realize that a lot of photographers honestly do it to bring in quick cash because they don’t have a solid marketing strategy in place to get full paying clients regularly.
Maybe that’s why you’ve offered mini sessions in the past. It’s like, I got to make some money, do some mini sessions, and oftentimes, that becomes our go-to instead of developing a strategic marketing system that consistently brings in high-paying and full-paying clients.
So it’s this mindset of, “Okay, I need to make some quick cash. I don’t want to do a sale or promotion because that’s going to cheapen my brand. So I’ll do some minis,” and you do the mini sessions, and in a month or two, you need cash again, and you do mini sessions again.
Now, don’t come at me for this, okay? I’ve done mini sessions. I might do them again in the future. I am not a mini sessions hater, but I do think there’s a better way to incorporate minis into your high-end or luxury photography business.
When I say that, you might be like, “Wait, is she talking to me? Do I have a high-end or luxury photography?” Depends a lot on your area, but what I really mean is you’re on the higher end of pricing in your area. So I would say if your clients are paying you over a thousand dollars, just as a general rule of thumb for portraits, then yes, you’re a high-end or luxury photographer.
Your business model is focused more on higher prices and lower volume versus a lot of clients at a low price. So mini sessions really started to kind of get a bad reputation among luxury and high-end photographers because they thought mini session photographers were cheapening the experience and the industry as a whole.
And I actually think that we can all live in harmony – luxury photographers, mini-session photographers, and everything in between. Because I know photographers who build their businesses a hundred percent around mini sessions. You know how I always talk about niching down? They’re niched down to mini sessions. Every holiday, they run a holiday session for Easter Minis, or around Christmas time or summer time – every month they’ve got a different themed mini session. And there’s nothing wrong with that model.
But for me personally, I never liked the idea of working with hundreds or even thousands of clients every year. I would much rather have way fewer clients, paying me more per session, and have a deeper relationship where I remember their names and their details about sessions we’ve had together and things in their lives.
Should Luxury Photographers Offer Mini Sessions?
My answer is, YES, if you want to. There’s really nothing wrong with offering mini sessions and it’s not going to hurt your brand when you do it strategically. In fact, I’ve actually had the experience where someone comes to me for a mini session and then they go on to book me for higher paying portrait sessions.
It’s kind of like the food samples at the mall – they get a little taste and they like the experience and the quality, and they go on to buy more.
Fun fact: the times that this has happened has almost always been when I’ve done charity mini sessions for a cause that I know my ideal client aligns with!
If you’re not sure about ideal clients, you want to learn more about ideal clients, we just did an episode right before this one. But the mini sessions that I did that were like donation only, those were typically the ones that led to full paying clients.
In addition to the ideal client episode, we did an episode with my friend Lindsey Brooks, who was a local photographer. She talked all about her mini session strategy for Santa mini sessions and how she’s booking, I think between 100-200 mini Santa Sessions and doing about 40K a year just with those mini sessions. She is so smart when it comes to all of this because she also runs a luxury business, like what we’re talking about, for newborn photography. Go listen to that episode after this one if you want to learn more about mini sessions and all of that.
Mistakes that Luxury Photographers Make When Running Mini Sessions
But there are some mistakes that luxury photographers make when it comes to mini sessions that actually do hurt their brand. So we can’t just look at what all mini session photographers are doing and then copy and paste that into our own business. That is why having your ideal client in mind is so important when you’re making this decision on when and how to offer mini sessions.
Allowing clients to book them one at a time
This is a big no-no, in my opinion. And what I mean by this is whenever somebody reaches out to you and they’re like, “Hey, I don’t need a full session. Can we just do a mini session?” That’s a big, hard NO.
The whole point of a mini session is to group a bunch of mini sessions all together. So if we’re choosing a custom time and location and I’m only photographing one family, that’s not a mini session, that’s a full session.
And clients might need a little education here. Because I can’t tell you how many times I would get a DM or an inquiry from someone being like, “Hey, I follow you. Can I do a mini session because I just need a few good shots?” Well, obviously that’s not my dream client. And two, it’s an opportunity for me to just briefly educate the client on why mini sessions are typically cheaper and why they’re not booked individually by clients.
As I’m saying that, I’m starting to think that would be a good piece of content for you to create if you’re finding yourself getting these inquiries. You could totally create a reel or a social media post or a blog post, just outlining for your community what it means to book minis and why they’re not typically offered one at a time because really it’s not the client’s fault. We can’t be mad at them for asking, right? But we can educate them either when they ask or beforehand with our content. Using your content to educate is really, really smart.
Making Your Minis Just a Shorter Version of Full Sessions
Please do not do this. I see this all the time, especially with fall mini sessions, and I definitely made this mistake myself. It’s like, “Okay, let’s go to a park and do a bunch of family sessions in a field and they’ll all get digital files.” But if that’s what your full sessions are, why would anyone ever book a full session?
If your mini sessions are basically the same as your full sessions as far as location and what you would normally do, your normal process for a full session, why would anyone ever book a full session? This is hands down the number one mistake I see high-end photographers making with their mini sessions.
It’s critically important to make sure that your minis are unique and different from your full sessions.
Unless you don’t want to book full sessions, unless you want to specialize as a mini session photographer, which I’m guessing most of you listening to this show don’t want to do. It’d be like me telling you, “Hey, you can buy my signature marketing program, Marketing School for Photographers for $5,000 and it’ll take you three years to finish and get fully book or you can buy Marketing School for photographers for $1,000 and it will take you 6 months to complete and you can get fully booked. Which one are you going to choose?
So that’s the same mistake that we’re making whenever we’re offering people basically everything that we normally do in our full sessions in a mini session. We’re saying, do you want to pay $250 or do you want to pay $1,000 and basically get the same thing?
Not Thinking Big Picture
The third mistake photographers make with minis is they’re not thinking big picture. They’re looking at mini sessions as a quick cash grab and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with running mini sessions to make some quick cash – that’s not what I’m saying. It’s when you’re only thinking about minis that way and ignoring the fact that they could play a big part in your overall marketing strategy.
Let me give you an example to show you what I mean. Most of you listening to this have a niche like birth or newborns, which are big events in someone’s life, right?
So people need to know you and trust you before investing with you. What if you could use mini sessions as a way for people to get to know you before hiring you for that big event?
Something like gender reveal minis or pregnancy announcement minis, you could do a group of small sessions, all back to back, that people want photos for and they’re unique. Definitely this would be different than your full sessions, but they’re directly tied to your ideal client.
Something like that is a way for this family to get to know you, get to know your work, get to know your style, your process before making a bigger investment with you. So please do not sleep on thinking big picture for your whole business using mini sessions.
And also the idea I mentioned earlier about the charity mini sessions, that’s another way that aligns with looking at the big picture for your whole business, not just, “I need some cash, I need to do some mini sessions.”
Best Ways to Offer Mini Sessions
Make every session unique
As a high-end photographer, you have to make the mini sessions unique. I really want to drive this point home because I think it’s so important and it’s something so many people are missing out on.
And what I started to do is making sure that this is not going to be a miniature version of my full sessions. This is going to be an Easter session, a Christmas session – they’re themed. Even something like “Coca-Cola,” firetrucks, or bubbles, right? There are a lot of opportunities to theme sessions and make them different from your full sessions.
You could also restrict the number of people who can be photographed. So instead of letting the whole entire family jump in, maybe it’s just for the kids, right?
Give Upsell Opportunities
Most people, and I’m making a generalization here, assume that mini sessions are going to include digital files. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do them that way, especially if you’re a photographer who does in-person sales and you don’t normally include digital files.
Why would you do that for your mini sessions when you don’t do that for your full sessions? Especially when we’re thinking big picture and we’re trying to get these people to warm up to us to eventually invest in our full sessions, right?
It’s important to show them in the beginning how things work for your sessions.
So let me explain the way that we used to do this with our mini sessions: Basically, they would only pay the session fee and it would be a much smaller session fee, and then they’d come to order their products afterwards. Just like our full-paying clients, they would come and order their digitals or their physical products just like a full session. Of course, everything was overall a little bit cheaper, but it was the same process.
And what was cool is we would often get sales that were close to our full-price sessions by doing it this way, so it made minis way more profitable. And they were an easier yes for people because that entry point was a lower price. The session fee would be $99 or less, and then they would come purchase something afterwards.
Now, if you’re not doing IPS and you want to include digitals in the price that the client pays, there are still ways that you can upsell. So some things that come off the top of my head is limiting the number of digitals they’re getting.
So they’re paying like $250 for 15 minutes with 10 digital files, and you give them the option to purchase more later. And I think that works out really well for the client too, because they’re not investing a ton of money in somebody that they’ve never worked with before. They’re able to invest a little bit of money and see the images and purchase more files later.
Or you could offer small and unique products to that mini session. Again, referencing the episode I did with Lindsay Brooks about her Santa Sessions, we talked about the unique products that she offers her clients that do the Santa sessions that she’s not normally offering. You could also allow them to bring in extra family members or even siblings for an additional fee.
Tips on Pricing Your Minis
So, you’re making them unique sessions, you’re offering ways to upsell, but how are you supposed to price your minis? I actually approached pricing my minis really simply. I really didn’t overthink it.
I just thought about how much do I want to make per hour or how much do I normally make per hour from a full-paying client, then I decide how long I wanted each mini session to last, and I just divide it out.
Example: If I price my full sessions, my normal session price would be $1000. That’s how much I would make in one hour from one family session, and I wanted to make each mini session 15 minutes with a five-minute buffer. Each session would then be about 20 minutes.
So I could do 3 sessions in an hour, and if my goal is to make a thousand dollars in that hour, I would need to make $333 per mini session.
Hopefully that makes sense. So it’s like, $1000, $330 per person, each person’s session is 20 minutes, so I can do 3 in one hour. But I like to make a little more money than my normal sessions with mini sessions because there is more work and cost that goes into mini sessions, so including upsells and all of those things, I usually was hoping to make more like $400 to $500, and occasionally we’d get bigger sales and they would spend the same amount of money that our full-paying clients for full sessions would spend.
Mini Session Marketing Tips
So we’ve got a price, now let’s talk about how to market these mini sessions, how to fill up these sessions. Please do not make the assumption (and I made this assumption) that just because these sessions are cheaper sessions that people are going to bang down your door to book them.
I remember the first time that I offered mini sessions, I want to say you guys, it was 2010 and everybody was doing mini sessions, and so I thought that it’s going to be so much easier to book because it’s cheaper. I was just so confident that it was going to be a smashing success because they were so inexpensive.
So I told you it was 2010, it was like the caveman era of social media, and there wasn’t Canva, so I made these digital flyers in Photoshop for the mini sessions and they took me forever. I was having to do everything manually – try to figure out how to design it, how to price it, all this stuff.
So the whole thing took me forever and I posted a blog post that detailed everything out – here’s where the sessions are going to be, how much they’re going to cost, here’s what’s included. I think that my price was $85, and so I thought that this is going to sell like crazy.
You might be able to guess what happened based on how I built up this story – I was so naively confident that these would sell out. And guess how many spots I sold?
And I was so ashamed and embarrassed and I wanted to just delete the post and delete the Facebook post and delete the blog, delete it all.
But I learned some valuable lessons in that experience and now I look back and I see some major mistakes that I made then that I still see students and photographers making today. So there’s a few lessons I want to share with you that I’ve learned based on that experience:
- When you’re marketing your minis, understand that just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean people are going to book it.
- Give people a reason other than the price to book the mini sessions.
- It’s so important to tease and tell people something is coming and build excitement and maybe even a wait list. Imagine right now if I was like, “Okay, here’s all the mistakes and I’m offering a brand new course on how to run mini sessions and you can buy it right now at my shop for $500. You might be like, “Wait, what?” Totally caught off guard, right? You had no idea that was coming and maybe one or two of you would buy it, but chances are, I’d make a lot more sales if I were to build some excitement and tease that something is coming and get a wait list going and then make the juicy offer, right?
So hopefully you can see how that applies to your mini sessions when you just spring something on people and they weren’t expecting it. Especially only if you post once or twice about it or only one time, or you post a blog or you send one email and people aren’t banging down your door, they didn’t know it was coming and you’ve only told them about it one time.
- You have to have a juicy offer. Why is this the best thing they could spend their money on? How can you make the offer a no-brainer, so good that they don’t want to wait they have to get a spot right now?
- There has to be some kind of urgency. Either a limited number of spots or the price increasing something, and that was something that my offer didn’t have. There was no urgency other than the date was approaching. And of course, your urgency needs to be true. You’re not lying, you’re not making something up, but you have to think of something to give people a reason to take some action.
If you’re a student inside of The Beauty in Birth Photography Course and Certification, you have access to a bonus course called Momentum: Make Up to $1000 in as Little as 10 days. And inside that bonus course, I walked you through a detailed process to launch your minis successfully. So make sure that you check that out if you need more help with your mini session.
So what I thought was going to be a quick, punchy episode turned into a slightly longer episode, but we learned a lot in this episode about how to offer mini sessions as a luxury photographer. As always, I would love to hear what you thought about this episode or what you’re going to implement after listening to it. Shoot me a DM on Instagram, or even better, leave a quick review saying what you loved about this episode, what you want to hear in the future, what you want to see done differently. I accept any and all feedback, and I would love to hear from you.
Mini sessions, as we’ve learned, are a great part of photography and photography businesses when you do them the right way. And I hope that this episode gave you some practical ways to make your next round of minis a big time success.
And remember my friend, if you have a passion, it’s not an accident because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, that passion is there for a reason. I hope that you’ll pursue that passion and get out there and make it happen.
Have a great week!