Photo © Joanie Dachy
With just under three months to go until Christmas, with its magic and evenings spent by the fire watching traditional films, slipping into soft slippers and eating gingerbread biscuits, mini-sessions are being organised.
The photographers' diaries are filling up fast, as they are in great demand from families who want to create unique and themed memories.
Memories that will live long in their history, whether it be with images proudly hung on the wall or photos that they will print out to write their wishes to their loved ones.
To bring this magic to their clients, the photographers work hard to delight the many families who call on them to create images around the Christmas theme.
For the end of year celebrations, they offer sessions directly inspired by their magical atmosphere: warm decorations, garlands of lights, Christmas tree, gift packages, snowflakes, Santa's sleigh accompanied by his faithful little elves, steaming mugs of hot chocolate for the older children, tall red socks, the sweet smell of cinnamon and fir... Everything is designed down to the last detail, to create memories for the family by living an enchanted, timeless and privileged moment.
A special moment for the children, whose eyes sparkle in front of the decorations.
But what is really a mini session?
A mini-session is a themed day of shooting, organised by a photographer, usually in a studio.
It can also take place outdoors to take advantage of a specific natural element such as the Japanese cherry blossoms in spring or the autumn colours.
The dedicated day is broken down into short sessions of about 30 minutes, which are the mini-sessions.
They are shorter than what photographers usually offer in their packages in order to give several children and families the opportunity to enjoy specific atmospheric shoots.
The shorter duration also allows clients to take advantage of more affordable rates than the traditional packages to work with the photographer that makes them dream.
Generally, people are invited to choose between 5 and 10 photos from the session using a gallery, and participants are very often limited to the same family in order to facilitate its organisation.
Focusing more on children, mini sessions are often open to toddlers as soon as they are able to sit still to ensure an efficient session that will create unique memories.
To offer these special moments to your clients, you have to be organised and imagine the decorations well in advance of Christmas, so that the participants can receive their photos in time.
Fotostudio can help you set up your mini-sessions with the online booking facilities available to you, more information about which can be found at the end of this article.
A successful mini-session requires careful preparation and inspiration.
You have to think about the setting(s) you are going to use and decide how many you are going to offer to your clients.
Florine Jonnekin tells us that the success of her mini-sessions is a mixture of inspiration and preparation:
« Throughout the year, I spend some of my free time researching on Pinterest for inspiration and moods. I prepare all my mini-sessions in advance for the whole year by planning all my dates at the weekend. I adapt the themes to the time of year and try to offer sessions with different themes each time to bring a unique experience to my clients »
The creation of the sets requires a lot of research. Joanie Dachy uses her own backgrounds that she sells in her online shop Colors&Drops which is the first shop in France to sell photo backgrounds.
« The background is the common thread of my session. Then, depending on the theme, I accessorise it to create an overall atmosphere. I find treasures by buying decorations, rummaging through flea markets, and going to garage sales. »
To create demand among your clients, you can of course offer different settings, as Florine and Joanie do.
This year, Florine will offer her clients three themes: Santa's Secret Cabin, the Christmas pick-up (open to big kids and couples) and a secret decor. One weekend = one décor.
Joanie will also offer three sets during four days of shoots and her clients will have the possibility to access two or three atmospheres depending on the chosen formula, one being more adapted to children and the other to families.
Once everything is ready, your sets are finalised and your slots are encoded on Fotostudio, you have to inform the clients of your mini-sessions. With all the communication channels available to you, it's not always easy to know where to start.
Photo © Joanie Dachy
« I have a Facebook group for my regular and repeat clients who can book their slots in advance and then I send a mailing to all my clients with the Fotostudio booking link. This year, I booked no less than 52 sessions in 1.5 hours. » (Joanie Dachy)
After this stage, it is obviously essential to guide clients on the choice of outfits so that they remain consistent with the style of the mini-session to ensure its success:
« To prepare my mini-sessions, I either contact my clients by email or I call them to explain to them what the colours of the decor will be and what colours they should favour. This is also an opportunity to review practical information and reassure them before the session. » (Florine Jonnekin)
But also to inform clients about the conditions for admission to a mini-session:
« I am very transparent about the mini-sessions. I inform clients that the condition for taking part is that at least one of the children in the family must be able to sit up, as they will be the focus of the session. Of course, families are admitted even if there is a newborn in the family. This allows me to vary the posing and offer different images to my clients. » (Joanie Dachy)
The D day:
Everything is ready, all you need to do is wait for your clients who are eager to have their session. But how do you manage the reception aspect while remaining focused on your clients?
« I ask my clients to arrive already dressed in order to concentrate on the session. There is a fifteen minutes gap between each shoot and I have the support of a friend or my mother to manage the reception (coffee and cakes). This way, I am 100% focused on my session and not on the little things that can sometimes cause stress. To make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible, I inform my clients through their contract that it is essential that they are present 5 to 10 minutes before the session to make sure they don't miss any part of it. » (Florine Jonnekin)
After the session:
Depending on the packages you offer for your mini-sessions, your customers are entitled to a predefined number of images. How do you manage this selection efficiently?
Whether it's an online gallery and selection by the client or help from a colleague, everyone has their own technique:
« For this year's mini-sessions, a colleague will come and assist me: my photos will be sent by WIFI directly from my camera to my computer and she will take care of the first selection. Then she will spend half an hour with the family who has just finished their session to choose the number of images in their package. » (Florine Jonnekin)
With these precise and valuable tips, you are well equipped to prepare your mini-sessions. Remember that it is essential to be inventive in order to offer a real experience to your clients and to make the children who walk through the studio door dream.
Don't hesitate to invest in materials (decorations, soft cushions, Christmas socks, string lights, a tree or tree branch, sleds, props, but also funds).
We remind you that Joanie Dachy has her own website Colors&Drops selling backgrounds and floor vinyls dedicated to photo sessions.
Many French and Belgian photographers find their happiness among more than a thousand references. Why not you?
Make the booking process simple and clear for your clients. Don't hesitate to send them a reminder message the day before the session, thanks to an automatic e-mail that you can set up in Fotostudio, indicating all your advice before the session (choice of outfits for example). Be sure to include useful information in your message: address of the location, need to arrive early, your phone number.
Once they are present, offer the mini-session experience to your clients as a special moment with you.
Always keep in mind that if parents invest in this kind of session, it is to make their children dream and create beautiful family memories. Bring added value, benevolence and be gentle with the little ones who come to do the session.
Make it easy to choose the selection and respect your delivery deadlines. The photos, linked to a high point in the calendar, are expected for a specific period.
Photo © Joanie Dachy
All you have to do is apply these tips to your next mini-session. Why not a special one for the return of spring after the Christmas ones?
Manage your online bookings via Fotostudio
Fotostudio offers an online booking tool that is ideal for managing your mini-sessions. With this module, your clients will be able to choose the time slot they are interested in, fill in their details, choose one of your pricing options, sign the contract and pay directly online. Joanie and Florine used to spend several days managing their bookings, now everything is done automatically in 1 hour thanks to Fotostudio! A considerable time saving.
1) Create a specific shoot type
From the settings -> shoot types section, create a new shoot type for your mini-sessions. For example "Christmas mini-sessions".
In the options, remember to associate a default contract, this is the one your clients will have to sign online.
You can also choose a payment plan if you want your clients to pay online. For example, you can ask for a deposit of X% or a payment of the whole session at the time of booking.
2) Create your rates
From the settings -> rates section, create one or more rates for your mini-sessions and remember to associate this rate with your new type of shoot. Your clients will be able to choose one of these rates when they book.
3) Define your schedules
From the settings -> online booking section, you can define the schedules for your mini-sessions. You have to create a slot for each possible booking. For example on 2 November from 9:00 to 9:40, from 10:00 to 10:40, etc.
Your client can directly choose one of these slots when booking.
4) Invite your customers to book
From the settings -> online reservations section, you can get your reservation link. This link is to be shared with your customers (via Facebook, email, SMS or any other means of communication).
By clicking on this link, your customer will arrive on your booking page. They will then be able to choose a slot, fill in their details, sign the contract and pay online.
Let the platform work for you and get notifications to alert you when you book, when you are watching TV, in the shower or in bed! :)