Mini sessions can be a great way to give an amazing deal to your clients, and make money in a short amount of time. However, when run poorly they can leave you feeling defeated and burnt out. Here are a few of my favorite tips for running profitable mini sessions.
Boundaries are easily the most important thing when it comes to mini sessions. Remember, mini sessions are not full sessions, so they should be limited in just about every capacity: limited photos, limited time, limited people, limited locations! Mini session price points are so low because a mini session doesn’t include everything. It’s OK to have limits!
Mini sessions also should not be something that is offered year round. That is a surefire way to have a very difficult time booking mini sessions when you want to book them for that quick influx of cash in your business or during a holiday season, for example. It’s also going to make it a lot harder to book full sessions if they can always just book mini sessions instead. This is just something to think about and how frequently you offer mini sessions. Offering only a few times throughout the year versus all year is going to make it a lot easier to sell mini sessions when you do offer them.
It can be difficult to determine how you want to price mini sessions, so I want to walk you through an exercise that may help. First, think about your the amount of money you want to bring in from these mini sessions. Remember to include your expenses in this so you don’t end up just breaking even. Renting a space like White Space is a great way to keep your costs low and not have to purchase a bunch of additional props or furniture!
Once you’ve determined that amount, work backwards from it. For example, let’s say you want to make $1200. You have the space for two hours and are thinking of taking 4 clients an hour (which would mean about one client every 10-15 minutes). In that case, you would want to price those sessions at $150 to be able to make that $1200 (before expenses). This process is what I would recommend doing to set your pricing.
In general, I see the most success with mini sessions when they’re priced between $100-$250. Now, I am a firm believer that you can set your prices wherever you want to set them and you can have success. What you can price sessions at is going to depend on your brand recognition and what your brand can withstand, but do know that you can choose to charge higher than $250 if you are wanting to. This may however be a better price point for someone who already had a solid client base and good brand recognition and reputation.
Also keep in mind that charging extremely low can be problematic, and often backfire. Low price points make it really difficult for other photographers to book at their normal (like $100-$250) prices when there are people who are charging $50. You may argue, “that’s not my ideal client anyways,” and you are probably right. But wouldn’t you rather help the industry rise as opposed to consistently cheapening it? That is just why I like that sweet spot of $100-$250 price point for mini sessions.
Mini sessions should certainly have a limit on images, and for most photographers this is going to be under 10 images. If you think of this from the client perspective, more than 10 images is a full session. How often are you walking away from a session where you have 10 images and even printing half of them, right? Even when I get a full family session done for my own family, 10 images is about what I end up really liking, posting on social media, and printing for my walls. So 10 images really is a lot of images! You don’t need to deliver more than 10 images for a mini session, and honestly should consider delivering less than that – anywhere from 3 to 7 images is a mini session in my eyes. Just keep reminding yourself it’s a mini session, not a full session.
This is another area that I typically see issues with. When you are renting a studio space and you’re paying by the hour, you want to make sure that you can get as many people in an hour as possible. So only doing two sessions an hour is going to significantly cut into your profits. Again, mini sessions – can you do a client in 10-15 minutes, as opposed to 30 minutes? I guarantee you can!
If you are just starting out, you may find this more challenging. Consider having someone come with you (a sister, a friend, etc.) to help greet and manage the clients when they arrive and also to help manage the time, while you handle the shooting.
I think most people tend to be over shooters during sessions, so if that’s the case for you, really think about how much time you need per client to get the photos that you ned to get.
I often hear people say, “What if my client is late?” or “What if the child isn’t cooperating?” Yes, I won’t pretend like these aren’t tricky situations. But again, this a mini session and your clients need to know that when they are signing up for it. Mini sessions may not be the best option for every single client! If someone has a kid who takes a really long time to warm up, if someone has 10 kids, if someone needs 20+ images, etc., a mini session might not be the best option for them. But for a lot of people who want to get in and get out, mini sessions are a great option for them.
Having limited time can be great, but know that communication is really key, especially with the examples I gave above, such as “what if my client is late?” Remember, that is on them. That’s a boundary that you have to put in place and communication can really help with that. Once clients book, have a very clear email that they receive that tells them what the session will look like, what they can expect, and what you expect of them.
A lot of the time when there are client issues, it comes back to communication. We need to over-communicate! When I am personally communicating with clients, most of the time they are receiving the same message two or three times when it comes to where they’re meeting me, when they’re meeting me, how long their session is, what they can expect from me, the shot list that we’re getting, and other similar information. This stuff is communicated to them multiple times because people are busy and miss emails or forget things. And we know that, so being really communicative and having clear expectations is super important.
If your client is late, they then know that means that that is 5 minutes of their time that they don’t get; their time doesn’t get extended. That isn’t a possibility for mini sessions. Make your boundaries clear, and stick to them!
It’s so important to allow for all different sizes of families in photography sessions, but for mini sessions it’s completely acceptable to have limits on what that looks like.
First you’ll want to determine what number of people you are okay with having for a session. You may find that it’s best to have that conversation with people as they book. You can simply ask how many people they are planning on having, and let them know that over X number, there will be an additional fee. You could also advertise the mini sessions for up to X people so they know right away.
If you find clients saying that they aren’t able to make your mini session date and location but ask for another mini session the next weekend at their background or XYZ location of their choice, remember this boundary. It’s a clear no! Mini sessions should be limited to the one location you are shooting at, or to a particular day/time, or both.
Having boundaries on mini sessions means that you have clear opportunities for upselling clients, which can make for more profitable mini sessions. Having these boundaries in place make it so you can say things like: “Yes, I’m sorry we only allow 6 people, but for $20 more per person, you can add in up to four more people.” Or, “I’m sorry, these sessions are only $15 minutes long, but if you want to book two sessions back to back so we get more photos, we could do that. And you would then get 20 photos instead of 10!” You can allow for these great upsells, but they will still be on your terms.
Another great option that I think everyone should do for mini sessions is to upsell more photos. For example, let’s say that people get 5 photos when they book mini sessions. You could offer $20 more per image or $100 more for the entire gallery. Your offer will depend on how many photos you’re delivering and your session terms, so you will have to look at that to determine your best upsell option.
Offering your clients to get more photos or all of the photos is a really easy upsell, especially when selling to parents who might want the entire gallery of their family/kids. But again, that’s why it’s important to have a limited amount of photos initially because you want them to want more. And some people may not want more photos, which is why setting the initial income goal is important. You want to know what you are walking away with for sure, and then anything extra is just additional income.
If any of this feels icky to you, then just tell your clients up front. Upselling is actually a huge service to the clients, but it needs to be presented as that. If you’re springing on the client last minute that they actually only get 5 images and need to purchase the rest, of course they’re going to be upset. But if they know that ahead of time and end up being able to get 20 images for a great price, they’ll be much happier.
You can also upsell other services. A lot of the time, this looks like holiday cards. You could have templates available, possibly even have them at the session so people could see what they look like, and then upsell that once you deliver their photos. You can offer to take care of the designing, adding their names, printing the cards, shipping right to their house, etc.
Upselling a service can be hugely beneficial, especially this time of year when people are so busy. The key here is understanding the problem that you’re solving and then selling to that pain point. It’s easier to sell holiday cards when you understand their pain point of being so busy, versus just trying to sell a pretty card. Think about why your client would want this and why its important to them.
Even though your mini sessions are limited, it doesn’t mean they can’t be a great experience. Consider having hot chocolate or cookies available for clients as they’re waiting for their session, or after they’re done. Play music the kids will get excited about. Show them the back of your camera as you shoot, or get them their gallery quickly. Little things like that can make for an experience they’ll remember, which is huge when it comes to booking your next round of mini sessions.
Then when you are not offering mini sessions all year round, it’s easier to book those full length sessions at your full prices because you have this brand recognition and these people who truly adore you and love the service that you provide. I really do think that mini sessions can be a great way to establish your brand, to get the quick influx of cash headed into the holiday season, and to form really great relationships with clients when the mini sessions are done correctly.
I hope these tips help you! If you have any questions regarding any of this, I am more than happy to answer them. Thank you so much again for booking White Space for your mini sessions!