Ever wondered what the secret ingredient is to holding successful mini sessions? These 20 minute sessions are of benefit to both professional photographers and clients alike. Held in a public setting, they give clients the opportunity to update family photos or give a beautiful, timeless, gift for Mother’s Day. The images can even be put together for holiday cards or to commemorate the beginning of a new school year. They are often a lower price point than a full session, with less formality, and a little bit more fun.
While they are a lot of work, the benefits are a no-brainer and make them completely worth it. Whether you are hosting your first mini session or trying to figure out how to make the most of your minis, follow my 5 steps to successful minis for a foolproof way to not only bring in a little bit of extra income, but to build your business too.
1. Details, Details, Details
When I first started doing minis, I went all out. My packages (yes, more than one) were extraordinary and I was certain that everyone and their mother would be chomping at the bit to participate. The truth is that I didn’t price myself right, and my “options” were killing me. Clients were getting overwhelmed and just opted out altogether.
I learned quickly to only offer one package for minis, and to keep the price point under $200. The package includes the 20 minute stylized session in a stunning outdoor location, one 11×14 print and a few 5×7′s. I also provide one watermarked image that is Facebook ready, usually as a sneak peek on my website for sharing purposes. Clients always have the option of purchasing additional prints as well as high resolution images once their galleries are up.
Wondering how many sessions you should try packing into the weekend? Some people prefer to go over two weekends, some people prefer to get everything into one. Truth is, it is all about the light situation where you are shooting. The closer you get to sunset, the better your light will be. However, you can only get a certain number of sessions in before you’re all out of light. A good balance for me seems to be 12 sessions over the course of 2 days. This gives me stunning light for all of my sessions while making sure I can book the smaller kids early to make sure that we aren’t messing with bedtime schedules at home.
2. Getting The Word Out
Now that you’ve got a good game plan for your minis, I suppose it might be a good idea to market them, right?
I’m pretty active in my community, so I make use of community groups and my personal network the most. I’ve used Facebook advertising before, but with mixed results. The trouble I’ve had with Facebook marketing is that if I target all 3500+ of my fans and their friends, I might be advertising to people who live in Texas. Targeting people in my area doesn’t give me the option of also advertising to people who are already my fans and their friends, so it’s a coin toss. I’ve had a few hits from people in my area, but you’re better off having clients, friends and family sharing your post on Facebook for others to see.
I am also a member of local play groups, and Mommas are always asking when I’m doing Minis again! Same goes for dance class, softball practice and swimming lessons. Look for community boards around town where you can put up posters about your minis. Spread the good word!
3. Location, Location, Location
Mini sessions are not the time to be adventurous with your location. Stick with a place you’re familiar with, even if you’ve shot there a dozen times. If that means a beautiful park in an urban location or a large hayfield with a big red barn, then do it. You need to make sure you know the lay of the land, and what the light looks like during the hours you’ll be shooting.
Initially, I was doing minis in a public park but eventually, I decided that I wanted them to be somewhere with less foot traffic that also felt more exclusive. After a little bit of string pulling, I was able to rent a large river shelter and the adjoining plot of land in a huge community park. Clients love it because they have their own entrance and place to park and play. Having the shelter was a huge bonus if for some reason, in the middle of August, it decided to rain.
4. The Day Of
Bring help, because you are going to need it. I set up an hour before my sessions and three people come with me. The first is responsible for greeting people at the entrance to the venue and directing them to the location. The second is responsible for offering clients who arrive some refreshments, getting them settled and helping to entertain the kids while they are waiting for their turn. The third is the muscle (usually my husband) who helps me bring some of the big things and set up. Person #3 magically re-appears as minis come to a close to help me pack it all up.
Write out a workflow for the day of, so you look as polished and professional as possible. Nothing looks worse to a client than running around looking like a chicken with its head cut off. Maintain a calm and composed demeanor at all times, even if things get a little bit hectic.
Bring everything you need including backup batteries, CF cards, hoods if you need them and plenty of refreshments. I like to do a baked good and some lemonade (or hot cocoa if we are doing holiday minis!). Try to bring a treat that won’t get the kids messy. There’s nothing more frustrating than photographing toddlers covered in chocolate, and you’ll only have yourself to blame! Once your session is all wrapped up, be sure to send the family off with a warm thank you and let them know you’ll be in touch soon via email.
5. Follow Up
What you need to keep in mind with minis is that while they are a great way to earn a decent income over the course of a weekend, they also serve a bigger purpose: bringing in new business. Depending on what kind of experience the clients have before, during and after the session, you could be looking at new repeat business and subsequent referral business.
I always like to send an email out to my mini participants two days after the session letting them know how much I appreciated them coming by. I also let them know that they should keep an eye out for sneak peeks on the Facebook page as well as another email from me within the next 2 weeks with information about their online gallery.
While I usually do proofing sessions in person for full sessions, mini sessions proofing is almost impossible to schedule when you’ve got 12 clients over the course of 2 days, so I have no qualms about doing the proofing online. The clients love it too because it is easy for them and lets them view the photos in the comfort of their own home, at their convenience.
Remember when I mentioned pricing at the beginning of this post? Some of you might scoff at setting a price point under $200, but the up-sell on minis is certainly not marginal. About 70% of my clients get all of their high resolution images (10-15) in addition to their prints. I price my high resolution digital images at a little under half of what I would for a full session.
Last, don’t be “that” photographer who forgets their client after the session is over. I can’t even tell you the number of repeat business I have had as a result of other photographers not keeping in touch. About a month after sessions, I send my Mini Session clients a $25-50 gift card (depending on their post-session order amount) towards a future full session with me. This business is all about relationships. Make sure that yours are strong and you’re guaranteed to succeed!
Veronica Gillas is a natural light portrait photographer in Portland, Oregon, specializing in newborns, children, families and seniors. When she’s not with her amazing clients she loves to knit, challenge her 8 year old to a high stakes game of Mario Kart, play dress up with her 5 year old, tickle her 4 month old’s feet and snuggle on a picnic blanket with her husband. Head on over to her website or Facebook page and say hello!
If you want to learn how to brand a photography business you’ll need to think a lot bigger than logos, fonts and color pantone references. I’ve heard a lot of garbage spoken about branding in corporate meetings.
Those meetings always throng with irritating phrases that make you want to tear off your ear lobes and use them as earplugs. Phrases like value proposition, customer-focused, customer-centric, brand identity, and mission statement.
So if your brand is not about logos, colors, and slogans, what is it about?
What is a brand?
My own personal definition is this: “A brand is the emotional response or feeling people have when using or thinking about your product or service.”
Here are some other quotes on branding that echo this view:
“A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a slogan. A brand is not an identity, corporate or otherwise. A brand is not a symbol or a shape……a brand is the total sensory experience a customer has with your company and its product or service.” James Hammond
“Products are created in the factory, but brands are created in the mind” Walter Landor
“Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” Howard Schultz
In fact, there are very few quotes about branding that talk about logos and fonts. I guess that’s because the people worth quoting actually understand the true meaning of a brand. That’s partly why they got famous and quotable in the first place!
So how can photographers create a brand?
Even though you create a brand, you don’t own it – your clients do. The easiest way of explaining this concept is by asking you to think of all those company slogans that promise one thing but deliver another. If the company’s view is completely different than the way customers see it, the business is not in control of brand.
What does this mean to you?
Let’s take a family portrait photographer as an example. Let’s say their website promises a ‘quality service’. What do they do to back that claim up?
- Meet their family portrait clients before they’re hired so they can discuss the photography style the prospect likes, the most suitable types of clothing for portraits and to plan locations for the session.
- Use Proselect software so the client can see their photos in a photo of their own home before they invest in their portraits.
- Project their photos to their clients in person so they can help them choose the right products and sizes for their décor and wall spaces.
- Serve wine and nibbles while the clients view their photos and select their order.
- Have a sincere guarantee where they promise to photograph another session free of charge if the client isn’t happy, or refund their money if they’re still not happy.
- Offer the finest frames and albums they can find, or are they dumping everything on a CD
You can’t promise one thing and deliver another.
Does your brand fit your personality?
- Do you say you’re a friendly photographer but always email clients back instead of calling them?
- Do you say you ‘love working with people’ but you hide in the shadows at weddings and never chat with the guests (under the guise of reportage photography)?
- Do you call yourself helpful, but get enraged when wedding guests take photos at the same time as you?
- It’s important to have consistency to create a strong brand. If you say one thing and do another then you’re confusing the message.
Giving your brand emotion
OK, so you’ve synced what you think your brand should be with reality and you’re consistently delivering the appropriate products and service. That’s great, but you’re only half way there. You need to generate an emotional response.
“To build a strong brand, you need to focus your attention on influencing as many positive emotions of your customer as you can, as often as you can.” James Hammond
Part of creating a strong brand is ensuring the brand sticks in the long term memory of your client – and the only way to do that is to have as many positive impressions as you can for as long as you can.
Now you’re starting to understand branding you deserve to get the succulent piece of information you’ve been waiting for.
Here are some of the things I recommend you do to ensure your clients have a multitude of positive, emotional experiences when dealing with your photography business:
- If you receive an email, then call the person back, if there’s a number. If not, then politely explain that it will be so much quicker, clearer and easier for them to call you. The reason for this is it’s much easier to have a phone conversation that generates emotion and rapport than it is via email.
- Ask questions over the phone that are designed to generate an emotional response from your client.
- There are many reasons to meet your clients before they book you, but one benefit is it’s an extra step in the system that helps build rapport and implant your business into their long term memory.
- Project your images for your clients. Again, there are many reasons this works so well, but it’s also another opportunity for you to ingrain positive feelings towards your brand in your client’s long term memory.
- Show an interest in your clients and their family by asking questions.
- Don’t drone on about yourself – make it all about them.
- Show your enthusiasm. If you really love photography then let it show.
- Be unerringly polite and respectful.
- Send thank you cards to every client who books you.
- Send anniversary cards to wedding clients.
- Keep in touch via an email newsletter.
These are just some of the ways you can have a positive impact on your clients and reinforce your brand image in their minds.
Compare this multi-step approach to photographers who:
- Book over the phone.
- Never ask the client what they want.
- Start photographing the client when they’ve never met them before.
- Spend 30 minutes on the photography, treating the client like they’re on a production line.
- Chuck all the photos online once they’re ready – leaving the client to figure out what they want.
- Burn a CD and post it off, or ask the client to pick it up.
With this second approach a client will barely remember your name in a week, let alone a year.
If your clients forget you, then you have a weak brand. If you have a weak brand then you become a commodity and if you’re a commodity then price becomes the determining factor.
“Be distinct or extinct” Tom Peters
So, what are you going to do this week to prevent your photography business going the way of the dinosaurs?
This guest post was written by Dan Waters from Get Pro Photo. He reveals the secrets to running a profitable photography business. You can sign up for free photography business tips every week.
This week’s photo edit challenge photo, captured by Angela McNaul, embodies the essence of childhood summer memories. Here is the original photo:
The MCP photo challenges give you an opportunity to edit other photographer’s images, share them for critique, and see how others edit the same photographs. Participating allows you to practice editing, learn how to give constructive criticism, and watch what steps or Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets are used in various edits. Join us to edit the bi-weekly photos. There’s one more week left for this one.
Several of members of the group have shared great edits. Here are a few of the many MCP edited favorites:
Edited by Amy MagnetGirl
All edits in Light Room:
Corrected WB using dropper on girl’s dress.
Raised exposure 1/3 stop.
Used enlighten presets Haze, warm overlay, yellow pop, and midtones slight brighten.
Manually adjusted contrast +10, clarity +6.
Edited by Bonnie Smith
Eye Doctor to sharpen eyes and dandelion,
MCP Fusion One Click Color at 41% opacity, Lemonade Stand at 15% opacity, Define Detail at 24% opacity, Bright Magic Marker at 32% opacity, Enclosed Soft Vignette at 20% opacity and Sun Flare Left at 22% opacity
Texture #30 at 57% opacity
Edited by Laci Patten
MCP Fusion One click color (x2), Peachy at 54% and High Def Web Sharpening
maxed the spotlight, masked off the brightness except in the middle, color balance adjustment to up the yellows and masked off her skin.
If you have an idea on how you’d edit the image below, or want to see and learn what others did, JOIN US HERE.
Thanks again to Angela McNaul for allowing us to use this photo. The current challenges are linked at the top of the group. Remember, you can also ask for critique on your edit.
Thank you to everyone who participated; we enjoyed seeing your take on the challenge. Didn’t get a chance to edit this week? You still have an additional week to participate.
This week the Photography Challenge continued with more exploration of depth of field. The photo challenge is a great way to reach outside the box and work hard. You have the support of a large group of photographers who can assist you and give you feedback as you work on specific themes and skills. We loved seeing so many great photos. Here is another photo few we wanted to feature, but make sure to check the album on the group page for more.
Submitted by Angela Bellatty McNaul
Image on left shot at iso 400 50mm 4.5 1/80th, image on right shot at iso 400 50mm 2.5 1/160
The team would like to thank everyone who submitted a photo for the challenge. Visit the the Facebook Group on Monday for a new Photography Challenge.
Babies can be tricky, not only to shoot but also to edit. As a photographer the MCP Newborn Necessities action set has been an invaluable part of my work flow ever since it was released! I specialize in babies and small children. But I love using Newborn Necessities on all of my images. These Photoshop Actions work great on a bit bigger kids too.
Here’s the straight out of camera image. She has stray hairs on her face. Unfortunately there is no magic fix for this, but Photoshop has some great features you can use, like the patch tool and spot healing tool.
I started by doing manual edits using the patch tool and the clone stamp tool to remove the stray hairs and even out the skin, like the darker part under her eyes and over her mouth.
Step 1: Magic Baby Powder from Newborn Necessities to smooth the skin used at 20%. I often use this at a low opacity on darker skin tones. If there are more challenging skin issues such as baby acne, I would use the Organic Baby Powder.
Step 2: Used Eyes Wide Open and Sharp Eyelashes to enhance the eyes. Then used Blushing on the lips, all with low opacity brushes (25% or lower).
Step 3: Used MCP Four Seasons actions to create various looks.
- The Spring Splendor action set is perfect for soft, dreamy, color tones. In this image I used Spring Splendor, Dreamy, Orchid, and Ups and Downs (contrast).
- Winter Whirlwind allows me to offer a black and white version of the image too, which a lot of clients love. Here I used the Winter Whirlwind Mix-N-Match action checking off Storm, Snow Angels, Jolly, Frost Fairy, and Barren. I finished it off with Directional Light Therapy and Eclipses Vignette. I always run the Print Sharpie before saving.
I often mix and match MCP Action sets to create a unique look for every gallery. I prefer my colors to be subtle, realistic, and close to natural, but you can create the look that you want. Just remember to be consistent with your editing style for client galleries.
Mette Lindbaek is a photographer from Norway who moved to Abu Dhabi last year after living in South China for the past three years. Metteli Photography specializes in babies and kids portraits. To see more of her work check her site, or like her Facebook-page.
When my wife Ally wishes for world peace every time she blows out candles everyone in her family chuckles and pokes a little fun at her, but she goes right on wishing for it every time… Peace is a good thing and we’re all looking for some form of it. I have seen many photographers lament about the lack of peace and the cutthroat nature of the photography business in their market. But I’m here to tell you competition is indeed good for the marketplace since it helps to keep folks honest and from becoming complacent, and cooperating and building relationships with other studios can be rewarding. There will be photographers in your town who don’t get it and never will, but you can connect with good people and this can even help you grow your studio. Let’s dig into some reasons why you should and some ways to do it…
WHY You Should Network With Other Photographers
- You can learn from your peers. Whether you pick up a new lighting tip, advice on how to handle a certain scenario with a client, ideas for products or marketing you really can recharge and grow by exchanging ideas with folks who do what you do every day. You don’t have to divulge your deepest studio secrets but the more you share the more trust you can build and the more you’ll get back.
- Other photographers can be a referral source – both ways. I wrote recently here on MCP Actions about why photography studios should specialize, and as I mentioned we do not photograph big events. There is another photographer in town who does a fantastic job with events and because we networked with him and built a relationship with him we can feel comfortable sending our clients his way. Even though we don’t do events we can still make sure our clients are taken care of and they appreciate that. You may also find someone who wants no part of newborns and will send them your way if that’s your specialty for example.
- Working together with other photographers elevates the profession. Clients enjoy seeing their favorite local businesses working together – even when it’s in the same industry. It’s just a good way to create harmony for the local economy. Playing nicely in the sandbox reinforces the notion that photographers take their craft and livelihood seriously and are professionals as a whole – not just in our dealings with our clients but when it comes to the big picture too. Fair or not, the profession of used car salesman doesn’t give people warm and fuzzies. Let’s give people the opposite impression about photographers.
HOW You Can Network With Other Photographers
- Connect with them online and follow their content. Social media is social right? Visit and/or like a facebook page of another studio and be GENUINE about it. Don’t overdo it with a sudden onslaught of comments, but a like or a comment here or there is a good way to start building a relationship. Follow their instagram or twitter – just introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Read their blogs and post thoughtful comments. You can send them a direct message as well. Just be friendly.
- Visit their studio. This may be bold so proceed with caution and it can depend on their environment. For example our studio is a fishbowl in a mall and you can see us sitting at our desks in plain view. It’s certainly not uncommon for other photographers to be here for any number of reasons and when they’ve peeked their heads in to say hello when we aren’t shooting or with a client we have totally welcomed that. Just be genuine, respectful and friendly. We had a photographer stop in and start asking questions just to get information without identifying himself as another photographer thinking we didn’t know who he was. We did, and we busted him right there – he was a little embarrassed and rightfully so…. DON’T do that… Oh, and don’t show up at their studio telling them what they are doing wrong and why you know everything and they don’t. That also happened… Like I said at the beginning, some don’t get it.
- Join online photography forums and/or groups (such as the MCP Facebook Group), google +, or LinkedIn and join in the discussion. You can learn a lot there and on some of the membership forums the topics are very organized so you can get the info you need pretty quickly.
- Go to seminars and conventions. We met an established photographer from our backyard 3 states away in Nashville at Imaging USA a few years ago and we’ve connected with her back home. She’s been very helpful to us and we have great respect and admiration for her. Not to mention we’ve met photographers from all around the country and we keep in touch with many of them.
- Organize meetups with other local photogs you’ve met on forums. We have a group locally we meet with every few months at one of our studios and we usually rotate the meeting location from studio to studio.
I know there are plenty of other ideas – what are some other ways you have networked with other photographers in your town and what have you gotten out of it?
Doug Cohen is a co-owner of Frameable Faces Photography with his wife Ally in the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, MI. Ally is the photographer and Doug handles the sales and marketing You can follow them on twitter and instagram at @frameablefaces and you can also connect with Doug on twitter at @dougcohen10. He writes for their blog and sings in a rock band called the Detroit Stimulus Package.