I am very fortunate to be the co-owner of The Wild Child Photography with my friend and business partner Kim Bear.
We are both busy mommas and love photography!
We have a similar story to many photographers, I bet – photography became a love when we had babies. I wanted to document everything about my little baby girl, and I wanted to do it well!
So I learned everything I could about photography. Kim, too, with the birth of her first (a baby boy), fell in love with those long lashes and needed to document them.
Of course, that turned into sessions for other people to make a little extra money while staying home; we photographed babies, families, weddings, and seniors.
By the time we partnered up (with three kids each at this point, and nearly seven years later) I was spread way too thin, and Kim was “taking a break” from her business.
It’s no fun feeling like you can’t please everyone. It’s actually a terrible place to be, and I would go to bed wondering if I should just quit. Kim and I put our heads together over coffee and came up with a new business plan. This plan was built around boundaries and a schedule that worked for us, instead of us feeling like slaves to too much work.
Our new plan includes “Heritage Sessions,” which are consolidated shooting days scheduled every third Saturday of the month. We also set aside Monday evenings for a “shoot night” for custom sessions like newborns, head shots, and seniors.
There are a handful of reasons why consolidated shooting has worked wonders for us:
1. One evening of shooting several sessions.
We decided to steer clear of the term “mini session.” I think a lot of folks associate a mini price with a mini session, and these sessions are valuable.
I like the word “Heritage” because it sounds like something worth investing in. There are lots of words that could be used to describe these sessions – just not “mini,” unless, of course, you have a mouse with big ears coming to sit in!
2. Dads and kids.
Honestly, do Dads and kids love having their photos taken? Well, they don’t mind 20 minutes!
We have had Dads actually come up to us and thank us for being so efficient. Twenty minutes is actually more than enough time to get the shots you need for a full and varied gallery. The first pictures from a session are always my favorite!
3. The sale.
We sell in person, and typically we know what shots are going to sell. Best sellers are photos with everyone looking at the camera with their best smile (Moms always want this, even if they try to tell you they don’t), individual pictures of each child, the kids together, Mom and Dad alone together (looking at the camera and looking at each other), and a few more of the family acting playful.
That’s what they get. It’s what they want, and it’s what sells!
4. Your sanity!
Coming from a gal that was “losing it,” let me tell you, consolidating works! Why spend an evening getting your gear, location, and props ready for one family when you could get it all ready for 5-8 families, and get them all done in one night?
If you are worried about your client’s pictures looking too similar, don’t. Even in one location, we find two or three different spots to shoot. If there is a beautiful area that works for the family image we do use it again and again, and we haven’t had one family complain. Every family is so different – their clothes and personalities are all their own.
We have found that families who do Heritage Sessions generally spend around the same amount as our custom family sessions that we book on Monday evenings.
I mentioned that we do in-person sales. We typically schedule those on Tuesdays when we have daycare (our two youngest go to a sitter one day a week).
If for some reason Tuesdays don’t work for our clients we can be a little flexible, but you’d be surprised! Usually, if you tell them when they can come look at their photos, they make it work.
If you sell digital files and don’t do in-person sales, you could schedule a time to post the images and maybe follow up an e-mail with a quick phone call thanking them for their business and expressing to them how much you loved their pictures. A little gratitude goes a long way in our business.
A few things to consider if you are thinking about consolidating sessions:
- The sun is your light source (unless you do a lot of off camera lighting). It changes from the beginning of the evening to the end, right? Yes! We do a lot of location scouting and look specifically for locations with open shade that will work well for the whole evening. Sometimes we have to move around a bit, too. Knowing how to shoot in different light is important.
- Speaking of location, we really like to find beautiful locations and really talk them up! We work hard to find these spots and love to go back yearly. It’s awesome to have a mom come up to me and say “Oh, I really want to book your tree farm Heritage Session this year!”
- These sessions and time slots don’t have to be only for family sessions. We actually photograph lots of milestone sessions during this time including baby’s first year sessions as well as maternity and yearly pictures of kids. Of course, we encourage family members to get in the shot too! I make sure to tell mom to dress nicely, just in case I need her to be in a picture, and I do make sure I include her in a few images.
- Yes, there are two of us, and I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have a business partner, but I believe that a single photographer can easily do the same thing as we are doing. In fact, a lot of photographers already offer mini-sessions, just call it something else and build that value!
I encourage you to build boundaries in your business. Consolidating worked well for me, and I love the freedom it gave me to be with my family.
I think we forget why we got into this business sometimes. For me, it was so I could stay home and love on my babies. I am blessed to still be able to do that, and the bitterness and burn out that I was feeling is now gone just because I set that boundary, and stuck with it.
My kids and husband deserved better, and I am glad that I can now focus on them more! It was the change I needed, and it made such a positive difference in my life. I hope this encourages you, too, to set boundaries and find ways to make your photography business work with your family schedule.