Valentine’s Mini Sessions for Documentary Photographers

If I were running Valentine’s Mini Sessions, which I’m not this year, I wouldn’t change who I am as a photographer to fit in with the crowd. When you think of a mini session, what do you envision? I see cute backdrops, big hair bows, hearts, & glitter. Nothing wrong with those portraits! Except, it’s not how I shoot my other sessions. Mini sessions are a fabulous opportunity to get yourself into a new network. Sure, you are going to get those clients that just plain want a deal. But in my experience, you can find some diamond clients that turn into full sessions later. Let’s talk about how we can maintain our documentary style of shooting and avoid becoming lifestyle or posed.

how to run mini sessions

 

Think BIG

There are two ways this can go down. You can run a mini session like what you usually would imagine – each client getting 30 minutes and you book back to back time slots. Or, you can do this a little more exclusive and plan an event with a client – like a photo party. I would think of a theme or activity first and then decide which method would be best for your business and clients. The point here is to plan something exclusive and make your clients feel like gold.

Regardless of how you go about it, the key is to plan this time so that your clients are engaging in an activity 100% of the time. This is how you can maintain your truthful, documentary images.

If it’s too late for you to whip something up for Valentine’s Day, don’t sweat it. Plan something for the spring now and you’ll feel ahead of the game!

 

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mini session planning

 

Traditional Mini Sessions

My first thought for Valentine’s Minis was to pick a craft for kids to create for a loved one (parent, sibling, grandparent). Then, I thought to myself, “would I pay for a session of my child creating something?” Probably not. As a parent, I would think I could photograph them crafting away by myself (even if I wasn’t a photographer). But if you added me to the session and made it an activity we did together, I would totally be game! I’m usually behind the lens.

Session Sparks is packed with ideas throughout, but pick an idea that can be done in little to no time. For example, what if you hired a professional cupcake decorator (for example), to teach your clients a few decorating tricks. Kids would LOVE to learn how to make their cupcakes pretty for Valentine’s Day! Find a classroom setting that you may use to conduct these. Give 10-15 images that tell the story in a little book and done! Nothing says love better than time spent together.

 

Event Mini Sessions

A couple of summers ago, I started running photo parties. The first one I did, we had 6 kids to photograph. I started them like your usual portrait sessions. I spent 20 minutes with each child and walked around my friend’s beautiful lakefront property to get some pretty pictures. Cute, but very generic!

The trick at the photo parties was to keep the other kids occupied. They played on the play structure for awhile, fished, and also had a bon fire with s’mores. I was taking what I thought were outtakes of the kids doing all of these things. When I edited, the photos of the kids engaged in those activities were my favorite and also won the hearts of all the families.

 

Participants that Know Each Other

Event Minis could be done with a group that knows each other, like the photo party I just mentioned. I would plan it around a group activity – simple as that. In my case, the main client acted as a Hostess and received incentives for various things like number of guests, a discount just for organizing, and money off print products based on the prints sales of her guests. You can do it that way or act like a travel agent booking a group where you work 1:1 with each participant from the get-go. It’s up to you. This would be perfect for a group of cousins or close friends.

The idea behind it is that you are telling a story of a fun day for your clients no matter the activity. You will be able to photograph the connection and relationship between the participants and also take amazing candid photos.

 

Participants that Don’t Know Each Other

Event Minis could be done with a group that doesn’t know each other. Going back to the cupcake decorating idea, you could maximize your time by hosting an event where you invite your favorite VIP clients to an exclusive cupcake decorating event. You would need to run it longer than 30 minutes of course, because you’ll be working a room, but that’s no biggie. Your clients will be busy having fun. Maybe start with baking the cupcakes so the activity itself lasts longer. Say you have 5 client families and you run it over 90 minutes (spending about 20 minutes with each fam shooting). You could easily give 10-15 photos per family of them being engaged and why not throw in the “Grandma” shot (everyone smiling and looking at the camera)? Use your favorite vendor and put the photos in a mini book for them.

(Because I have random thoughts at any given time…) 

Oooooh another idea, before I sign off, if you did an event mini – what about doing an activity for a cause? Forget Valentine’s, but I remember in elementary school, one time we had to clean up a senior citizen’s yard. We picked up leaves and (it’s been 20+ years and I don’t entirely remember) planted flowers. What a fun way to do something together and teach your kids about kindness at the same time… with tangible proof. Just call me Einstein.

 

If you take on documentary style mini sessions this season, come back and show us!! We want to feature some sessions. Just email marketing@fearlessandframed.com with subject line: MINIS.

 

Need more inspiration? Get lost in these posts:

Proper Exposure – Walking the Line (Intentially Over and Under Exposing)

10 Tips to Master Your 365 Daily Photo Project

Booking Photo Sessions: 5 Tips for Filling Your Calendar

Contribute to the Fearless and Framed Iconic blog series

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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