Tips for successful mini sessions

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.

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 sucessful 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.

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.

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!

About the Author:

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. Visit Melissa Koehler online.


  1. JessV Aug 02 2012 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    When taking pictures of my own family they tend to complain a bit, since I do it ALL the time. When I photograph other people, I'm doing it because they've asked me to. There are no complaints and people are generally happy to huddle up together and have fun.

  2. Cat Aug 02 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    I love to photograph my family on vacations and special events. It's fun and helps us to look back on those great times. This is helping me to gain more experience to try to start my own photography gig.

  3. Natalia aka Maygrl Aug 02 2012 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Very interesting article, thank you! I m just at the start with professional photography and it is really useful!!!
    I love to photograph other people because I like when people happy and I help them to keep their memories while at the same time I get great experience!

  4. Rachel Aug 02 2012 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    I like taking photos of people because it captures little snips of time for us to come back and mull over again later! Simple expressions that we'd otherwise miss, now we can see again and again!

  5. Sheryl Salisbury Aug 02 2012 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    I want to photograph people because it captures a specific moment in their life. They will never get that moment back but they will be able to recall it with my images.

  6. Jess Cadena Aug 02 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Great advice! Love the tips♥

    I love photographing other people because I'm rewarded by the end results. Their joy when they see the photos for the first time excites me and encourages me to keep going!

  7. Kayla Gonzales Aug 02 2012 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    My favorite thing? When I hear someone say that they can't and never will take a good photo, and they fall in love with the way I capture them. My own mother was one of those people, and now she's putting a canvas of she and her husband on her wall!! Feels good to show people a side of them they never get to see 🙂

  8. Jennifer West Aug 02 2012 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Iam so blessed to be able to have supportive friends and family that have allowed me the opportunity to capture those priceless moments in their lives. I am just getting started with making photography a career but I am truly passionate about photography and I am looking forward to years of capturing those special moments!

  9. Liz Fraijo Aug 02 2012 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    I love capturing those precious moments in time. It seems that each stage in a child’s life flies by so quickly, I love providing a tangible memory.

  10. Michelle Kirnan Aug 02 2012 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    I love to photograph people because I feel it's important to try to capture their soul, who they are. If I've done my job correctly, not only will they treasure the images but also their loved ones and hopefully future generations as well. I love to see images of my ancestors! I hope that I'm able to capture the true essence of a person so that future generations can get a glimpse into who they were. It's especially meaningful if I'm able to document the love between people.

  11. Ashley Aug 02 2012 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    I love photography people because I love to show them a side to themselves or their family that they don't normally see. Giving them memories and moments that they will love forever and remember forever in their images. The closeness of a family, their adorable kids, the excitement of a newly engaged couple, or the first moments of a newborns life… and so much more. I love getting to see that and capture that, and give them those images!

  12. sarah parsons Aug 02 2012 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    The best part for me is the anticipation they have waiting to see what was captured and their aww when they are holding those prints in there hands and realizing they have made memories to last a life time. Makes my day!

  13. Kat Aug 02 2012 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    I know how important my own family images are to me, and I love being able to provide lasting memories for my clients as well : )

  14. jenn alcantara Aug 02 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    mmm i love photographing people bc. i love to see how HAPPY a good photo can make someone. it fills me up

  15. Danielle Aug 02 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips! I LOVED the idea of donating proceeds to charity!!
    Personally, I love photographing families, because it's so tough and infrequent to get that decent, complete family shot all together! I particularly love photographing moms and their children because it seems to typically be the moms behind the camera! I know I have tons of pictures of my husband with my kiddos, and am sometimes afraid my kids will grow up and think, "where's mom?" I love to be able to give my client and my friends photos to treasure with EVERY member included! 🙂

  16. Courtney Zadik Aug 02 2012 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    I love shooting other people, candid mostly, because I get to learn about others and see how other families interact with each other and document that for them to see!

  17. Kim Dearmore Aug 02 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    I love photographing other people so they can have a moment captured in time to remember forever. They may not see it in day to day life, but hopefully once it is captured they can look back and be taken back to a time/memory in their life!

  18. Thereasa Gwinn Aug 02 2012 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    I love to show who a person is on that given day, especially those newborns and seniors who change so fast. We only have so many days on this earth and each day is precious. I like to save those memories for my clients.

  19. cgoemans Aug 02 2012 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Very interesting info! I like photographing people because you get to capture a moment in time to reflect back on.

  20. Danielle rE Aug 02 2012 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I love being an outsider looking in on the connections between other families. That and they don't complain like my kids do when I want to take photos:-)

  21. Gretchen Willis Aug 02 2012 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Wow, Melissa, thanks so much for giving it to us straight! I love your perspective on this. Thanks for sharing it.

    I like shooting other people because I like to get to know them better, but mostly because I want other people to see the beauty in themselves. I want to capture their beauty as they maybe don't see themselves.

  22. Laura Purdy Aug 02 2012 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    One of the reasons I like photographing other people is that it is a snapshot of time. No one else is there but you and the client. It is the most intimate moment, and the most public at the same time.
    Clients are no longer strangers as you are photographing there innermost personal experiences.
    Each shoot is another snapshot of another family and require special insight into their likes, dislikes, and their most precious things – their family.

  23. Lindsey Rivera Aug 02 2012 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    I love photographing people so they can see how beautiful they really are. 🙂

  24. Christina Klahn Aug 02 2012 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Great post! I offer mini-sessions once a year during the holidays too, and I'm partly excited about them and partly dreading them lol…they are a lot of work! I love photographing other people b/c I could never be as creative alone as I am when I combine my ideas with theirs. I give a lot of credit to the families I photograph and I love meeting new people!

  25. christineb Aug 02 2012 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    this is awesome. I really want to do mini sessions this year to donate to a friend who's niece is very very sick with cancer. I would love to win this to help me learn how to capture moments that people will remember forever. Thanks for the opportunity.

  26. Sdawn Aug 02 2012 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I love photographing people so they have photos of moments to treasure.

  27. Danyalle Campbell Aug 02 2012 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I love to provide something for my clients that I never had! My wedding pictures were horrendous! I love to give a family a memory that will last BEYOND that moment! Life in action! Pictures that tell a story! 🙂

  28. Matt Davies Aug 02 2012 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    I love documenting the relationships people have, both with each other and with themselves.

  29. Danielle Aug 02 2012 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    I love to catch emotion: a smile, that moment before a kiss, wonderment, I love it all!!

  30. Donna Aug 02 2012 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Love this post. Did my first mini session at Easter with baby chicks and a bunny. It was way more work than I realize, but in saying that I was able to spend time with friends and family, plus capture a moment that will forever make them smile! Capturing special moments and little details is my FAV thing about photography! I

  31. Susan Biddle Aug 02 2012 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    I LOVE photographing others because it brings me so much joy to capture their precious moments for them. I can eat, drink and sleep photography. I do need some help with the business side and would appricate this very much.

  32. Jennine G-L Aug 02 2012 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Relatioships are so important and that is why I enjoy photographing people.

  33. Jamie Shortt Aug 02 2012 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    This is a great article and it came at the perfect time! I've been considering offering mini sessions lately, so thank you for your advice.
    I love to photograph other people, honestly, because sometimes its just nicer to get shots of someone other than your kids, lol!

  34. Michelle N Aug 02 2012 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Taking pictures makes me happy and I feel it makes the people I photograph happy too. Together we capture memories to last a lifetime. I am new to the SLR world and will soak up and knowledge I can get..

    Michelle's Photography
    For the Love of photos!

  35. Joan Aug 02 2012 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    My clients become family. I live watching the littles grow! Family is so important and having pictures I the best way I know to preserve those memories. Thaks for the tips!

  36. Karla Aug 02 2012 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    I love photographing families. I think a family portrait is a special gift that will be treasured for a lifetime. I love the reaction from a mom seeing her photos for the first time!

  37. Kim Aug 02 2012 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    I love meeting new people and capturing memories for them, it's always rewarding to see your work hung up in peoples homes!

  38. lifecapturedphotographybycrystal Aug 02 2012 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    great article!
    I just love seeing the joy in a smile <3

  39. Sally S. Aug 02 2012 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    I love photographing other people because it is fun to see what it takes to relax them in front of the camera.

  40. Sheila Sandifer Aug 02 2012 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    I love photographing due to capturing their memories. This is why I named my business Memories for Life Photography. It makes me giddy to make them happy.

  41. Kelly H Aug 02 2012 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    I love taking pictures of other people for a couple of reasons. I love meeting new people. I love when my clients sees themself in a different light, when they see the beauty I see in them and I love knowing they will have this moment captured for a life time. You just never know what life will bring and photographs can me so much when that loved one is gone. Love CM and all you wonderful photogs 🙂

  42. Christi Aug 02 2012 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this great information. I love photographing others, to freeze the moment. I especially like to capture candid moments and emotions.

  43. Kelly Kendall Aug 02 2012 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    I love capturing moments in people's lives so photography is a natural fit for me!

  44. LisaMaria Aug 02 2012 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    I love photographing people because, as much as we are the same, we are all so very unique. It's a special challenge to draw out that personality:)

  45. Judy W Aug 02 2012 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    Great post…..and great timing. I'm considering doing this and the advise was very helpful.

    I love to photograph people. I've always studied people, like at church or in the mall. This is just the same only capturing them in a way that I feel expresses who they are as well as how I feel about them in the same stroke. 🙂 I just love it!

  46. Carrie Aug 02 2012 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    I love photographing other people because I enjoy the interaction with other people and I love being able to capture their feelings. It feels like a work of art.

  47. Beth S Aug 02 2012 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips! I love photographing others because I want to capture what makes them unique and beautiful and help them keep all the tiniest details that may fade from memory.

  48. aneta Aug 02 2012 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    I love capturing the love between people…the special bond…

  49. Angela Aug 02 2012 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the great info! I have thought about mini-session a lot, but not yet attempted one. It's great to have all this information to help me plan it out in future.
    I love photographing people because I love to capture their relationships and emotion between each other. It makes my heart sing!

  50. Tammy O Aug 03 2012 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Oh my gosh! I LOVE taking pictures of people in general. Families, Babies, Seniors, Couples (old & young) But what I love the most is when they see the sneak peaks! I love the reactions from them and their friends and families! It makes mu hearts smile 🙂

  51. Tammy O Aug 03 2012 at 12:42 am - Reply

    sneek peak I meant to say!

  52. Tammy O Aug 03 2012 at 12:43 am - Reply

    sneek peek! Oh my! lol

  53. Nickie Aug 03 2012 at 2:01 am - Reply

    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.

  54. Josey Aug 03 2012 at 2:07 am - Reply

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

  55. Star Aug 03 2012 at 2:09 am - Reply

    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.

  56. Clair Aug 03 2012 at 6:59 am - Reply

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

  57. Cristin Aug 03 2012 at 8:23 am - Reply

    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.

  58. Marilyn Johnson Aug 03 2012 at 8:42 am - Reply

    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.

  59. Tara Aug 03 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    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 🙂

  60. Sally Aug 03 2012 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    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!

  61. Katie Aug 03 2012 at 6:48 pm - Reply

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

  62. Sara Garcia Aug 03 2012 at 6:58 pm - Reply

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

  63. Melissa Goodwin Aug 03 2012 at 9:28 pm - Reply

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

  64. Jennifer Aug 03 2012 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    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!

  65. Dana Foley Aug 03 2012 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    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!

  66. Angela See Aug 04 2012 at 1:26 am - Reply

    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.

  67. Shanna Aug 04 2012 at 8:27 am - Reply

    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!

  68. Megan Aug 04 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply

    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!

  69. Louisa Aug 04 2012 at 2:38 pm - Reply

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

  70. Michelle Raney Aug 05 2012 at 12:54 am - Reply

    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.

  71. Audrey Woulard Aug 05 2012 at 3:19 am - Reply

    You rock! xoxo!!! ~AW

  72. colleen clear Aug 05 2012 at 8:50 am - Reply

    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.

  73. Charity Aug 06 2012 at 9:06 am - Reply

    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.


  74. Kelly Aug 06 2012 at 9:55 am - Reply

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

  75. Emily Aug 06 2012 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    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! 🙂

  76. Tracey Aug 07 2012 at 12:34 am - Reply

    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!

  77. Nicole Duval Aug 08 2012 at 12:34 am - Reply

    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!

  78. Clair Dickson Aug 11 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply

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

  79. Henry Sep 27 2012 at 12:25 am - Reply

    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.

  80. Lauren Lambeth Feb 27 2013 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    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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  82. Vera Kruis Apr 03 2017 at 12:45 am - Reply

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