Profitable Mini Sessions
Have you tried shooting mini sessions in the past only to feel completely exhausted and under paid? This week, we are talking about 3 big mistakes photographers make when in comes to mini sessions and what to do instead.
• 3 mistakes when it comes to booking, scheduling, and pricing mini sessions.
• The benefits of mini sessions for both the photographer and the client.
• 3 software programs I use to save even more time when it comes to delivering a great experience for my mini session clients.
Let me know what you think and if mini sessions have worked or flopped for you in the past!
The software mentioned today:
Flodesk, a beautiful and easy to use email platform. This link saves you 50%: https://flodesk.com/c/PHZFR6
Dubsado, a client management software and online scheduling service. This link saves you 30%: dubsado.com/?c=dearkate
Pic-Time, gallery software that works for proofing galleries and final delivery. Your clients can choose from many beautiful prints and products from professional labs and you don’t even have to place the orders! pic-time.com code dearkate
About Kate Hejde
Kate Hejde is the host and creator of How You Pictured It Podcast and Dear Kate Brand Strategy. She helps photographers create a profitable business that fits into their lives. With over 10 years of experience running her own photography business, while raising three kids, Kate believes that business is not one size fits all and that you define your own success. Kate teaches through her podcast as well as through course, group coaching, and 1:1 mentoring.
Today I want to talk to you about mini sessions. I know these are super controversial. You always hear people talking about how they don’t want to undervalue their business by doing mini sessions and I totally get that. I get that it’s putting a dollar amount, maybe that’s lower on a session and showing people that they can get photography for a lesser price.
Why Mini Sessions are often low priced
A lot of the time there are many sessions out there that are like super not profitable. Something like a $50 mini session, that includes everything. There’s no opportunity for the photographer to make any additional money.
This happens a lot with newer photographers where, really, the barrier to entry to become a photographer is so low. You don’t have to have much of anything to start a photography business. You need a camera.
That’s it. Right? And in a lot of places that really is it. There’s no additional legal steps you need to take, you can start as a hobby business.
A lot of people will start a photography business then thinking that that’s it. That they just need to take pictures of people. They need to get more photos in their portfolio to grow it and practice more.
We also see then clients looking for mini sessions. Specifically asking, “do you know of anyone doing mini sessions?” and it’s something that has developed over the years into kind of the vernacular of our society. That mini sessions are short and cheap photography sessions and that’s a great way to get family photos.
It’s that in-between from the traditional, like Sears portrait studio to using a more established small business, creative, professional photographer.
So it’s somewhere in between those kinds of ideas where they don’t want that serious portrait studio look anymore, but they aren’t ready to invest in a full custom photography experience.
With that said though, mini sessions have been great for my business and great for me to grow as a photographer and to grow my presence in my community.
So here’s where it gets down to being a profitable option versus something that’s entry level practice.
How to make mini sessions profitable
Let’s talk about some, do this, not that things for mini sessions.
Mistake number one
One of the big things that I see happening that I would call a mistake in mini sessions is not booking them back to back. If you allow anyone to book at a session rate mini session length; you’re taking away from your opportunity to book a full session in that time slot and you’re making it so that say you’re an outdoor portrait photographer. If you normally would have two hours to shoot in the evening and that golden hour light, you take one mini session and that’s it. You’ve cut off your potential income for that evening.
That’s you’re at that lowest rate and that’s it.
What you can do instead here is book back to back mini sessions. I personally do about three to four 20 minute mini sessions back to back on the same evening. And that works out beautifully for me. All of my clients get that gorgeous sunset look,that golden hour look, and I am making enough money per client, that it fills in what I would have made with one full session. Or oftentimes now it’s more than I would’ve made with one full session.
Mistake Number 2
The second thing that I see as a problem when people are booking mini sessions or offering mini sessions, is that it’s a one flat price.
By that, I mean, that you’re saying that it is $250 for your mini session and all of the keeper images are included. With this, there’s just nowhere for you to go. There’s no increased income you can make. You’re putting a cap on your income. $250 per client at those mini sessions and that’s it.
So instead of doing that flat rate kind of session, what I suggest doing is including a certain number of images, you want to keep this at five or fewer and then allowing clients to upgrade to additional images. Why five or fewer? Well, really think about it. If I’m shooting a family session. And it’s a mom, dad, and two kids. They’re going to want one great photo of the family may be two. So that’s two images. They want one photo of each kid, and then maybe they want a photo of the kids together. There’s their five images. It’s so easy to narrow down to five images. So keeping it at that low number makes it so that they’ll maybe consider upgrading.
I’ve seen people offer 10 or 15 images with a session. And honestly, it’s really easy to get down to that. As a client, you don’t need that many photos of your family that year. You just have that you’re going to make this Christmas card, and this is how many slots it has and you want one for the wall. And so it’s easy for them to logically think through their gallery.
And they kind of take the emotion out of it at that point.
When you’ve got it limited to five or fewer images it’s much harder for them to choose, which are going to be those specific ones. And they’ll more likely upgrade.
Mistake Number 3
Another issue that I see is not creating enough scarcity with mini sessions. You want to make sure that these are highly valuable and if they’re available at any time, then clients will wait for that to happen. They’ll wait for those mini sessions and they won’t book your full sessions. Your whole calendar will be filled with mini sessions, which maybe that works for you and that’s awesome. I’m happy for you if you are a full-on mini-session photographer and you’re booking your clients back to back in one particular evening. And that’s all you need to do. That’s great. Go for it. But if you were offering mini-sessions every season, every weekend you’re really cutting down on your opportunity to book more of those full session clients and again, limiting your income.
One other way that you can make many sessions more profitable is by creating something that’s limited edition or special. I have some clients that come to me for multiple mini sessions per year, because each one has a different style or theme or meaning.
I offer glitter mini sessions sometimes in the late winter, like February timeframe. And then I offer motherhood sessions in May. That are just mommy and me. And sometimes those have a really styled set. So that it’s really like they’re beautiful photos and at those special moment, but that’s not their only photos they’re going to take for the year. Same with the glitter sessions. They’re fun. And they’re a great way to mark your child’s age at this time and their kind of personality, but that’s not the only photos that you want of your family for the year. Then I offer sunflower sessions and outdoor family sessions in the fall. And finally I offer holiday mini sessions around December, late November that are in my studio , and again, with a super style set.
They have certain uses. Those are beautiful for your holiday cards. You can make canvases to decorate your house during the holidays or whatever, but they’re not going to be your only family photos that you have taken for the year typically.
Tools for profitable mini sessions
Some of the tools that I use for many sessions are one Dubsado. With dubsdao I use the scheduler, which allows the client to choose which time slot that they want. It then creates their invoice and they can pay for it and fill out a questionnaire all at the same time when they book their session.
This makes it so there’s no back and forth of what time do you have left? Which I’ve done in the past. I used to just do PayPal invoices. And as soon as someone emailed me, I would send them the times back, but now it’s more automated. And it makes it much simpler.
Having these things automated really lessens the time commitment that goes into booking mini sessions for me. And makes it so that I have more time for marketing. And editing and doing the other parts of the business that I love.
. With the Dubsado scheduler, because I do similar mini sessions each year.
I have a scheduler template ready for each type of mini-session that I offer and I just need to go in and tweak a few details and put in my availability for that particular year and my schedulers are all ready to go. At this point it just takes me a few minutes now to update that scheduler and get it ready to go out. My emails are already there too with like a reminder email, letting them know that their session is coming up. How to prep for it, all of those good things. It’s all automatically set and ready to go. Mini session booking is so easy for me now with that scheduler.
The second thing that I use for mini sessions is pic-time. This is what I use to deliver my galleries. I use it for both proofing galleries and for their final galleries. I personally don’t edit all of the images that are keepers. I do a light edit on them, and then I let the clients choose which ones they’re going to purchase.
And then I edit those. I send my clients approving gallery through pick time.
And they choose the ones that they want to keep, have edited and purchase.
Pic-time then allows me to also include print credit or a discount off of prints if I want to. And that encourages a lot of people to buy prints and products from me. With Pic-time they can design their own albums. There are beautiful products like calendars, christmas cards, all kinds of things in there.
That make it really easy for people to get beautiful prints and products from the images that I’m delivering and they’re not ordering then from Walgreens. Which is such a relief as the photographer. But it also allows me to take myself out of that situation as well. I’m not doing any processing of those print orders. I just have to approve it. And that’s it, it drops ships directly to the client.
And pic-time places, the order with the labs for me. They’re all professional labs that you’ve heard of and you get to pick and choose which things you want to include and you get to set those prices. You decide how much profit you’re going to make off of each item that’s purchased.
The third software that I’m going to talk about today. Is Flodesk, which I use for sending emails. I have an email list that I have been growing since the first day of my business. That was one of the things that I’m proud of my past self for making was an email list because it means that I have access to all of my clients and that I own that list and can get into their inboxes.
With flodesk I have beautiful email templates, all ready to go and I just have to add my information to them and put a button to that dubsado scheduler.
A lot of the times, my mini-sessions book, simply from sending emails through flodesk. Now clients know what to expect. . I make sure to talk about it, of course, on social media and things in advance and get people added to that email list. So that they know to expect.
That booking link coming.
So just to wrap up, I want to share , what the benefits of mini sessions are for me as a mom and a photographer. It’s really important to me that I’m making the most use of my time away from my kids. So for me, that means that if I’m going to spend an evening away from my family, that if I can fit in four clients, instead of just one,
that’s way more efficient use of my time. I’m only traveling to that location one time and traveling home from it.
I also end up with clients who come to me year after year from many sessions.
These repeat clients have been a huge part of my business. Some of them have been coming to me every year for mini sessions for nine years now. I’ve watched their kids grow from toddlers to middle schoolers, which is insane. But I absolutely love that. And year after year, when you see the same people, the connection is there. They’re ready to go and they know how the session’s going to work.
They’re listening to you and they’re engaged.
Another benefit to mini sessions for my clients is the time. They are busy people and they don’t have a full two hours on an evening to shoot beautiful sunset portraits where I am carefully positioning them. I also don’t have the patience for that. But.
Those mini sessions, those 20 minutes, they are so happy to be in and out and to know that we’ve got the shot.
Dad’s in particular, really love mini sessions because they do not want to be in front of my camera. For any longer than absolutely necessary.
In fact for a lot of my clients at this point, The benefit to mini sessions is not a lower price point, but the fact that it’s a shorter amount of time.
The last set of mini-sessions that I did was glitter mini sessions.
I had two clients that ended up spending over $600 on a 15 minute glitter session. That’s just their kid playing in glitter.
Well, those images are gorgeous and I love them. I know those clients will be back later this year for family photos too.
This is a great way to build clientele for me and creates new offers and new products for my clients all the time.
Lastly mini-sessions really helped me figure out what my style is and hone in on exactly how I shoot.
Instead of waiting weeks in between sessions, I was doing one right after the other and I could quickly. Learn from my mistakes with one client and turn around and do something different with the next one.
I was also able to find new things to learn each time that I shot. And put it into practice quickly. So say I wanted to try a certain prompt or pose. I would use it with each of those clients for mini sessions, and then I had done it four times. With that practice, I grew way more quickly than if I had that space and time in between each session.
Now that I’ve been doing mini sessions for years, I’m a really fast shooter and they can get at least 50 good images from a mini sessions. And I have a lot of variety in my mini session galleries.
This really helps me to have a big portfolio of images.
And I have a lot to share on social media throughout the year, even when I’m only shooting a few evenings per season.
If your market is like mine, you probably have a busier season than others. Here it’s fall. Everyone wants ball photos, and I can’t fit in every client that would want a full session without being gone from my home way more often than I want to. So these mini sessions make it so that I can see four clients in the time that it would take me to see one for a full session. That really helps me to
spread the word and grow my business and have a bigger presence in my community as well.
I will still say though, that mini sessions are not for everyone. I have good friends who are not many sessions shooters. And I totally understand because they have a different style of shooting than I do. They’re slower, more methodical. And they are really about what is moving them in the moment and helping create a certain look or feel that just can’t be done in the short timeframe.
Really the point here is though that there is no one size fits all to a photography business and you have to do what suits you, what fits your values and what fits your priorities. And for me, that’s, mini-sessions.
I hope this episode has been helpful for you to see some of the benefits of mini sessions and how you can make them work better for you.
We are in business to make money doing something that we love. And we need to make sure that whatever we’re doing is profitable.
I’d love to hear what you think. Take a screenshot of this episode in whatever podcast app you’re in and posted on social media. Tag me at dear Kate brand strategy. And tell me what your takeaways were.
Lastly, if you’re not already subscribed, make sure you do sell on whatever podcast app you listen to follow how you pictured it. I will talk to you next week. Have a great day.