It’s Mini Session season!
Families all over the world are desperately seeking photographers to take the photo that will grace holiday cards sent to family and family and friends. This photo may also be the one family portrait they have taken all year.
Mini Sessions can be very profitable for photographers if done right. If done wrong, they could result in lost business from portrait clients who may have been willing to purchase a full session, stress from taking on too much work for too little money, and even unhappy clients who did not realize the limitations of what mini-sessions entail.
Photographers Philip and Eileen Blume of Blume Photography have developed a strategy to make mini sessions an extremely profitable part of their business without losing their regular portrait clients. The Blumes rely not just on their skill and experience as photographers, but by Eileen’s background in business in developing their system. Their first year offering mini-sessions they made almost $10,000 in two days and secured clients that come back every year for annual photos.
The Blumes share their top five tips for mini-session success here:
- Limit Availability: To create demand, limit both the number of times a year you offer mini-sessions as well as the number of sessions you offer. Offering mini-sessions over one weekend just once or twice a year let’s clients know this is a rare event. Moreover, limit the number of sessions you take each day to a number that is n manageable for you. Rather than squeezing in more than you can handle, take a smaller number that ensures you will be on top of your game for each session. For the Blumes, the number is around six, but your number may be different. Also, be sure to build in one or two breaks. Not only does this give you time to recharge, but you can mark your break times as “Taken” spots immediately to emphasize the scarcity of these sessions and create demand.
- Stand Out Through Service: Most photography clients are looking for an experience, not a bargain. And those who are hunting for a bargain will probably keep looking until they find someone cheaper anyway. Creating an experience for clients isn’t hard. Focus on writing clear, professionally written emails, clearly set expectations, and remain kind. Be available after your sessions to help guide clients through the ordering process, even if they are ordering online. Consider having your clients purchase all of their artwork (and even holiday cards) through you both to create a full client experience and to maximize your profits.
- Qualify Potential Clients: Do you realize that you actually should not try to book every inquiry you receive? If you have a 100-percent booking rate, you probably aren’t earning any profit. It’s not rude to stand firm in your pricing and explain exactly what your mini-sessions include. Be clear up-front about your prices and how much clients can expect to spend. While it’s not advisable to say “I don’t think you can afford me.” the more you are able to scare away unqualified inquiries with your pricing, the more efficient and profitable your Mini Sessions and your entire business will become. Rather than giving away your time and talent to bargain-hunters, you can give back through volunteering in your community for causes you believe in.
- Be Calendar-Conscious: Many photographers offer mini-sessions by default every year in early fall. This isn’t an accident. This time is key for families who want to update their family photos and purchase greeting cards before the holiday season! Now there is a sense of urgency. When you consider the calendar, don’t forget to be timely. The Blumes begin their Minis marketing by sending an email to all past clients, before our advertising goes public. The ideal timing for this email to go out is about a month before you open Minis to the public, giving your past clients enough time to book their sessions – and take advantage of incentives for referring friends. Of course mini-sessions don’t have to be related to Christmas cards. Some photographers specialize in “Mommy and Me” mini sessions closer to Mother’s Day or springtime minis.
- Choose a Versatile Location: Don’t make Minis too much “about the location.” Even if you normally love sweeping landscapes, remember that mini session are about efficiency and profitability for your business, and they’re about convenience and emotional value for your clients. Choose a location that’s nearby to you. This isn’t meant to be a travel project. Using a nearby location makes it a community affair and an annual tradition for more families. It allows clients to form a relationship with you, leading to wider brand awareness. Finally, it means you can focus more on the expressions and interactions of growing families that they want to preserve! The Blumes limit their mini sessions so they choose a location with at least three backgrounds they can use in a short amount of time for variety. They also choose a location with nice backgrounds in different parts of the park so that they can move with the light as needed.
- Make Mini Sessions Distinct: Mini sessions should not be dumbed-down versions of your regular sessions. Rather, they should be their own unique offering for families who do not want a full session but are just looking for a few nice images, have children they don’t think will cooperate for a full session, or who cannot afford a full session. As a reminder, though, be clear about this distinction with your clients up-front so they understand exactly what they are getting.