Mini Sessions.... and why I won't offer them
But oh, I know, in this world of face paced go-go-go- who has the time or energy to put into a full hour long (or longer) session? It's true that mini sessions are a quick, cost effective (for the client) way to get a few photos done and not to mention an easy money maker (for the photographer). However, I will not offer them. I don't like the way the session feels rushed, I don't like not having the time getting to know my clients. It's virtually impossible to capture a family's true personality in 15 minutes.
A glance at what a mini session would look like if I were to offer them:
- I pick a date where I could schedule at least 5 hours worth of shooting, finding all day childcare for my kiddos.
- I would pick the spot that I know would have the best lighting all day (because shooting mid day sun does not always produce the pretty hazy type photos a lot of people tend to love).
- I organize and assemble a mock shoot (props included) and take a couple promotional shots to advertise for the minis.
- I pick my available times, and require full payment up front as a non refundable deposit and send out links to my client contract. (The payment for these sessions are non refundable because there is SO much work that goes into setting up and preparing for sessions like this that I can not afford cancellations or no shows.)
- Families book them, usually pretty fast, and not everyone gets a chance to get in on the deal.
- Day of shoot, families show up, we are rushed, I grab as many photographs as possible in 15 minutes (hopefully your kiddos are in good spirits!), and then send you on your way after the time is up.
- I get home that night, try to edit at least one photo from each family (in 5 hours, think maybe 10 to 15 families) to give you a sneak peak of the day.
- Over the next few days, I edit everyone's photos and upload to a gallery for you each to view and download.
And that's it. I usually don't hear from these clients until the next time a mini is offered.
Honestly, that is a lot of "I do this", and "I decide that". I am not opposed to the work it takes to put a day like this together, but I hate how impersonal mini-shoots are. I know fellow photographers that make quick money off these, because honestly, yes- it is a great way to get new faces in the door. Pricing wise, I would charge around $75 for a 15 min mini session that included 5 photos for download vs. my standard- $175 for a full hour and 20 to 30 edited images. I mean, would I want to make $1000 for a 5 hour day of shooting and only have to edit 75 photos? YES. That is why so many photographers offer them so often. It's a quick money maker- especially in the fall for family photos.
On the flip side this is what a normally booked session looks like with me:
- Client contacts me about doing photos.
- We discuss the reason or occasion for the shoot- engagement, pregnancy, birthday, boudoir, gifts, etc
- We discuss location and time/date for shoot. I explain what time of day the lighting is the best and most beautiful.
- I email my client contract and talk them through filling it out.
- Then I email out their invoice, requiring the non refundable booking fee paid to book their date of choice, and allow payments be made to the invoice as long as full invoice is paid a week before session date. (Hey, I get the living with a tight budget. Sometimes its easier to pay things in parts, sometimes people want to pay everything up front. You do what is best for your family.)
- We discuss ideas for the shoot. I scour the internet and previous shots I have taken and put together a "mood" board of colors, and poses and ideas for photos.
- Together, the client and I design their shoot. We work collaboratively to make sure the day of the shoot is everything they wanted. I love watching their ideas come to light!
- Day of the shoot, I show up, we talk a bit and then get to shooting. The first few shots are always the awkward ones, so we get that out of our systems right away. We have an hour to play and have fun. I get a chance to capture the clients' family, or love, or pets or pregnancy for what it really is. I can play with angles and backgrounds and capture them in a way that will speak to them. Its all about real emotions and personality.
- I get home after the shoot and edit a quick shot for a sneak peak. Often times I stay up late editing away, because I get too excited to stop.
- Once the gallery is completed, I will write up a blog post with a few more sneak peaks and some words about what I learned about my clients. Or share something funny that happened during the shoot. Or something the significant other shared with me about their partner.
- The gallery goes live and the client gets an email with all the info needed to download and share the gallery.
With this session, I put in a lot of work as well. Though more of the work is behind the scenes here. Did you notice all the "we talk" and "we design"? I work collaboratively with my clients. This is their shoot- I am there to take the photos, leave them the memories of what their love felt like. Every client is different. Every family is different. They deserve something as unique as they are. That is what really makes my heart full. Yeah, I may not making as much money for virtually the same amount of work, but it's not about that. I want to make an experience for my clients.
What would you prefer? $75- 5 photos, a cookie cutter shoot, that looks the same as the family before you or $175- 20 to 30 photos, and a full hour shoot that you helped design to make unique to tell the story of your family and your love?
I get that not everyone wants what speaks to me, and that is perfectly fine. But if what I am saying resonates with you- don't settle just because of the cost. Talk to me and we will come up with a plan. You deserve a session that is fun, exciting and gives you amazing photos that capture who you really are, and more importantly photos that capture what your life feels like at that moment.
Talk to me and tell me what you think,
Erin Berry, Photographer
P.S. All that being said, I am in the process of trying to meet a need that has been brought to my attention. I have a few clients that want pregnancy announcement photos done. A session like that can be done in a few minutes and does not need 20 photos. So I have came up with a hybrid that I think will fulfill this need with out compromising on my ideas of not doing minis. A package deal: $225- a 15 min mini session for announcement photos- and after 32 weeks a full maternity session. $75 due for booking the mini and the remaining ($150) is due a week before the maternity session. In the long run- if you booked two sessions with me at my current rates (an hour session for each) this package saves you $125! Not to mention for the announcement photos, I give you my solemn vow- your secret is safe with me until you share the news.