Should I Book A Mini-Session Or a Full Session?

January 18, 2024

Mini- sessions are very popular in the photography world, and for good reason—they’re a lot of fun and offer some great benefits for photographers and their clients alike.  But it can be tricky to understand exactly what a mini-session is, or how it differs from a traditional full-length photo shoot.

A mini-session is a short photography session that takes place at the location and time chosen by the photographer which gives clients between 3-5 final photographs.

Read on to find out the difference between mini-sessions and full sessions and which one is best for you!

What Is A Mini-Session?

The term “mini-session” might sound like simply a shorter, cheaper version of a full session, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Here are some of the key differences.

A mini-session is:

  • Short and takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end
  • Takes place at a location that the photographer chooses
  • Takes place on a date that the photographer chooses
  • Between 3-5 final images for clients

Another major difference is that mini-sessions are stacked, meaning the photographer shoots multiple sessions back-to-back. That’s why mini-sessions are cheaper. They allow photographers to maximize their time and offer more affordable pricing to you.

What A mini-session Is NOT

The biggest misconception about mini-sessions is that they are a more affordable custom shoot. mini-sessions are NOT custom. As a client, you can’t pick the date or location for a mini-session. If you are looking for newborn or family photos on a specific date, a mini-session is not for you.

In order for photographers to charge low prices and still make a profit, they must be able to book multiple mini-sessions back-to-back. That’s why a mini-session can’t take place at a client’s house or on a date of your choosing. 

Additionally, a mini-session isn’t longer than 20 minutes and won’t produce 10+ images. If you want a longer session and more images, a full shoot will be a better choice.

What Is A Custom Portrait Shoot?

A custom portrait shoot will often include pre-session consultations between you and your photographer, take place at your chosen date and location, and result in 10 or more images presented to you in an online gallery where they can choose their final prints. 

A custom portrait shoot is:

  • Any newborn shoot
  • Any wedding
  • Any in-home shoot
  • Any session where the client determines the location/date

Depending on the photographer, custom shoots typically last at least 45 minutes and give you many more photos to choose from. They involve more pre-planning, customization, and choice. Custom shoots will likely be able to incorporate more people and outfit changes if preferred. 

So, Are You Looking For A Mini-Session Or A Full Session?

Let's break down which type of session best fits your needs and will give you the end results you want.

If  you want to:

  • Choose the location
  • Choose the date
  • Have more images/varied images to choose from
  • Book a wedding or a newborn shoot
  • Have someone in the shoot that requires more time to adapt to new people / new situations
  • Have a photoshoot in your home or a special location

Any of these will require clients to book a full session. 

If  you want to:

  • Have a more affordable option
  • Are flexible on date and location
  • Don’t want a specific look to your photoshoot
  • Can achieve your objective with 3-5 images
  • Are willing to go with the flow of a shorter time slot (and be punctual)

You could book a mini-session to suit your needs. 

fall mini-session with baby

Here are some helpful questions to consider if you can’t decide between a full photo shoot or a mini-session: 

  • What is your objective for the photoshoot? If you want several images to choose from to display in your home, want a specific look, or if you’re creating a photo album, a full session is the best fit. A mini-session is a great option if you need a photo or two for an invitation, an announcement, or a holiday card. 

  • How do your kids do in front of a camera? If your kids are hesitant around new people or will need time to get comfortable in front of the camera, a full session might work better for you. A mini-session may not be enough time to get the quality images you want. 

  • What is your budget? If you want to update your family photos while saving some money, a mini-session is a solid option. Booking a mini-session also gives you the chance to see if the photographer is a good fit before investing in a full session.

  • Where and when do you want to shoot? If you don’t have a clear idea of where you want your session to take place, a mini-session will work for you. But if you have a specific location in mind, a full session makes more sense. And if your availability is limited and you’re on a tight schedule, a full session will give you more flexibility. 

  • Will a mini-session make you feel rushed? Think about how you and your family will feel about a 20-minute photoshoot. Is that enough time for everyone to relax and take great photos? Will you feel frazzled and stressed? Are you worried about being on time for a 20-minute slot? If the idea of a short, less predictable session doesn’t feel comfortable for you, a full session may feel better and produce better results.
  • Also for consideration: Some mini-sessions are themed. Make sure you like the theme, props, and feel of the planned session before booking. 

Final Thoughts

Simply put, a shorter, cheaper custom shoot isn’t a mini-session. Photographers advertise mini-sessions for a specific location on a set date and book multiple clients back-to-back to maximize time and offer volume pricing to clients.

Let’s run through the main differences between a mini-session and a full photo shoot one more time.

Mini-sessions are about 20 minutes and produce 3-5 images and they are mostly limited edition and usually themed. On the other hand, Full sessions are at least 45 minutes and produce a wider variety of images. They give you the flexibility to choose the date, location, and props. Any time you’re booking a wedding, newborn shoot, or in-home session, you should be booking a full session.

Both mini-sessions and full sessions offer benefits, but the right session for you depends on your specific preferences and objectives. 

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