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Running a Successful Mini-Session for Photographers

How to run a successful mini-session - and make $800-1000 an hour doing it!

Hey All!  Welcome to the first post in the mini-session series posted here at Tografy =).  As fall mini-sessions are approaching, I thought it would be fitting to start off with a general how-to!  

I also want to mention I have used these EXACT strategies with clients of mine.  In fact, the last photographer I worked with - the first year she implemented these strategies she ended up booked an additional 3 DAYS of mini-sessions because of the demand.  The second year she followed the strategies she went into her public advertising with 75% of her slots ALREADY BOOKED!  

We'll be hitting some high points in this post, then come back around in future posts to dive in a little deeper - sound good?! 


The location you chose will play a LARGE role in the absolute success of your mini-sessions.  I know it will be VERY tempting to chose the popular locations that either you may shoot at on a regular basis or that is popular with other photographers.  The problem here:  you'll be fighting for space and attention.  The last thing you want to happen is to either a) have to show up 4 hours early to stake your spot or b) show up 30 minutes early only to find there are no spots left or worse c) you get the spot but you can't keep the attention of your families/kiddos because there's so much distraction all around you!!  How frustrating!  To this end I HIGHLY recommend you find a secluded location, even if it is a 7/10 or 6/10 "beauty" spot. 

use an assistant - every. single. time.

Using an assistant is 100% your golden bullet to making sure your mini-sessions run smoothly.  I know.  Already I hear you screaming into the computer - "KARA THEY COST ME MONEY!!!"  Yes.  Yes, they do - and we will go over the numbers in great detail in the (lengthy) post coming up on assistants.  But bottom line here an amazing assistant will do things like greet your clients, assist in posing your clients, watch for all the oddities, and help get the smiles.  Those things alone would be worth paying your assistant the money made off of one session fee, right? 

Keep em short

With an assistant (see what happens here ;)) you can now book your sessions VERY close together, I'm talking every 15 minutes (and yes, I have successfully done this for years).  The reason (other than your bottom line) this is key is because kiddos notoriously aren't pumped to be there for photos.  They've been bribed, sugared up, dolled up, and soaped up all in their parents hopes of getting that "ONE" holiday photo.  Short and sweet sessions are great - you bring them in and you keep them moving, they don't get bored with the process because they don't have time to get bored.  Win win! 

Give them all the images (yep, you heard me right) 

Mini-sessions are a different ball game than regular sessions.  You set them up to roll them out in mass quantity.  Which means they have to be priced differently.  

I have run mini-sessions two ways for clients (basically ran an A/B test), the first, we offered the mini-sessions at a lower price point and limited the number of images and did an up-sell after the session.  The second, we upped the price point and advertised that they would receive ALL the culled and edited images from their session (somewhere in the range of 7-10).   

SURPRISINGLY - in the first case (where we limited the images) we actually made less money than the second option!!!


Case 1 - Up-sell after the session. 

My client ran mini-sessions for 3 days, and shot around 11 families each day, for a total of 33 families.  She then culled and edited all of the images, delivered a locked gallery to her clients, continued an annoying back/forth for the client to choose their images, and then went into her up-sell.  Which became frustrating when clients were slow to respond and pay.  In the end it was A LOT of extra legwork.  Out of the 33 families she shot she only had one family take advantage of  the full-gallery up-sell,  and only 3 families purchase between 1-4 images individually.  My client charged $150 per session and made $4,950 in session fees.  She up-sold an additional $108.  Grand total:  $5,058. 

Case 2 - Higher up-front cost, all images included. 

She ran mini-sessions for 4 days, and shot around 12 families each day, for a total of 48 families.  This time my client charged $165 and included all of the edited images.  Same editing as above.  Absolutely no back and forth, no up-selling, no extra legwork.  Grand total:  $7,920.  

Granted in case 2 she shot an extra day that year, however lets look at the numbers if we do a direct comparison.

Case 1: 33 families - $150/session - $4,950

Case 2: 33 families - $165/session - $5,445 

Difference?  $495!  And the workload of shooting and editing was EXACTLY the same - only this time she didn't have to do all the back/forth afterwards and up-selling strategies that she hated.  

so what should you charge?

Well, like everything, it is very market and experience dependent.  If you are an experienced photographer (know how to use your camera quickly), are willing to invest in an assistant (like you should), and have everything laid out and organized beforehand you should have no issue charging $175-$250 for every session.  That is (if we stick at $200) $800/hour of shooting time.  When I put it that way, isn't that worth an assistant?!? =) 


Hopefully the beginning of this mini-session series has wet your appetite for some awesome fall mini-session planning!!  The key for success is organization! Organization! Organization!  Being a well-oiled machine when marketing, scheduling, and shooting these sessions will bring you great reward.  

Kara Hubbard

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