Do you like me anymore?
Yes or No
(circle one, please)
Your friend — Mini-Sessions
A few months ago, I sent this “5th-grade love-letter” out to our Facebook forum. I was curious to see how other photographers felt about mini-sessions.
Do most photographers love mini-sessions or hate them? Are they a complete waste of time, or are they a potential goldmine?
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I could have just asked plainly, but I liked this cute, nostalgic approach. I had no idea if anyone would comment, but I was shocked by the number of responses. I’d unknowingly started a polarized debate. Some people loved mini-sessions and thought they were amazing. Others thought they were the absolute worst.
Here are some of my favorite replies. You might actually share some of these same opinions.
On the ‘YES’ side:
“Yes. I find it increases client base and improves the visibility of my business.”
“Yes, but only for holiday or themed sessions where I set up a look. It’s more cost effective than having to style the same session over and over. My regular clients appreciate the lower cost of a quick, themed session and still book full price regular sessions later in the year.”
“I love mini-sessions. Usually, 30 minutes is about all kids and hubbies can handle without getting cranky.”
“I don’t do themed sessions any other time of the year so I enjoy mini-sessions. Unfortunately, I know I have clients that wait until I do this mini-session to book with me. They receive 10-15 digitals — no prints. I like not having to worry about print orders or Christmas cards. And I enjoy the extra $ just before the holidays.”
On the ‘NO’ side:
“No… Personally, I think it is really important to create a bond with the family and have them get comfortable in order to get really amazing candids. I just feel like I’d be rushing to do mini-sessions. I’d LOVE to hear why people do mini-sessions!”
“I don’t offer them because I like to connect with my families and 30 minutes isn’t enough time to get to know them and get them comfortable in front of the camera. Plus, I feel offering cheaper mini-sessions brings in people that are not in my target market.”
“The valuable experience provided to my clients during a full session far outweighs ever discounting myself to cheaper rates and less time spent building relationships.I’m busy enough with editing as it stands. I can’t imagine catering to a mob of cheapskates simultaneously.”
Can you see how divided we are over the issue of mini-sessions?
The Gray Area
One of my favorite business books of the last few years is Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive, where they explain a great framework for making better choices in life and work.
They say one of the biggest flaws in our human nature is the tendency to split everything up into black and white. Something is either good or bad. YES or NO.
This dualistic way of thinking is all over our industry. Whether we’re talking about mini-sessions, natural light, external flash, digital prints, or in-person sales, photographers pick a side of the argument and stick to it. Everything is polarized.
Deep down, though, we all know there’s a lot more gray area than we’re willing to admit.
For example, if you ask a homebuilder, “Yes or No: Do you use a hammer to build a house?” what will they say?
Well, that’s complicated. A yes-or-no question doesn’t work in this case. They use a wide variety of tools. They use a hammer when they build a house, but not for everything. When they need to put in a nail, it’s hammer time. But when they need to screw something, a hammer doesn’t cut it.
It’s easy to look at mini-sessions and think, “This is good,” or, “This is bad,” but I think photographers need to slow down their judgment and pay attention to the nuance.
We all need to understand what works for other photographers before we take a surface-level glance at something and write it off as ‘useless’.
Reap The Benefits… When You Get Mini-Sessions Right
First, the biggest benefit to doing mini-sessions is that they give you an opportunity for a quick revenue boost at the end of the year — especially during the holiday season.
Second, it’s an opportunity to grow your client base with new clients AND earn more money from your existing client base.
This works both ways — your existing clients that have hired you for full sessions in the past can hire you later in the year for your mini-session, and the brand new clients your mini-session attracts could hire you later for a full session.
Finally, mini-sessions are a great alternative you can provide clients who can’t afford a full session. This is money you’d never get if you didn’t offer a mini-session.
There are other benefits that are sometimes hard to measure, but definitely worth considering.
First, you’ll get a higher ROI (return on investment) if you do a themed shoot. Usually, running full sessions with themed require a ton of work… for just one client. With mini-sessions, you can put a little more energy into your theme and know you’ll get more ROI from the one setup.
Second, mini-sessions give you a huge boost in brand awareness. After all the energy you put into promoting it, you gain a lot of exposure (even to the people that don’t book with you right away).
Third, they allow you build and strengthen partnerships with local business. This is one of my favorite marketing tactics. You can really strengthen your existing partnerships with local businesses this way.
Finally, mini-sessions give you an opportunity to make a meaningful impact for a charity, organization, or cause you really care about.
The Next Step
These benefits make mini-sessions sound like a no-brainer, but to get the most out of them, you have to do right.
Want to learn how?
This quick checklist shows you how to overcome the most common challenges photographers face when promoting and running mini-sessions.