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Fall Mini Sessions

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How to Fall on Your Feet with Fall Mini Sessions

By Crystal Wilde

Fall mini sessions are a popular choice with families who want to capture the beauty of the season and get that all-important Christmas card photo early. Need some pointers? Our photographers have some nifty tricks up their sweater sleeves.

Why offer a Fall mini session?

Families sometimes run out of activity ideas in the Fall as many outdoor attractions are closed. A mini photoshoot can be pretty appealing around this time, especially when you factor in the added bonus of a holiday card shot.

As with any mini session, they’re also a great way for photographers to reconnect with clients they haven’t seen for a while and draw in new ones at a lower entry point. Once they have a taste for your style and the results, they might sign up for a full session next time.

Outdoor Fall sessions are also some of the easiest to stage. “The best thing about the Fall sessions is Mother Nature’s backdrop,” says Danelle Joy of Northeast Ohio’s Danelle Joy Photography. “The colors are so beautiful and vibrant here. It really is one of the best times to get photos taken.”

Charis Kauffman of Oklahoma’s Charis Elisabeth Photography agrees. “I love the Fall colors and light, so these sessions provide lots of opportunities for me to delight in the art of capturing that light and color while also celebrating the love of each family,” she says.

Images by: CHARIS ELISABETH PHOTOGRAPHY (CHARIS KAUFFMAN) I

What to offer and charge for a Fall mini session

As with anything, exactly what you offer and charge for a Fall mini photo shoot will depend on your experience, your client base and your physical location. Danelle is currently charging $325 for a 20-minute Fall mini of up to six people. This package comes with 15 digital images included. Charis, meanwhile, offers a base fee for both 10-15-minute minis and slightly longer “short” sessions with a choice of package on top, priced according to the number of digital images and prints supplied.

Location ideas and scheduling for Fall photoshoots 

Both our photographers take advantage of the holiday card market and offer Christmas tree farm locations that always prove popular. Other locations they use at this time of year include the beach, open fields, red barns and, of course, any spot with beautiful autumnal leaves.

Bear in mind that good daylight hours for shooting will be more limited in this season than in summer. Charis likes to restrict her outdoor sessions to just six a day during Fall and Winter in order to cram them into her preferred “golden hour” windows. Danelle, however, finds she takes her best crisp photos on cloudy days and can pack as many as 12-15 minis into a day when there’s high demand.

Prop pointers

Neither Danelle nor Charis tend to use many props in their work in general as they bill themselves as “classic” photographers and think overuse of props can sometimes make pictures look dated. When in the great outdoors, they like to let nature set the scene. If shooting indoors, however, a cream tufted couch is Danelle’s go-to for a seated family shot. “My other setups are usually very simple, with blankets and small accessories like candy canes or pine cones,” she says. “I’ve found that 99% of the time people prefer their portraits without props. They just want the beauty of the outdoors.”

Other Fall prop ideas for your considerations include:

  •    Umbrellas & Wellington boots
  •    Festive props like fairy lights
  •    Nicely styled hats and scarves
  •    Natural objects like feathers, flowers, pumpkins, etc
  •    Buckets & spades or driftwood for beach shoots
  •    Vintage vehicles
  •    Hay bales
  •    Crates/benches to sit on

Outfit suggestions

Multiple people means multiple styles and multiple potential problems! It’s always a good idea to give your families some style suggestions before a shoot. Charis’ two top tips for families shooting in Fall are to coordinate rather than match and to dress in layers. “Coordinated colors provide so much more character than matching colors, especially with my natural light, lifestyle approach,” she says. “Layers of clothing help add variety and can provide different textures,” she adds. “They’re also a great way to stay comfortable when you never quite know what the weather will be like.”

Danelle — who will be offering a new “client closet” (with all clothes, accessories and styling for Mom included) with her full family sessions this year — also advises against busy patterns and matching. She recommends color pallets, such as tan, blues and greens, for Fall shoots. “There is nothing worse than having a family show up in all matching plain white shirts,” she laughs. “Those days are long gone and complementing colors are in.” 

Tips on posing and prompting

It’s usually a good idea to start out with some set directed poses while your clients warm up to you and your lens. Most families will want at least one classic “fridge shot” of them all looking towards the camera and smiling, so try to get that in the bag first. You might want to ask your clients what their must-have picture is. Maybe it’s the Christmas card shot or a candid one of the kids. Either way, you can work through a series of set poses and then give prompts for natural interaction as you go.

Image by: DANELLE JOY PHOTOGRAPH

Posing ideas include:

  •    Mom and Dad making arch with hands, children running through.
  •    Children holding hands and twirling in a circle.
  •    Youngest kid on Dad’s shoulders, Mom and other kids either side.
  •    Mom and Dad swinging kid by the arms between them.
  •    Mom and Dad in front of camera, kids running towards them from behind photographer.
  •    Everyone seated.
  •    Seated and snuggling in blanket.
  •    Kid laying over both parents’ laps.
  •    Just kids.
  •    One parent, one kid.

Prompt ideas include:

  •    Tickle fight!
  •    Whisper your best joke to your parents.
  •    Show me your best dance moves.
  •    Everyone jump on 3!
  •    Everyone walk towards me.
  •    Everyone run!
  •    Throw youngest kid in the air (if light enough!)
  •    Parents spin little kids round.
  •    Group hug.
  •    Give him/her a kiss on the nose/forehead.
  •    Play peekaboo.

“I ask families to talk, snuggle, tickle, run, dance… anything to move and get those true genuine smiles,” says Danelle. “If we are at the beach, we are getting in the water and splashing. If its at the tree farm, it might be hide and seek between the trees. It's all about having fun and connecting."

Dealing with little ones

Both photographers agree that managing the family dynamic when little ones are involved is the biggest challenge of any mini shoot. As a result, Charis often tries to persuade families with very young children to book a longer shoot, as a traditional mini doesn’t always give kids enough time to warm up and relax. “I always emphasize to families to do everything possible to keep stress levels low before a mini session,” she says. “These sessions move fast and if they come in feeling tight, there's very little time for me as a photographer to help them relax.”

Danelle suggests moving on to something else if the current pose isn’t working. “I always prompt families throughout the shoot to make things go smoothly,” she shares. “There’s no reason to force kids to do something they don't want to. All that will do is cause more stress.”

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