a family of 4 in warm winter gear throw fall leaves into the air

Are fall mini sessions right for us?

My best work comes from full sessions because I love what unfolds with time and trust. That said, there can be a lot of value to mini sessions, especially if you are curious about what its like to work with an artist but aren’t sure you’re ready to commit to a full session yet.

Most photographers arrange minis on a given date and set location with time slots ranging from 5-30 minutes. What you pay and what you get will vary. Many families in Northern Virginia and DC opt for minis because they haven’t much free time but it’s worth considering whether or not you will get what you want from this investment (both less time and $). Minis become problematic when the client expects to receive all the benefits of a full session super fast and for a fraction of the price.

There are some pitfalls, though. So let’s get into where it can work great for you or where it may not…

The Pros and Cons of Mini Sessions:

Mini sessions can be a great choice when…

✅ … they provide an opportunity to work with a photographer you’ve been following for awhile without making a full financial commitment

✅ …. you have older kids who can fake smiles (assuming smiles are important to you)

✅…. you’re looking for a quick update with just a handful of good photos. (If you want more than 10, a full session with me is the better value)

✅ … your family enjoys dressing up, goofing off or looking gorgeous for the camera

✅ …. you’re a very engaged and connected parent who isn’t worried about whether or not your kids smile, you just want some snuggly/close/beautiful pictures and trust your photographer to make them

Mini sessions can be challenging if….

🤷‍♀️ … your kids are under the age of 3*

🤷‍♀️ … you have neurodiverse children and want a “nice” picture of the family**

🤷‍♀️ … getting “good” or “real” smiles” is crucial to your definition of success***

🤷‍♀️ …. performing for the camera is stressful for anyone in your family

🤷‍♀️ …. you have a teen that is worried about being seen taking family photos

🤷‍♀️ … getting places on time is really difficult (these sessions are conducted on rigid schedules)

*Why minis sessions are hard with babies and young children:

Infants are the most adorable computer processors! They’re always taking in new information so the smiles you get with ease at home are harder to come by when they’re hyper-focused on new people and/or surroundings (and possibly irritated with unusual clothing 😂). Babies approaching full mobility (pulling up, walking, 8+ months) have a great defense mechanism called “stranger danger” – a repulsion or avoidance of new people – and this includes friendly, well-intended photographers.

Toddlers love being outside but they also love to play! Standing still and smiling for people, not so much. If you have a photographer who can make the session more playful and active it might be great! In my opinon, toddlers are best captured in their environment and on their terms so I prefer full sessions with this age group.

**Why minis sessions are hard for neurodiverse kids

If you are this parent, you already know what your kiddo will find challenging about being asked to smile, stay still or otherwise comply to instructions with their body. Just know that great pictures are entirely possible when you talk with your photographer before the shoot about what to do (and what not to do) – most of us really appreciate that! But it may require more time to put everyone at ease.

Why “nice smiles” are a real challenge for young kids (particularly boys)

This one might surprise you – they’re nervous too! And often, they feel judged. It’s common for boys to have over-exaggerated or silly smiles when the camera comes out and parents can be disappointed that they’re not smiling their “real smile”. Bribing always sounds like a good idea but it can backfire and become shaming or even traumatic when you threaten to take the promised thing away.

Additional stressors from fall mini sessions

Some stresses I’ve heard about on your end include: available time slots running dangerously close to nap times or fall sports games, the stress of coming up with or attaining what to wear (and keeping it all clean), getting any necessary haircuts and stylist appointments, fretting about the weather, getting buy-in from a hesitant partner or worrying about childrens’ behavior in general.

About mini sessions when you hire me….

I’ve seen the pitfalls for both you the parent and for me the photographer and this is the philosophy all my sessions are based on:

Another way of saying this: If we can’t make it perfect, can we make it beautiful? I know we can.

If reading this makes sense and takes some weight off your shoulders, we might work great together!

I design my minis around seasonal experiences that might be fun for a family to do – provided its OK to be a little silly or get a little dirty. Joie de vivre (the joy of being alive) is a big part of my work so I try and keep things active and engaging while inviting you to bring your lived life into the frame. I prompt when its needed and I will say, at least once, “everybody look at the camera” but mostly I am looking for the interactions between you. I don’t ask anyone to smile, I let those happen.

With me you’ll pay a session fee and then can purchase file packs or individual files. If all you want is one shot for your holiday card, this is going to be affordable and efficient! But if you like having all the files from your shoot, a regular shoot is going to be a much better value than a mini shoot. I always encourage you to print your photos and offer prints and fully framed wall art through your proofing gallery, I also love making memory books so you have the story of our shoot to look at again and again.

Last but not least, I put a loyalty gift into mini shoots, just to incentivize you to go all-in for a full shoot! I love getting to know you in our initial meeting and know that the photos get better and better as we work together over the years so its my way of assuring you. My goal is always to work with you throughout childhood so that you have an artful document of your lives together to pass down to them. Knowing how loved we are is valuable now, 50 years from now and forever.

And if a mini shoot offering gets you from sitting on the sidelines wondering if this is for you to a HELL YES let’s give it a shot, then thats the very best reason of all to choose one! 😉

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