Mini sessions are a great way to earn extra money and reach more clients, especially during the busy months of fall.
Since opening my photography business in 2010, I’ve offered all kinds of mini photo sessions to my clients and I’ve learned how to make these sessions as efficient and easy as possible, without heavily discounting my brand. But even with extensive planning, there are times when things just go wrong on the day of the mini session. With such a short window of opportunity to recover, what do you do?
Here are some of the common issues I’ve encountered while photographing mini sessions, and the lessons I’ve learned:
1. Your clients are late despite your strict time schedule.
Nothing causes more stress at a mini session than knowing you’re running out of time and you can’t do much about it. I shoot most of my mini sessions just before sunset, so when my schedule is backed up, there’s really nothing I can do once that sun goes down.
I’ve learned over the years to schedule myself a little cushion between every session so that I can use that time if needed. Most of my mini sessions are 20 minutes long, but I typically schedule them on the half hour. That extra 10 minutes is helpful when I have a client running late or a session running long.
I also ask all my clients to arrive 10 minutes early so we’re sure to start on time. Still, there are situations out of our control that will happen. I know it’s my client’s responsibility to be on time, but I’m a mom, too, and I understand how hard it can be to get everyone ready and out the door. There can be the surprising traffic that seemed to come out of nowhere or a child that needed to stop for a potty break. I get it! It happens.
The last thing I want to do is make the already stressed out parent even more upset. I do everything I can to make the session happen because rescheduling is hard on both our schedules. Here are some options to consider:
- If client A is running late but client B is already there, start client B’s session early and have client A take their spot when they arrive.
- If this isn’t possible, client A’s session will be shorter than planned so I use the time waiting for them to really create a game plan for how I can work as fast as possible to get their mini session complete in the short amount of time we have left.
- When all else fails, and I just don’t have enough time to complete the session, client A will have to reschedule with me for another day. My policy is that they can apply their payment towards a full session on a future date. Thankfully, this has only happened once. Depending on the situation, I decide what is fair to offer them. If I can schedule them a short session on a day I already have a full session booked, then I will most likely honor that mini session. Your policy might be different than mine, so decide ahead of time what will work for you. Make sure that policy is clear in your mini session contract.
I try to be as understanding as possible. I have really respectful, amazing clients and this just isn’t a normal issue for me.
If this is something you are dealing with on a regular basis, you should try to figure out why it continues to happen. Was your email clear about your expectations and policies? Remember, you are building relationships and future return clients. Set the standard for your business, but also give grace when it’s necessary.
2. A kid isn’t warming up to you and their session time is almost up.
One of the biggest challenges of shooting mini sessions is the need to connect quickly with your client. When I schedule a full session, I have lots of time to get the kids to warm up to me. A mini session is so different!
There are times when it comes naturally, the kids are in great moods, smile from the very start and the session is a breeze! This isn’t always the case, though. It’s so important to go into your session knowing what you’re walking into.
Clients don’t always understand the difference between a mini and a full. I’ve had clients tell me “My child won’t last an hour so a mini session is a better fit for us.” This could be the case but usually I ask questions to make sure this is the right fit for them. Are they the type of child to warm right up and be ready to take those pictures immediately? Or maybe they need some time to explore the area before they’ll loosen up?
It’s our job to educate our clients and find the best fit for them. A mini session is not a one size fits all.
I’ve found myself in the situation where a child really needed the time allotted in a full session to get used to the idea of pictures. I have handled this a few different ways.
Some parents are ok with more serious, quiet pictures. They’ll let me know to just capture what I can of their child in their present mood. If it’s a family mini session, I focus on the parents cuddling their child. Or, I might encourage the family to walk away and shoot from a distance. This means the child is more engaged with their family and not worried about what I am doing.
There are other times where I have to make the call that I just didn’t get enough pictures to deliver. If this is the case, I usually offer to schedule a short session to make up for the pictures I’m missing.
There have been times I was able to shoot all the kids but one. In this case, I might schedule a ten minute session to grab a few shots of the kids together and/or the child I was missing individually.
Again, your policy might be different but I don’t want to ever feel like my client is walking away with anything less than they expected. I will do everything I can to make sure they’re happy with their final product. My mini sessions are not cheap. When a family invests in one, I truly appreciate it and want them to come back again.
3. You overshoot and your client is excited about the “extra pictures.”
Yikes! I have been here for sure. The session is a dream! You’re having so much fun with the family that you lose track of the amount of pictures you’re taking. In fact, it might as well have been a full session because you filled your card and have time left!
You only promised the client ten digital files but how in the world will you choose from everything you’ve taken? Not to mention, when will you find the time to edit so many images you hadn’t planned for?
My pre-session email I send to my clients covers this situation. My email lets them know what their mini session includes. I tell them if we happen to have extra images, they’re welcome to purchase these individually or upgrade to a full-session package. I also remind them of these options as I’m shooting.
This is tough for me. I love to spoil my clients but I also try to keep it consistent and fair to all my clients. There has to be a perk to booking a full session or your clients never will.
4. Your client shows up with extended family, pets and outfit changes.
This really isn’t a regular issue for me but I’ve heard from others that it does happen. This is another reason it is so important to communicate with your clients beforehand.
I often see mini sessions treated no differently than full sessions, defeating a the purpose of the mini and devaluing a full session. Your pre-session email should cover exactly who will be photographed so it’s clear and you and your clients can plan appropriately.
If you shared this information and are still surprised at the session, stick to your policy. Politely remind them you’re on a strict time schedule but would be happy to schedule a full session at another time. If you happen to have room in your schedule to accommodate the family, offer the chance to upgrade before shooting.
I hope all of this information was helpful for you as you plan your own end-of-the-year mini sessions. I look forward to sharing even more ideas on marketing, planning and executing mini sessions in my breakout, Making Magic in Minutes, available at Click Photo School this December!
Words & photos by Amy Salessi