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Mini Session Photography vs. Full Sessions: Which is Best?

Unpopular opinions on the dilemma between mini session photography and full session photography

It's a tale as old as time... okay, maybe that is dramatic. But if you follow any photography business social media accounts or groups, it is only a matter of time until you become eye-witness to the most heated debates photographers tend to get into.... Full sessions or Mini Sessions?

Family mini photoshoot
Family poses during a mini photo session

Before I give you my thoughts, I want say that I truly see both sides and I offer BOTH full and mini sessions in my own photography business. To make sure we are on the same page, here are what each are defined as:

Mini Session Photography - A true mini session is typically 10, 15, or 20 minutes long. Photographers schedule multiple sessions back-to-back (with or without buffer time is your preference.) Due to the nature of multiple sessions, minis are offered on predetermined dates and it is up to the client to make that work. Most mini sessions include a limit of digital images (3, 5, 7 are most common) and give clients the option to purchase any "extras" a la carte after their session and once they see the final gallery.

Full Session Photoshoots - A full photography session typically lasts at minimum 40 minutes (often longer) and can be scheduled whenever the photographer is available. Clients get more freedom in choosing date and location from a photographer's location guide (shameless plug that you can download our Location Guide Template absolutely FREE here!) Full sessions typically include packages that entail a mix of digital images and/or printed work.

Pros/Cons of Mini Sessions:

I LOVE MINIS! In my own photography business, I bring in nearly six-figures on just mini sessions each year. They are by far the "bread and butter" of my business. I love minis because I pride myself on working efficiently--moving from pose to pose and even the transition from one pose to another are photo-worthy moments. I have a posing workflow that ensures I achieve a variety of poses and combinations and NEVER forget a shot.

In my opinion, most kids do better with mini photo sessions because they only need to be interested for 15 minutes--which is natural for their developing brains!

Here is my typical pose flow during a mini photography session:

  • Whole family with 3 pose variations (sitting, standing, and moving)

  • Siblings only (variation depends on kids ages and abilities)

  • Each parent with all the kids

  • Each child individually (because school portraits are rarely worthy of hanging on the wall)

  • Just the parents together!

This flow hits all the bases. While it sounds like a lot to keep track of, once you practice it over and over--it becomes second nature!

From a business side, you generally make more money per hour shooting minis than full photography sessions. This means less time away from your family for that same profit.

The downside is that you need more clients to fill those spots which can be hard if you are just starting in your business. I always recommend offering both fulls and minis, but once you hit your "max threshold," shifting to offering more minis and less full sessions can be ideal for your time and your business. By that time, you are a well-oiled-mini-machine and it will feel easy for you.

I will say, on days I have mini sessions-- it takes it all out of me. I generally cannot shoot other sessions, I don't want to do anything "big" with my kids, and I often have take out for dinner because I am so tired. Mini sessions require more elbow grease due to how "on" you and your brain need to be for a longer amount of time.

Pros/Cons of Full Photography Sessions:

Full sessions are great because there is no rush. You have more time to think of poses/prompts and have time for littles to take snack/potty breaks. Moments seem to unfold more naturally and if you don't love directing sessions, that may be a weight off your shoulders. If your shooting workflow is less structured, this would make more sense for you.

Business wise, you have less clients to manage booking, emails, contracts, styling, etc. and you only need one client to fill a 1-hour slot instead of four clients for minis.

The problem I have with full sessions is that I can only shoot outside during certain windows of time for ideal light. If I am booking full sessions, I can only fit one client into that time. Maybe two in peak season. For minis, I can book 8-12 clients in that amount of time.

During weekends in peak season (Sept-November here in Colorado!) I only offer mini sessions. Full sessions almost have to be weekday evenings.

The Math:

The following numbers are based on my photography business prices and assuming everyone books the lowest package (without upgrades for minis:)

1 Full Session, 2 Days a week- $675 x 2 = $1350

8 Mini Sessions, 2 Days a week- $195 x 16 = $3120

Keep in mind that your pricing should be calculated based on your Cost of Doing Business (CODB). Need help figuring that out? Don't worry--I have a Free Worksheet for you!

But, as you can see, my business minis are over TWICE as valuable than my full sessions--even if nobody upgraded to their full gallery. Minis are also generally easier to fill since it is less of an investment (both in time and money) for your clients.


What do you think? Do you have a strong preference on mini session photography versus full photography sessions? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time,


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