Guest Blogger: 7 Tips for Successful Mini Photography Sessions by Stacey Potter Photography

Please welcome our guest blogger, Stacey Potter. Stacey Potter is a children’s lifestyle photographer in Boulder, Colorado. She holds mini sessions in San Francisco and Chicago throughout the year. Check out her blog at http://boulderbabyphotography.com/blog/

I have been having several mini sessions a year since I started my photography business.  It is a great way to bring in a large influx of money in one to two weekends (anywhere from $4,000-$10,000 for just a few days work). Think of mini sessions as a way of building a brand new clientele base. These new clients may have not ever experienced custom photography, or they could be unsure about the expense (you will win them over!), they are experienced clients that just want to try out a new photographer, or it may be a previous client that wants to update their photos several times a year. Either way, mini sessions always bring me a surge of income while adding to my growing list of loyal clientele. Here are a few simple tips to follow to make your mini sessions just as big of a success.

1. Make a good deal seem great.

The key is to create a package up front that seems like a fabulous deal, but that will leave the client wanting for much more after they view their photos. I keep the upfront cost always under $200, and include a 20-30 minute session, 10-15 images in an online gallery, an 8×10 or 11×14, and a few 5x7s. I never include digital images, as I want to sell canvases, albums, and full resolution cds. Whatever package you end up offering for your mini session, make sure that it is enough to cover your time and expenses.

2. Shoot to score big.

So, you have made the minimum you are willing to make. It was kind of like your “I won’t tear my hair out if I don’t make any more money” place. But, MOST clients are going to buy more. How can they walk away with a few prints when you have captured timeless images of their families? They can’t. Shoot a mini session like it is a full session. Yes, you have half the time, but if you shoot like you are going for 30 amazing photos, not 15, then the images you walk away with with be that much better. Because my goal is to try and sell the cd of digital negatives, I make sure to include 20 images in each gallery instead of the 10-15 offered. This makes the value of the cd seem that much more valuable, and clients feel like they are getting a special deal. I price my cd for minis at just a bit more than half that of my full sessions, so after considering in the initial investment by my client of the $150-$200 session fee, I make more doing two mini sessions than one full session.


3. Marketing.

Oh, marketing, the one thing that so many people get completely hung up on. It is very straightforward though. Here are the few simple tools that I use to ensure that I book big, and book the right clients:

a. Moms Groups: My number one go to as far as getting new clients. See what online moms groups exist in your area. Yahoogroups.com and googlegroups.com are just a start. Boulder has a very active online mom’s group of 3000+ women. I post there regularly. I rarely post about photography. Instead, I write insightful emails on babies and sleep, local plumbers, where the best yoga is, etc… Because of this, the members feel like they know me, and can trust me. When I post twice a year about my mini sessions, I get more inquiries than I can even respond to. The key to this kind of success (usually referred to a guerrilla marketing), is to post regularly and thoughtfully, and rarely, RARELY, post about your own business. If you have your website url in your email signature, you will get more than enough residual business from that. Nothing turns a tight knit group off more than an outsider coming in to advertise their business.  Be sure you are an integral part of the group first, and only then can you feel comfortable occasionally advertising your work as a photographer.

b. Blogging: Put together a collage of your best work as it pertains to your mini sessions. Are your mini sessions going to take place at the park you usually shoot at? Choose your best images from that location. Be sure to pick a variety of photos to well represent who you are marketing to-one family image, one baby, siblings, an older child, etc… Include dates, location, price, and what is included. Don’t forget to also include restrictions (only up to two children, package only valid on these dates, etc…). Then post it to your blog with a little spiel about where you are shooting, why you love it, why mini sessions are great, etc… The blog post ends up helping move traffic to your site down the road, too, as every mini session you later blog will have a link back to this blog post, and your search engine rankings can change dramatically because of this.

c. Facebook: Post a link on your business Facebook page to your blog post about a month before.  Then, post it again about once a week, letting people know how many slots are still open and how to contact you to book one.

d. Posters: I only put up posters the first time I did mini sessions. I created an 8×10 print from the blog collage I did, and put it up in high end maternity and baby stores. These brought be about 5 inquires. Well worth my time, but I have realized since that by doing a, b, and c, I have always had more than enough bookings, and don’t need to spend the extra time of printing and hanging up the posters around town.

3. Streamline.

Streamline, streamline, streamline. Mini sessions are still a lot of work. You still need to have the initial communications with the clients, help them understand what to expect and how to prepare, and that is as much work for a mini as it would be for a full session. If you can come up with form emails to send, you will greatly cut down on the time you are investing into so many clients all at once.

I have form emails for the following:

  • Response to the initial mini inquiry where I resend all the info from the blog post, and include the specific time slots available. I ask them to give me their top three choices, so that I have flexibility when sitting down to schedule everyone. I also let them know that their slot is not held until I receive the mini session fee, which is due in full upfront.
  • After I receive their confirmation and deposit, I send out a second form email in which I tell them the location, where to meet, how to prepare, what to wear, and what to expect. I insert into each email the time and date which I have chosen for their family. I also ask them to send me back all their pertinent info (children’s names and ages, cell phone number, address, etc…).
  • Two days before the session, I send out an email reminder for upcoming session.


4.
Location.

Location is crucial. It must be at a place that you shoot at often. Yes, it would be cool to shoot on that old bridge or in that new location you found downtown, but you are doing quick sessions and you need to know the light, the locations, and the backgrounds so that you can take consistently good photos in a short amount of time. Keep in mind that you will need to stay within a small radius of where people are meeting you, so pick a place that is close to parking, and that has a variety of backgrounds with good light.
5. Be prepared.

The key to having successful mini sessions is to make them flow as smoothly as possible. I make a detailed schedule with the time each family is arriving, as well as their children’s names and ages.

I hire an assistant (or find an aspiring photographer that just wants to learn) to meet and greet each family as they arrive. She brings them to where I am shooting, gets them comfortable, plays with the kids, and then when I am ready for their family they can jump in more quickly.  Have all your standard props ready in the general location of where you are shooting.

After experimenting with doing anywhere from 2 to 10 mini sessions in one day, I have come to the conclusion that for me, the best way to schedule them is to have four in the morning, and four in the afternoon. This leaves a bit of room to add on an extra session for a last minute family, but it is not too much that I get burnt out after the first day. If I am doing only afternoons, which I love because of the beautiful light, then I schedule these over two weekends. My happy place for minis is 16 sessions.

6. Post Flow.

I tell clients that I will provide 10-15 images in an online gallery. In reality, I make sure to proof 20. No more, no less. I can take 30 beautiful photos in 20-30 minutes, but I want to give them *just* a bit more than promised to entice them to purchase the digital negatives.

I do just slightly less editing for mini session photos than for regular sessions. I forgo touching up the skin, cloning out objects, etc… Otherwise, I do want to present these clients with images that are just as stunning as the ones in my portfolio.

Clients again get form emails to let them know that their gallery is ready and instructions on how to order.

7. Follow up.

You now have a new clientele base. Don’t waste it. You know them, they love you, they love what you gave them. Follow up, follow up. follow up.  Do this in a variety of ways. A monthly email newsletter, personal emails when milestones occurs (6 months, 1 year, Christmas, etc), invite them to like you on Facebook.  I send a custom 5×7 calender at Christmas time with their child’s photo and a $25-$50 gift card towards a new session fee. If your sessions went smoothly and you produced beautiful images for your new clients, you should expect anywhere from 60% to 90% to book again.

Following these steps can help lead you to create successful mini sessions and create a lucrative extra income several times a year. In the end, you will gain many new loyal clients and will grow your business more than you can imagine. Once you have a smooth mini session workflow down, you can branch out and schedule special themed mini sessions, or even begin setting them up in other cities. Overall, mini sessions can be a huge boost to your photography business. Now, start planning! Best wishes!

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