I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of mini sessions for photography anymore. However, I know they are a popular option, popping up seasonally throughout the year. In this blog post, I give you my take as a photographer on the pros and cons of these shortened sessions. You can decide what’s best for your family.
What is a mini-session?
Traditionally, mini-sessions are deeply discounted, brief photography sessions. These sessions last 5-15 minutes, producing 3-10 images for the client. The photographer schedules sessions back to back and at one location. These are usually designed around a holiday or seasonal element (such as flowers or fall trees).
When you see photographers advertising 30+ minute slots with 15+ images as a “mini-session”, they are really just offering you a deeply discounted session instead of a true mini-session. I was very guilty of this when I was a newbie. While the session time may have been fairly short, I delivered a whole session’s worth of images. That wasn’t a true mini-session.
When fast is a problem
I see the appeal of a short session when you have young children. Who knows how long their attention span will last? Would they make it through a full session without a meltdown? Don’t we just want to get this over with? However, this neglects the fact that a lot of children (most children) require some time to warm up and get comfortable with the photographer. Even if you worked with this person previously, how long has it been since your last session; 6 months or over a year? That’s a lifetime for a young child!
I have experienced this first hand during mini sessions with my own family. My kids are literal pros in front of the camera. They endure getting their photos taken on almost a weekly basis. I prepped them ahead of time, sharing pictures of the photographer with them. They were give an idea of what to expect from the session as well as my expectations of them. We arrived early so that they could watch the photographer in action with another family.
I honestly expected them to just jump in and nail it. Instead, they surprised me by acting shy and uncomfortable. In the moment, I felt my stress level creeping up. I knew we only had a short session time to capture a good family photo. (In the moment, I reminded myself that we really only needed one decent photo and that I could always do a re-take if necessary with my own camera and tripod.)
When I’m photographing my own clients, while I will start clicking away soon after we meet up, I also know that the best images usually come after the first 15-20 minutes. By then the children are starting to trust me and everyone has relaxed into the session. During mini sessions, the session may be over by that point of relaxation!
Mini sessions generally don’t include a full client experience either. When a photographer is scheduling 6+ sessions for one day, she may not have time to complete a pre-session or post-session consult. The whole process is more hands off. If minimal contact sounds ideal, a mini session may work for you! However, if your brain is bouncing around a specific vision, book the full session instead.
Appropriate expectations for mini sessions
So when can mini sessions for photography prove the best choice? If you children have entered middle childhood or are pre-teens/teenagers, you may be pleased with a shorter session. At this age children can usually follow directions and smile for the camera without much redirection. They may not require as much warm-up time to produce a good portrait.
If you literally desire only one or two portraits, then a mini photography session may be perfect for you. For example, if you really and truly only want a good portrait of your whole family smiling at the camera, book a mini session! Are you really only looking for a portrait of all of your children together? A mini session may perfectly fit your needs. The issue comes when you (or the photographer) try to squeeze too many poses and groupings into a short time frame. You may feel frazzled during the session (which will probably show on your face). You may end up with mediocre photos of various poses (rather than a handful of stunning images of one or two poses).
As I mentioned in the intro, I never schedule true mini sessions for photography anymore. However, I schedule occasional portrait events that are comprised of back to back sessions. What’s the difference, you may ask? These sessions are for a longer time frame, usually 20-30 minutes to give warm up time. They also have a specific aim or purpose. My heirloom sessions function this way. During heirloom portrait events, I specifically photograph children in a particular style. We vary the posing a bit, but there is generally one specific goal rather than 15 different goals we are seeking to reach.
So there you have it! If you are looking for an elevated photography experience in the Chattanooga, TN area, contact me! I love to help busy moms plan a low-stress, stylized session. Learn more about working with me here and see more of my work here.