The Typical Formula
There’s a trend in the photography world that’s had me scratching my head since I started my business. It’s this phenomenon of the “mini-session.” You’ve seen the marketing blasts on Facebook, maybe even taken the bait and gotten a few cute pictures for a steal and for that I wouldn’t blame you one bit. They're appealing. A "mini-session” for those who are unaware, typically follows a formula something like,
15-20 minute session
one or two specific days
some specific, well-known location
a variation of thematic props staged in a cute scene
all the full size image files from the session on a CD, maybe a few small prints
...all for a majorly reduced price somewhere <$100.
I’ll confess, I’ve tried season after season to jump on this mini-session bandwagon but it never has quiet felt right.
Then I remembered -
I don't have to do something just because everyone else is doing it.
(and neither do you!)
At first glance, mini-sessions seem like a great idea. From a business standpoint, they seem like a quick and sure way to drum up business and engage new clients, maybe build a starting portfolio with little risk or commitment from your subjects. From a client perspective, it seems to provide a cheaper solution to the common need—“I just want one good picture of Billy that’s not on my phone in the backyard!”
And that's valid intention. Except...
The why behind my business is centered on meaning.
- I believe the purpose of photographs is greater than capturing how we look, but how we act and feel.
- I believe in and run my business with the intention of excellence, honesty, connection, and longevity behind everything I offer.
- I believe that family sessions require time and attention, they require space to play, and room to eliminate pressure and let personality shine through.
And if you believe those things, too, well then mini sessions just aren't for us!
Yes, you can certainly create beautiful photographs in short time frames, especially when connecting with a child one on one. But for families and siblings especially, the purpose is about more than one "good" picture.
My sessions are about capturing how it feels to be together.
And then there's pricing
My prices are set for a reason — I don’t pick them out of the air. They’re carefully calculated to account for my business expenses, my time spent developing and actively working in this as a career, and all the details that make your experience efficient, excellent, and enjoyable. The typical mini-session formula is a cheap way to "get them in the door," but in order for me to afford to charge such low prices, I’d have to cut out valuable pieces from your experience.
In other words, you get the short end of the stick.
It would be completely out of alignment and against my purpose to let you walk away with average experience.
There’s a theory with the mini-session that it’s more of an appetizer that leaves the client wanting more — but I think I’d rather not tease my clients with appetizers when I have can serve them an amazing meal instead.
Lastly, Please understand :
there are definitely a few photographers out there who have crafted successful versions of mini-sessions, and some who use the standard formula that works just fine for their needs, style, and market. So I’m not sitting on a throne here saying it’s a terrible idea or that other photographers are terrible people/business owners for promoting them.
One of the great things about the photography industry is that it’s a creative industry which means every photographer is going to have a different style and approach which will suit different needs for different clients.
After trying and trying to sort out my own approach to the mini session trend, I finally decided to just stop looking at how “everybody else does it,” and instead, look at how I want to serve through my business in the best way possible.