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Summer Mini Sessions

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When should I book a summertime session?

By Kris Ann Valdez

Capture the best moments of the long, hot summer days with a mini session.  Our photographers share their best tips and tricks related to the sunshine season. 

Many photographers like to shoot outdoors during the summer months when the sun comes up early and sets later. Golden light, which occurs right before sunrise or sunset, is ideal for softer light, providing a warm, flattering glow.

What should I charge?

Some photographers we spoke with charge between $200 to $600 for their fifteen-minute sessions. Another says she prices her minis about 40% lower than her full sessions. Even if the clients purchase the full galleries, she ensures the cost is kept below a full session’s price.

For a mini session, the standard offer is five images of the client’s choice with an option to upgrade. 


Where should I shoot and what props to use?

When booking a summer session, consider your location. Summer is equated with color bursts, so it’s fun to scout for sunflower fields, a vibrant mural, or a vine-covered wall—these can all serve as backdrops for the quintessential summer vibe.

If your clients want sunflowers, Rachel Serra of Rachel Serra Photography says it’s a good idea to reach out to farmers/location owners to inquire when they’ll likely bloom.

Most photographers recommend keeping prop usage to a minimum, like a blanket or chair for little ones. Winnie Bruce of Winnie Bruce Photography says “when I used props, I was working more with the setup as opposed to the connection the family has, so I changed it up and worked with the season instead as the main theme. It’s worked out really well for me and my families!”

Recently, her summer mini sessions occurred at the beach during golden hour.

What are the best prompts for this mini session?

Prioritizing prompts helps make the most of the fifteen-minutes.  Winnie says she follows this order of importance for family shoots:

  •       Full family group
  •       Siblings
  •       Solos
  •       Parents (if time permits)

Her style is child centered, so she lets them lead. For instance, if the children want to run around, she’ll run around with them, but if they prefer to snuggle then she’ll focus on those sweet cuddly shots.

Kristin Eldridge of Kristin Eldridge Photography also starts with the families standing together before adding prompts like “family hug” or “kids run to me then back to your parents!” Keeping everyone moving helps alleviate stiff, awkward posing.

Rachel believes sessions should be stress-free and fun for everyone. She accomplishes this with three simple poses: standing, sitting, and movement. During these poses, she prompts families to look at each other, walk towards her, tickle the kids, etc.


Outfit ideas for subjects?

Our photographers take a very hands-on approach to styling their families. Kristin creates Pinterest boards with outfit inspirations for her clients based on each type of location.

Rachel provides a styling guide, which includes “who to dress first, what to wear, what not to wear, clothing shopping lists, and makeup/hair recommendations.”

Winnie suggests colors and textures to her clients. Because she’s not a huge fan of matching outfits, she recommends coordinating colors instead. Her favorites are earthy, neutral, or pastel tones. She likes clients to pick 2-3 colors, and maybe one print, to disperse among family members.

How do I get a good shot?

Many factors go into getting good shots, like location, lighting, camera settings, styling, and prompts. It takes time and education to master these skills, Rachel says.

Kristin encourages photographers to just keep trying things. Move the order subjects stand and vary the way you’re cropping the photo, but also know “the best shots just happen and there isn't a specific formula.  The key is to try as many things as you can during the session.  The magic will happen, you just have to try a lot of different things!

Don’t overload yourself with goal shots though. Lower expectations foster the relaxed vibe photographers want their clients to feel. Also, prepping clients the way Winnie does allows them to have a good understanding of what’s going to take place. She gets down on the kids’ levels too because she knows how intimidating the camera can be, then shows them how it works to foster their curiosity.


What’s the biggest challenge of this shoot?

Time is the biggest challenge of any mini session, according to Kristin. But it can also be a strength. If she lets a family sit in a pose too long, it feels forced. Since she only has fifteen minutes to capture different family combinations, she moves through prompts at a quick pace. If something isn’t working, she doesn’t spend too much time on it. She tries many different combinations, knowing movement leads to her favorite shots.

Winnie believes the hardest part is coordinating people’s schedules and the weather. She likes to have a backup date ready and contingency plans

in case of rain or other hard weather.

Any other advice?

Market your mini sessions through social media and your website. Create a mailing list. Kristin points out, it’s not cold calling, like social media, instead, it includes clients who’ve worked with you before and are interested in working with you again. She says it’s her most responsive group to sign up for sessions.

Another pro tip is to offer mini sessions marathon-style instead of stand-alones—but careful, don’t over schedule yourself.  Typically, photographers can fit 3-4 mini sessions per dawn/dusk before losing the ideal lighting. 

Don’t forget to create buffer time between slots in case clients run late. Winnie offers three spots in a row—her goal being that these would net the same amount she’d make for a one-hour stand-alone. 

Regardless of how you book your sessions, remember to enjoy the sunshine season with your clients! 

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