In this photography business Q&A session, I share the answers to a few questions asked on Instagram. Hit play below or scroll down to read the post.
Hey friends! Here we go with another edition of Q & A. There are three questions.
1. I struggle with keeping mini sessions, mini. Do you have any tips?
I do! Here’s the thing, mini sessions have to stay mini, or you’re wasting your time and giving stuff away for free. People are paying less and you should absolutely be giving them less. If you end up shooting them for a whole hour, or if you end up over-delivering on images by way too many, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You have to keep them as mini sessions. This right here is a huge reason why profitable and well-run mini sessions are done in a back-to-back format.
If you are trying to offer in-home mini sessions, where you are telling people you’re going to show up for 30 minutes, but then there’s nothing backed up to that to force you to stop shooting. That situation will almost always shoot you in the foot unless you are extremely firm with your time. Here’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to get to their house or you’re going to get to wherever it is you’re shooting and it’s going to be amazing and you’re going to be having a blast and the light is going to be great, and you’re going to be feeling creatively inspired.
So, you’re just going to keep going and you’re just going to keep shooting. Then, before you know it you’ve shot a thousand images and you’re like, I can’t get this down to 10. Of course you can’t! This is why doing them back to back will really save you because your next client has walked in. You have to stop shooting to take care of them. Right?
Number two, if you really don’t like to do people back to back because you feel pressured or you don’t like the rigamarole of having all these people in one place, that’s cool. Set a timer on your phone or on your watch and have your phone in your pocket. When it goes off, you tell them out loud, we have three more minutes and then I need to go. When I’m in this kind of situation, I roll up to somebody’s house, I get my phone out and show them I’m setting a timer for 30 minutes or 25 minutes or wh We’re going to work fast because when this goes off I have to go. You have to set something in place that will remind you, oh yeah, this is a mini session I need to get out of here. No matter how fantastic this is.
Another part of keeping mini sessions mini is the number of images that you’re delivering.
You need to stick to what you promise. If your mini sessions are said to include 10 to 15 images you need to keep it as close to that as possible, or you are just leaving money on the table. It’s great to over-deliver because that’s good customer service, but when you are delivering the size of a gallery that people would get with a full session and they paid for half the session, that’s just not smart.
When I am culling mini sessions, I put on a whole different set of blinders. If I’m culling a full newborn session or a full family session or a big travel session, I am a lot more loosey goosey. I want the whole story to be shared. If that means that this gallery is twice the size of the last gallery, I’m okay with that because they paid for a full session. With my mini sessions, I cut anything that is not absolutely amazing. Then I will go through and I will cull it again at least two more times to get it as close to the number as possible. I will still over-deliver a little bit, maybe by a couple of images, but if I promise 10 to 15 images, I’m not delivering 40.
If you know that you have a huge problem with culling and you just can’t even fathom getting it out down to what you’re promising, then raise your prices. Your mini session does not have to be $120 or $75 or $250. Your mini session should reflect what you’re going to deliver.
If you know that you’ve never in your life been able to deliver less than 40 images then charge the mini session based on what their final product is. Even if it’s only a 15 minute session, if you know that you can walk away with 40 fantastic images, charge appropriately.
If all of this sounds great, but you still find yourself over-delivering. Create a pricing setup for your mini sessions, so that they get to pick a few images and then you offer more.
I have a monthly offering called Simply Baby Sessions, this is something that I am in the studio for, two hours once a month. My clients can book it anytime they want any age between three months and three years. These sessions are really inexpensive. They are 20 minute time slots and they are told that they get to pick five images from their final gallery or they can upgrade and get all the images.
I provide their final gallery which is generally 25 to 30 images and 90% of the time they upgrade and buy the whole thing. If they’re on a budget, that’s totally fine. They get to pick whichever five they want to walk away with and they’re done. I wanted to have a low price offering to get those baby milestones that would also provide me with mommy and me images on the regular, because I love to shoot those. I knew I was always over-delivering so I set up an upgrade. Most of the clients do this and it ends up being worth my time and worth the 25 images.
How much do I markup for the upgrade? I charge $100. They can get 20 more images which is a complete steal. I’ve priced it because I want them all to upgrade and it’s a no brainer for most of them. The session fee is $300 for the time slot and five images, then if they pay an extra $100, they get the whole gallery.
2. What do I include in mini sessions? Or what could you include in mini sessions?
That is really up to you, do whatever feels right to you and your brand. My mini sessions are literally just the digitals. However, you can make it whatever you want. I will say that while I do only provide the digitals for my mini sessions, the gallery proofing software I use does offer print and product orders. I get a fair amount of clients placing accessory print and product orders off of mini sessions.
This is a really easy way to encourage upselling. To use a gallery software that will allow print and product ordering. You can offer an upgrade option; this could be to get more digitals, it could also be to get digitals and a print credit, digitals and a certain amount of prints or, digitals and a canvas.
But here’s what I want you to consider. What do your people want? What does your ideal client really, really want? If you’re not sure, ask them! Do a poll on social media, do a poll in your next newsletter. Ask your clients what they want to see.
If it’s holiday time, a really easy addition for mini sessions would be a certain amount of holiday cards. Get them plugged into a gallery where the client can design their own cards. You could do, literally, whatever you want, as long as you’re making sure that the pricing for your mini sessions covers any costs that you have.
But the main thing to remember is, what do your people want? Do they just want digitals? That’s totally fine. Do they want prints and products? If your ideal client loves to have albums or loves to have walls covered with prints or loves to gift family members things, then maybe you should be including something in your mini.
3. My mini-sessions are getting rained out. I’m offering a backup date, but what if folks can’t take it?
This is a really hard situation to be in, it’s a real bummer and it happens. I will tell you right now, this is why I’ve done mini sessions indoors for the past few years, because I was tired of the weather reschedules. You can have weather reschedules for any reason under the sun and it is a challenge.
If you’ve created a backup rescheduled date and they can’t make the date I would offer them a credit towards a future session. Generally people are fine with that because they want to work with you, so they’re ok with having their deposit not forfeited, but transferred.
Another option would be, if it’s just one or two people and that date does not work for them. Just to get it over with, offer them a one-off mini session. Is it inconvenient? Yes, absolutely. But you are serving your clients well, by giving them what they asked for and working with them with a different date.
Last resort is going to be to give them a refund. If they cannot do the date you’ve offered and they don’t want you to hold their deposit for a future session and they don’t want to do any kind of one-off date, then just give them a refund and move on. It is such a pain and I hope that you don’t have to do that. I don’t think you’re going to, but that should always be the last resort.
I have some more thoughts on this. I have seen many photographers and I’ve done this myself, especially in the Fall, schedule so many different mini session dates that they don’t leave room for possible reschedules. Make sure you block off time on your calendar for rescheduling. I generally will try to block off the same type of date. If it’s Saturday morning mini sessions I’ll block off another Saturday morning where I will not make plans. I will leave that open as a weather backup. Or if it’s a Thursday night of sunset sessions, I’ll leave another Thursday night open.
Indoor locations are fantastic. I do almost all of my mini sessions indoors now and it’s so much easier. There’s air conditioning, pretty lighting, parking and I don’t have to worry about it being too hot, too cold, or rainy. There are so many natural light studios popping up all over the place. There’s actually a whole website of locations that you can rent from. Some of them are homes like on Airbnb that you can rent to shoot in. Some of them are actual studios for rent.
It’s called Peerspace. I came across it six months ago and thought it was so cool. Somebody has pulled all of these locations into one place. Maybe you could just move everybody inside. Indoor studios are beautiful places to shoot in. Does it give you the same look as outdoors? No, but it gets people taken care of.