tips for successful mini sessions


Whether youʼre new to photography or a seasoned pro you have either heard of mini sessions or offered them yourself.  I have to be honest. I am always so curious about what other people offer for their mini sessions, why they price them the way they do, and how successful they really are.

tips for successful mini sessions by Melissa Koehler

Because of my own curiosity, I wanted to give you a little insight into my last mini session experience. If youʼre considering offering mini sessions, or changing up the way you already do them, my goal is to help shed some light for you on what worked and didnʼt work for me on my last go around.

tips for successful mini sessions by Melissa Koehler

I started offering mini sessions a few years ago around the holidays in an effort to give people the opportunity to book a session with me at a reasonable price. Plus, I was getting a ton of emails asking me if I would do them. At first I was hesitant because I really love being able to get to know my clients and the thought of a mini session with complete strangers kind of bothered me a bit but I decided to go forth anyway and give it a try.

My first experience with mini sessions was not bad at all. My clients were great but I quickly realized that they were a lot of work and not the best in profit. As a result, I decided that I would only be offering them once a year during the holidays. This was the best fit for my business, right? I would constantly see others offering miniʼs for pretty much every occasion. Themed minis, seasonal miniʼs, you name it I saw it.  It got me thinking if I was doing something wrong? I thought about this for a while, actually a whole year, and offered miniʼs again during the holidays.  This time I offered less and booked up in 5 days. WOW!! Ok, I was excited! My clients were awesome and I yielded higher profits this time around.

tips for successful mini sessions by Melissa Koehler

I wanted to give you a little bit of background on my mini session experience. The first few years I offered miniʼs I did between 10-15 sessions. I had done enough to know that mini sessions are something that I donʼt particularly like doing, but I do like giving people the opportunity to book me at a more affordable price.

This past May, I did my most recent mini session shoot. I usually only offer them during the holidays but this time it was different and I really wanted to help raise some money for the Help Heal Isaac foundation. Profit wasn’t a concern with these minis as my hope was that people would want to help such a great cause!

I advertised them and they sold out in 2 days!  I brought along an assistant to the shoot (thank you Carri Wolle) which was so helpful to me. Everyone that signed up for the sessions was awesome and I had 2 returning clients, 1 fellow CMʼr (Carrie Hoener), and then 2 people that had just heard about the sessions.

Most of the sessions went smoothly. One did not go so well and we spent almost the entire 20 minutes just trying to get the littlest one to stop crying when I looked at him.  Iʼm not really that scary in person, I promise!
Everything turned out great in the end and I am proud to say that I will be donating $288 dollars to The Help Heal Isaac foundation because of these mini sessions!

I got some great photos for the families and helped a great cause!

So, why in the world did I just tell you all of this and not just cut to the good stuff?  Because itʼs important for you to see my first mini session experience and my most recent one.

tips for successful mini sessions by Melissa Koehler

Here are a few things that I learned about mini sessions.

  1. Donʼt go into mini sessions expecting to make a ton of money. They are a lot of work during the shoot, the processing, and the presentation. You need to have realistic expectations of what you intend to make and if it goes beyond that, great!
  2. Understand that people that book mini sessions like to take advantage of the more affordable option to get photographed by you so donʼt take it personal if they donʼt buy anything else except for what is included in the session or one image. Itʼs not you and they most likely really loved their pictures.
  3. Just because itʼs a mini session doesnʼt mean that you canʼt be just like you would on a regular shoot. Remember that this is also an opportunity for you to gain a client for life.
  4. If you are including digital files, prints, cards, etc in the price of your mini session make sure that it is worth it for you. Price out exactly how much it will cost you and go from there.
  5. Do not count on print orders from mini sessions. Most of the time people buy more but sometimes they donʼt. Price your sessions as if no one would buy anything else from you and be happy with that price. For this last mini session I priced it at $150 for 20 minutes and they got one 8×10 print. I did this because I wanted them to go away with something in their hands. Normally I price them at $250 and they get one digital file sized to a 5×7.
  6. Donʼt put the wrong directions down. Yes, I did this and canʼt believe I did!
  7. Pick a cause or charity to donate to and form your mini sessions around that. I really loved doing this and I think that my clients did too. Not only was I getting to take photos but I was donating money to a great cause. It really made me feel so great! I challenge you to try it.

In closing, I have fun with my mini sessions and Iʼve gained some great clients this way. I will most likely continue to only offer them during the holidays or if I decide to donate to a cause/charity throughout the year. Mini sessions can be fun and rewarding. Just go into them with realistic expectations of what you will gain and have a clear idea of what you want to offer.  But most of all, have fun!

tips for successful mini sessions by Melissa Koehler

Melissa KoehlerMelissa Koehler, California
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Melissa is a portrait photographer based out of San Diego where she lives with her husband and two sons. Her high school darkroom is where her photography journey began and it has continually evolved over the years, especially after becoming a mother and realizing “that time flies so quickly. She currently shoots with a Canon 5d mark ii and a variety of prime and zoom lenses. I strive to capture not only the big picture, but also the little things.” Her passion is clearly her family and photography but she loves comfy pants, coca cola, Bon Jovi, movie theater popcorn, and cheese-less pizza.

Read more photography tutorials by Melissa Keohler.


  • Tammy O says:

    sneek peak I meant to say!

  • Tammy O says:

    sneek peek! Oh my! lol

  • Nickie says:

    I think it’s way cool to be a part of making a memory with a family. After a session when I’m in my car on the way home I think to myself “wow, that was kinda cool that I just got to do that.” A simple thing but special nonetheless.

  • Josey says:

    Because there’s something magic about capturing relationships between people and something priceless in catching a moment of pure personality!

  • Star says:

    So far I'm only photographing my family but I love how photography enables me to freeze a moment in time to look back on later.

  • Clair says:

    I like observing a family's dynamic and the challenge of captureing that for them.

  • Cristin says:

    Thanks for the post! It's funny because I read on another photography related site recently that mini's were a GOLD MINE??? Your explanation sounds much more reasonable. I love to photograph other people so I can share my gift with the world.

  • Great information on mini sessions. I love photography other people because I love to see their personalities and and hopefully give them some pictures of themselves or their family that they will enjoy and treasure.

  • Tara says:

    I love photographing others to give them a chance to have that…. As a mom, I know that I don't get a lot of shots including ME, and I like being able to offer that to others, and HOPE they take advantage of it :)

  • Sally says:

    What's not to love about photographing other people? It's a sneak peak into peoples lives. It's bringing their mental images to life. Everyone takes mental pictures, but they get blurry with time. When you nail the shot for the person, you give them a picture for life, and that picture will trigger their own memories and their emotions from that time in their life. It's so precious!

  • Katie says:

    What’s the best part? Meeting fabulous people and making real connections!

  • Sara Garcia says:

    I love meeting new people and love seeing life through their perspective!

  • Melissa Goodwin says:

    I love photographing people because it's the closest I'll ever get to having a super-power…the ability to freeze time, beautifully.

  • Jennifer says:

    I like photographing people because I love to capture who they are at that point in their life and documenting their memories.

    Thank you for this opportunity to win a breakout session!

  • Dana Foley says:

    I love photographing other people because it gives me glimpse of who they really are, and when that comes through, it comes through in the pictures too!

  • Angela See says:

    I love photographing other people because it is a great way to look back and preseve memories. I actually prefer to photograph and write down a few thoughts, there is always a story being a picture. :) I think that they to hand-in-hand.

  • Shanna says:

    Love your info on this, it is so helpful! I love photography and need all the help I can get interacting with others—I am quite introverted in nature. Thank you!

  • Megan says:

    I love photographing for other people because I can capture something forever that is fleeting. Walking into someone's home and seeing my images treasured on the walls is an honor. Getting that email that from another mom that says, "you captured them exactly!" makes grin from ear to ear!

  • Louisa says:

    I Like photographing people becuase I like seeing smiley faces! :o)

  • Michelle Raney says:

    I love photographing people in their own elements, often their own homes, because things can change so quickly. A family grows up, their children grow older, a child's favorite cuddle gets tattered and torn or even lost. When you look back 10, 20, 30 years after a photo has been taken – that's when a picture has also become an emotional time capsule. Slightly deep, I apologize, but that is what I think of when I am capturing images for a family.

  • Audrey Woulard says:

    You rock! xoxo!!! ~AW

  • Love learning about how you do mini sessions. I do them every fall and it is a great way to get new clients, or to provide something to those families who want an updated family photo or just something for a holiday card. What I love about photographing other people is being able to capture their connections, their love, and this special time in their life for them to forever have and remember. I also love knowing that I gave them something they will cherish forever, and love.

  • Charity says:

    How appropriate is the timing of this article! I have been going back and forth about whether or not and how to advertise the sessions.

    I love taking photos of people as I love their reaction when they become engaged at the session. I would love to win this as I am always learning and wanting to improve on all of my skills.


  • Kelly says:

    Everyone has a story, and I love learning about other's stories and the special occasions for a photo shoot.

  • Emily says:

    Thank you, Melissa! I love photographing other people because I want everyone to be able to have some photos of their family that they can be proud to put on display AND photos with both mom and dad in the photo with their children! :)

  • Tracey says:

    I love photographing people because they are so different! Being able to make those differences shine through photography is awesome and something I am trying very hard to learn to do!

  • Nicole Duval says:

    I have loved photography since my father first showed me his pictures from serving in Korea when I was 7 . He even made a makeshift darkroom. No one else in his unit took pictures. Years later, he reminisced with some of his old army friends, and shared the images. There was so much emotion that tied them once again to those moments. The somewhat faded memories and faces came back because of my father's love of capturing that specific time. I saw the joy and tears of it all, and it really struck me. I decided then, I wanted to do the same and went to college for it. I love it all. Even the stress of my perfectionism and even bad days of uncooperative kids. I wouldnt have it any other way!

  • I'm thrilled to win this great material. Thank you!!! (And thanks for correcting my typo! :) )

  • Henry says:

    I am starting to do mini’s. I am trying to get an insight on what kind of glass people are using in their sessions and mini’s.

  • Thanks so much for this post! I am getting ready to do my first round of mini sessions and this information was so helpful, I will be sure to use some of your suggestions as I am moving forward

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