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How to Run a Successful Mini-Session - Assistants

Manage A Mini-Session Like a Boss

hire an assistant - run your mini-session like a boss

First I want to lead off by saying that I know this is going to take some convincing.  You aren't going to look at the heading "Why You Need To Find Yourself a Photography Assistant Immediately" and feel convinced that this is what you should do.  I also want to say, I get why you're hesitant.  Why?  Because you, me, and every other photographer out there are struggling with the EXACT same issues.  One, assistants cost money.  Two, you don't think you need one because you can do it yourself - and - Three, you aren't sure you can trust them.  Did I hit the nail on the head there?  Isn't the struggle for all of us real?  Hopefully by the end here you'll be at least SLIGHTLY convinced to start thinking about hiring yourself an assistant to help your mini-sessions run more smoothly.    

if you haven't already check out the other mini-session blogs such as Location and Running a Profitable Mini-session overview.

what does an assistant do?

They Assist.  Duh =).  

Okay, okay.  Jokes aside.  An assistant will have a fun and bubbly personality.  They will be organized and have some knowledge of photography and posing - if not - be able to follow explicit instructions on what you need to have done.  

An assistants job at a mini-session is to:  

  • Greet your clients 
  • Pose your clients
  • Watch for the weirdness 
  • Get the smiles 
  • Watch the clock
  • Keep it moving 

What?  You thought they would show up just to hold your coffee and 85mm?  

Nah....Not Today.  

Hello Sign, What do Assistants do at Mini-Sessions

assistants...Greet the clients 

Many times during the mini-session you (the photographer) will be finishing up with Client A, when Client B and their crew arrive on scene.  Sit and think about what happens if you don't have an assistant....Client B and crew either come over to where you're shooting (completely disrupting your flow with Client A), they sit in the car waiting for you to finish (completing wasting time in transition when Client A is done), or they hang behind in some awkward way allowing their children to run a muck (resulting in dirty knees and messed up hair).  

Want any of that?  


Didn't think so.

So, you have an assistant.  Now what happens?  You (photographer) are finishing up with Client A when Client B arrives on scene.  Since you are at the final station with Client A, your ASSISTANT can now quietly step away to greet Client B.  When your ASSISTANT sees that you are winding it down with Client A, they will then begin leading Client B to station one.  By the time you have said your goodbyes to Client A - Client B is already posed and ready to go at station one.  Boom. Done.  You walk over to station one, say your hellos and immediately start shooting.  Major. Time. Saver.  

In the years since my photographers have started using my Mini-Session Workflow their clients have never been late.  Why? Because we have trained them that they CAN'T be late.  You're late.  You miss your session.  You want that?  No?  Okay end of story...don't be late.  =) 

Bouquet of Flowers, Peony, What do Assistants do at Mini-Sessions

Assistants...pose your clients

Hold up.  Hang on.  Hear me out.  I know you're feeling like you've lost all control of your mini-session for your assistant to be posing your client, but seriously.  It works. I promise.  And absolutely no control is lost.

How do you keep control.  Come prepared.

Hand your assistant a list prior to the session that lists every pose with every station.  Then, while you're adjusting your settings for ever-changing light, or moving your stool forwards in station 2 because the shadow keeps getting longer, it gives your assistant time to set up the shot. 

It really comes down to client experience.  You want your client to not feel the rush and bustle of a 15 minute session, and so having ONE person be the lead on them (the assistant) makes them feel like they aren't being bounced around between stations, poses, AND photographers.  

Glasses, What do Assistants do at Mini-Sessions

Assistants...watch for the weirdness  

These sessions are short and sweet and because you are going to be focused on light, settings, and big posing issues you really need an extra set of eyes to take care of the "weird."  


Because the "weird" either causes you to have to throw the image during cull, or you have to spend extra time editing to save the image - neither are good for your bottom line.  

So, what is weirdness?

  • Mom's legs crossed at ankles 
  • Dads hands placement
  • No ones hair is in their eyes, nose, or mouth 
  • No one is chewing gum 
  • Dad doesn't have keys, wallet, or cell phone in his pocket 
  • Kids are not making crazy faces 

You get the idea...general awkwardness.  

So Pretty Sign, Flowers, What do Assistants do at Mini-Sessions

assistants...get the smiles 

This is where you need an assistant that is okay being crazy.  And I mean will "stand on her head and do cartwheels" for a smile crazy.  Luckily in all my years assisting my clients during mini-sessions (Yep! You read that right - My clients can hire me to assist for their mini-sessions which means I also walk them through every single step of how to set it up and run it start to finish!) I haven't QUITE had to go that far.  But I will do basically anything for a smile, which includes:

  • Singing a kiddos favorite song non stop for 15 minutes straight (I usually leave a mini-session unable to speak).
  • Doing any slap-stick comedy I can come up with - such as - pretend wacking my photographer on the head with a rubber chicken (always a classic). 
  • Playing peek a boo from behind my photographer.
  • Wearing funny hats, crazy glasses, holding pinwheels, and sounding noise makers (we come with a large basket of props from me to pull from.
  • Playing a sneak and tickle game with the little guys. 

Bottom line.  You need an assistant that is A-Okay being crazy, funny, and personable with your clients.  Someone you are completely comfortable getting close to and working with.  When I am not greeting, leading, or posing clients I spend my time basically glued to my photographers back so that all eyes and smiles go directly into the camera.  

White Clock, Pink Background, What do Assistants do at Mini-Sessions

assistants...watch the clock and keep it moving  

They need a watch and they need to know exactly how much time they have at each station.  For example, with a four station set-up you would have three minutes at each station.  Giving clients 2 minutes to move between the four stations (remember, your stations are all of 10-15 feet apart, or sometimes just a turn to the left for a different background).  Some stations will take a little longer than others, you'll learn this within the first couple of clients.  

But it's your assistants job to keep an eye on the watch and quietly give the you time cues. 

I am constantly communicating with my lead photographer...

  • We need to move in 30 seconds!
  • Did you get the shot, we need to change it up.
  • This doesn't seem to be working with the kiddo, do you want me to change the pose?
  • We've been here to long, we're going to have to skip a station. 
  • Your next client is ready and waiting, I am heading to greet them.

Once you find an amazing assistant the two of you will become a well oiled machine of running and managing mini-sessions.  You will begin to be able to think as one and anticipate what the other person needs.  When this happens, it's an amazing thing and something not to be taken for granted.  

 You need a photography assistant

so where do you find a photography assistant?

You can find photography assistants by hiring:

  • Friends or family that are really outgoing and organized - if they have an understanding of photography, all the better! 
  • Newbie photographers that are looking to gain experience. 
    • There are always photographers looking for extra cash and experience.  Joining or advertising in local photography groups or even marketplaces will help you connect.
  • Experienced photographers. 
    • Doing a trade with another local photographer is a great option.  You assist for their mini-sessions and they can assist for yours! 

mini-sessions with assistants in a nutshell


Greet your clients


Pose your clients


Watch for the weird


Get all the smiles  


watch the clock

keep it moving


have some fun!



Kara Hubbard 

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