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Full Sessions vs. Mini Sessions: which is best for your clients and your business?

Updated: Sep 24

Unpopular opinions on the biggest dilemma in family 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?

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 Sessions- 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 Sessions- 40 Minutes or longer sessions that can be scheduled whenever the photographer is available. Clients get more freedom in choosing date and location from 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 in a mini session because they only need to be interested for 15 minutes--which is natural for their developing brains! I always start with the whole family and do 3 variations (sitting, standing, and moving,) then siblings only (variation depends on kids ages and abilities,) each parent with the kids, each child individually (because school portraits are rarely worthy of hanging on the wall,) and lastly--just the parents together! This hits all the bases and 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 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 earlier on in your business. Which is why I always recommend offering both, but once you hit your "max threshold," shifting to offering more minis and less full sessions. 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--that 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. So it more elbow grease due to how "on" you and your brain need to be for a longer amount of time.

Pros/Cons of Full 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 number are based on my photography business prices 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

Of course, 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 you can see the difference--in my business minis are over TWICE as valuable than 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 sessions? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time,


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