Maximizing minis: Making mini session photography profitable
Many photographers believe they can not offer mini session photography because it's either too time-consuming or not profitable enough. They're convinced mini photoshoots devalue their work and that clients view them as cheaper versions of their regular sessions.
But none of those statements have to be true.
In fact, properly structured photography mini sessions can be a way to make a surprisingly good income in a short amount of time and can help fill the income gap during quiet seasons in the photography business. We dive into the information you need to help you with your mini session photography pricing, how to structure and market them, some fun mini session ideas, and above all else, how to profit from them.
Why offer mini session photography?
Mini session photography is a valuable way to connect with new clients. It provides them with a low-risk session so they can get a feel for how you work without making a larger investment. Mini photoshoots are also better for people who struggle with short attention spans — like small children.
As a photographer, photography mini sessions can offer several benefits for your business as well:
- They require less time investment than your regular sessions.
- They can help you build and connect with your client list.
- They help boost cash flow during low seasons (like winter).
- They provide opportunities to collaborate with other small business owners (location, props, etc.)
Mini photoshoots can offer a quick and relatively easy way to generate revenue quickly, but they do require some advance planning.
How to create profitable photography mini sessions
Generating profit from your mini session photography is all about balancing your time input with a pricing structure that works for you — then working out natural addons that you can use to increase your profit without feeling you’re having to push too hard to make a sale.
Create your mini session photography pricing
First things first — mini sessions are not your regular sessions or packages at a lower price. Attempting to produce a full shoot at a photography mini session price point is why many photographers oppose mini sessions. If you discount your regular photography packages, you will attract deal-seekers instead of the ideal clients you’d like to nurture into long-term customers.
A photography mini session should be a small or short version of your offering — you should spend less time shooting, utilizing just one location, take fewer photos, and the clients will receive a limited number of images.
As you develop your photography mini session pricing, consider your goals. What is your primary reason for hosting a mini photoshoot?
- Are you trying to cover a gap in income during a slow season?
- Are you trying to attract new clients at an introductory rate?
- Do you want to increase your visibility in the community by partnering with local businesses?
Mini session packages include the photoshoot and a small amount of images for one price. However, photography mini session pricing can vary greatly depending on your personal goals.
If you consider mini sessions primarily a marketing tool, you’ll want to compare the cost of generating new leads through a mini photoshoot versus running an ad. You’ll want a price point that is not significantly higher than the cost of ads (though remember that you are more likely to connect with your ideal client in a mini session versus digital ads).
Calculate your mini session photography pricing
One way to calculate your mini session photography pricing is to divide the cost of a typical session package into smaller time slots.
For example, if you currently charge $600 for a 2-hour photoshoot, you could book six sessions in a single location, within a 2-hour time frame. Your mini session photography pricing could be around $100 per package when calculating it this way.
If you’re looking to fill an income gap during a slower season, you’ll want to calculate your operating costs and income goals before settling on your photography mini sessions pricing.
Operating costs specific to mini session photography could include the following:
- Prop purchases
- Location rental fees (if needed)
- Assistant pay
- Marketing (such as paid ads for mini sessions)
Then, add your regular monthly operating expenses such as Lightroom, gear purchases and maintenance, email marketing system, website, and gallery fees.
Now, you’ll want to play with the numbers a bit. What package price did you have in mind? Calculate your total revenue if every photography mini session is booked, then subtract the total expenses.
Total Achievable Revenue - Total Expenses = Potential Profit
Next, calculate the total hours you will spend on this project. Include the total shooting hours, set up/tear down, and post-processing images. Divide the potential profit by total hours to determine how much you will make per hour.
How does this calculated hourly rate feel to you? Do you feel adequately compensated for your time and energy? Is it worth the effort? Is it worth the time investment for the potential outcome? If not, you may need to increase your mini session photography pricing.
Marketing photography mini sessions
A well-crafted marketing campaign can be the key to running successful photography mini sessions.
Here are five tips for marketing mini photoshoots:
1. Time your ad campaign appropriately
Timing is key when it comes to marketing your mini session photography. If you start advertising too early, many will delay booking a session, thinking it's too far in the future. But if you begin marketing too late, clients may have already made other plans — especially for holiday or Christmas mini sessions.
Ideally, you should begin advertising no more than six weeks before you run your photography mini sessions.
2. Promote via email
Reach out to your email list first. Loyal fans and past customers will be excited to capture a new chapter of their lives through your mini sessions. You may also have new subscribers contemplating booking your services, and an email might be the nudge they need to take that next step.
Creating an email marketing campaign to market your photography mini sessions is the perfect way to engage long term list lurkers and keep your name top-of-mind. Plus, it's an incredibly cost-effective way to market your photography mini sessions to people who already love your style.
If you are partnering with another small business, ask them to reach out and promote the sessions to their list, too.
3. Create social content
Promoting your mini session photography organically via Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are easy and affordable forms of advertising. If you are using a new background or props for your mini sessions, make sure you set them up and snap a few promo shots to use in your marketing.
You'll want to expand your audience beyond the followers you already have in place. Try posting ads for your photography mini sessions in local Facebook groups or even hanging printed ads in local venues where your ideal clients are most likely to spend time (think coffee shops, child care centers, boutiques, etc.).
You could also invest in paid social media advertising, but this requires a carefully crafted strategy to avoid overspending and ruin the profitability of your mini session photography pricing.
4. Provide clear messaging
Your messaging should make it clear that a mini photoshoot is not a regular session at a discounted price. Let your clients know exactly what to expect — what value they are getting from the session, but also what limitations or rules you have implemented to ensure your photography mini sessions are profitable.
Include this information when advertising mini session photography:
- The length of the session.
- One background or location — preset in advance.
- Outfit changes are prohibited.
- Maximum number of people in each session.
- Total images received in the mini session package (and what format — print or digital).
If clients want to create a bespoke experience by altering your rules for the session, let them know that they might find better value in your usual packages and encourage them to book one of those instead at your regular price.
5. Create a sense of urgency and scarcity
Scarcity and urgency are two psychological triggers that encourage clients to take action. Knowing that limited sessions are available or that you only offer photography mini sessions a few times each year will motivate them to book without delay.
Scheduling and managing mini session photography clients
It's essential to go into mini session photography with a solid plan for using your time efficiently.
You must book back-to-back sessions in one location to maximize your time and profit. But how long should the sessions be? Many photographers book 30-45 minute mini sessions, but by offering 15-minute sessions, you can book twice as many sessions in one day. You can capture a lot of images in 15 minutes — if you're only in one location or using one backdrop, you shouldn't need more time than this to capture a variety of really great images that give your clients plenty to choose from.
To create a profitable mini session photography day, schedule 15-minute shoots in 20-minute increments. The 5-minute buffer helps account for some chit-chat, late clients, or other unplanned delays.
Having an assistant can be extremely helpful during photography mini sessions because they can help prep clients, facilitate smooth transitions between clients, and ensure the day runs to your preset schedule. An assistant can also handle all the wardrobe prep, prop emergencies, or distracted children or pets.
Once clients have signed up for mini photoshoots, you'll have time to think through poses for different group sizes. With limited time and a schedule to stick through, it's essential to know in advance what you want your clients to do, how they'll stand or pose, and how you'll encourage them to interact with each other, the location, or the props available.
Remember, you won't be able to offer a huge variety of poses in 15 minutes. It is a mini session, after all.
Optimizing your editing workflow for mini session photography
Ideally, you don't want to spend hours and hours processing and editing images from your photography mini sessions. After all, the goal is to generate the most profit in the least amount of time. However, you don't want to compromise on quality.
Some photographers will practice "shoot and burn" for mini photoshoots, offering unedited images directly from the camera. We would advise against this because your main goal is to develop lasting relationships with clients who will continue coming back to you for all their photography needs. While "shoot and burn" is a time-saving option, the final product should represent the quality of work you typically provide to inspire future purchases.
Offer mini session photography clients fewer images with the same WOW factor that you provide in regular sessions, but with less time commitment on your part. To reduce time commitment, your editing workflow must be fast and efficient.
Fortunately, you can use Lightroom to edit your photography mini sessions quickly.
To use presets and batch edit work in Lightroom:
- Cull only the top images to edit. Less is more for a mini session.
- Use the Lightroom preset that best works for your favorite image, and apply that to every selected photo — edit once, and move on. If you choose a shooting location with consistent lighting, such as a studio, you can apply the same preset to all the images from your mini session in one click.
- To batch edit all the images from the session, select the first photo, hold down your shift or command key, and click the gray area of the images to apply adjustments to all.
With this process, you should be able to edit a photorgaphy mini session in 15 minutes or less.
Easy mini session photography upsells
One way to easily achieve profitable photography mini sessions is by offering upsells.
For example, if you only offer five images as part of the mini session package but deliver 20 to the client, it will be difficult for them to pass on the other 15.
Also, with minimal effort, you can provide white glove service for a mini session by showcasing their final images beautifully with an album.
With SmartAlbums, you can easily publish your album draft, share it with your client, review feedback, and make revisions — all without ever leaving the SmartAlbums application. Plus, Auto Build helps you create a ready-to-send album in seconds, automatically displaying your chosen images onto spreads and arranging them logically using your camera meta-data. Quickly pre-designing an album for your clients to visualize makes it easy for them to add that to their print purchases.
Photorgaphy mini session ideas: Choosing a location and theme
When choosing a mini session photography location, lighting is king, especially for outdoor shoots. You’ll want to select a site with consistently good light no matter the time of day. A clever location choice for your photography mini sessions will help you avoid the headache of making never-ending adjustments to your camera settings and significantly reduce your post-processing time.
If you’re looking for photography mini session ideas, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Backgrounds can be as simple as utilizing nature. This no-props-needed approach means that you can look for a grassy meadow, forest pathway, or waterfront spot to make a free and all-natural backdrop for your outdoor mini sessions. Other mini session ideas include cute town laneways, industrial brick walls, or even a grungy graffiti wall if that fits your style.
Ensure you think through how clients will access your chosen site easily, safely, and quickly, especially if it’s a more rural location. You’ll also need to investigate any requirements for shooting on the property, such as paying a rental fee or securing any needed permits.
The holidays are often the most popular times for mini sessions. Since winter is often a slow time of year for many wedding photographers, holiday or Christmas mini-sessions are perfectly timed to fill the income gap.
Try these prop and location mini session ideas this year:
Fall mini session ideas:
- Piles of pumpkins, or find a local pumpkin patch.
- Avenues of trees with their fall foliage
- An apple orchard
- Stacked bales of hay
- Cozy flannel clothing
Photo credit: Malik Skydsgaard
Christmas photoshoot ideas:
- Ornate upholstered furniture
- Piles of wrapped boxes
- Christmas cocoa mugs
- Christmas books (like ’Twas The Night Before Christmas)
Photo credit: Thandy Yung
Mini sessions outdoor Christmas photoshoot ideas:
- Christmas trees
- A vintage red pickup truck
- A picnic setting (in holiday colors)
- Wooden sleds
- A snowy walkway
Photo credit: Joseph Gonzalez
Look for ways to incorporate local businesses in your photography mini sessions. Many will appreciate the free marketing; some can even help you expand your reach as you advertise your sessions. Connecting with a local Christmas tree farm is a great mini session outdoor Christmas photoshoot idea. Alternatively, a timeless fall mini session idea is to incorporate local apple farms or pumpkin patches.
Photo credit: paje victoria
Should you use mini session photography to grow your business
Photography can be an incredibly seasonal profession — mini session photography offers you a chance to fill the slow periods and increase the profitability of your business. Mini photoshoots are particularly useful throughout the holiday season when the Northern Hemisphere winter and low wedding season can be frustratingly quiet. Mini sessions outdoor Christmas photoshoot ideas like back-to-back 15-minute sessions in a Christmas tree farm offer a great way to increase your income, expand your client list, and connect with local businesses.
The most important thing to remember is that mini sessions are not your regular sessions, offered at a discount price. Mini session photography is a series of short sessions, booked back-to-back and edited quickly to provide maximum income from a short period of time. If you can nail the balance of time spent with good mini session photography pricing, you can really increase your photographer salary from mini session photography.
Although mini session photography is unlike a regular photoshoot, the benefits for your photography business and your photography clients make these events worth adding to your calendar.