Mini Sessions - The How-To Legal Guide

Mar 7, 2022

Mini Sessions are a unique type of offering for portrait photography businesses.  However, don't be mistaken that simply because they are "mini" that your client experience and potential for legal issues is any less than a full portrait session.

In fact, depending on how you handle the expectations of clients, you may end up with more unintended issues than you expected.

In this how-to guide we will walk through tips, tricks, potential pitfalls and, of course, proposed solutions.  Not only are you getting the legal info but there's some business and marketing strategy you don't want to miss!


What is a mini session?

Mini sessions are essentially that, a mini version of standard offerings.  As an example, if you typically include 15 digital files with a session, a mini session would probably include 3-5.

These sessions are typically not booked as one-offs, rather done marathon style. For example, you'll set aside five hours at one location and rotate through 15 minutes sessions per client. 


Why and how to offer mini sessions?

Mini sessions are a wonderful way to expand your portfolio, introduce clients to portrait photography, creative output and/or your business or simply, to generate revenue. 

It is important to recognize your goal for the use of mini sessions.   

  • Up-selling  - If your goal is to up-sell clients into more products, be prepared with proper sales tools and skills. 
  • Revenue generation - If you are seeking to simply generate revenue, be sure to capture potential clients and engaged clients contact information for email marketing in the future. Do not rely simply on word-of-mouth or social media algorithm.  Direct to potential and past client email inboxes is a great way to cultivate routine clients year to year. See our marketing section below.
  • Expanding portfolio - Mini sessions are a good way for newer photographers, or photographers looking to pivot their style, to expand their portfolio.  Mini sessions are a good paid alternative to model calls.
  • Creative output - If you are looking to try your hand at new props, setups or other creative output, mini sessions are a good way to attract clients who will help to execute this vision.  You can also do this with model calls.


Once you have determined your goal - you can move into the marketing process.


Identify the following formula:

  • who it is that you want to serve for your photography business 
  • what your unique selling position will be that separates you from others
  • how you will serve your clients (i.e. normal offerings not at a mini session rate)
  • where are these potential clients at to receive marketing - Instagram? Google? etc.


Once you've nailed this down, create your mini-session offering.

  • When will it be?
  • How long will the session be?
  • Will it be themed? If so, how much will you spend on the theme?
  • How many people will you allow in the session?
  • Will you allow reschedules?
  • How do you plan to advertise?
  • What will be included? (digital files, prints, etc)
  • What will be the minimum and maximum number of mini sessions needed in the timeframe to be successful?
  • How will you deliver the products/files?
  • What legal tools are needed to protect your time? (See below).


Once you've gone through this checklist to formulate the offering, it's time to start creating your advertising and your booking .


Legal tools to protect the mini session:

  • Mini-session contract  - the core services contract that will create the legal relationship and set expectations with the client.  It is especially important to include mini session specific legal language that sets the expectation and definition of a "mini" session to clients and that any reschedules may not have the same theme (if offered).
  • Model release - client giving permission to photographer to use of client's privacy rights in photographer's marketing
  • Print release - photographer giving limited, personal use permissions to reproduce digital files
  • Prop liability waiver - if using a prop, such as sparklers, smoke bombs, etc. that is of a potentially dangerous nature during the course of the session


On-boarding/Contract-signing options:

Make it easy on yourself and take all payments + contracts digitally.  The following is a list of suggested online signing systems.

  • ShootProof - code lawtog20 for 20% off first year
  • Honeybook  - 50% off your first year with this link
  • UseSession - code lawtog for 30% off – new users only)
  • IrisWorks - code lawtog20 for 20% off for your first year
  • Dubsado - code thelawtog for 30% off first month/year (new users only)

And yes, online contract signing systems are legit and allow your contract to be legally binding. Just ensure that you are displaying it as a contract, allows for client to read + understand the terms, and to agree to them. As always, we want these clients to be of sound mind, age of majority and not under the influence!

These types of systems are great because some, such as Dubsado, allow for online signing + payment + scheduling of the mini session all in one click for your client plus have automatic reminders for clients to reduce potential reschedules, cancellations or no-shows. This reduces the amount of time you are expending on the session.  The more time you spend on on-boarding, editing, etc. is the less profit you're making overall.


Now that the mini sessions are over, it is time to move onto marketing!


Tips for implementing successful mini sessions

  • Set all the proper expectations - through your marketing + contract forms
  • Reduce your time, maximize your money - automate all that you can
  • Build in breaks - life happens, people will be late, kids will be uncooperative - build breaks in between the sessions
  • Always take a non-refundable initial payment - TheLawTog's mini- session contract (actually, all our contracts) have this built in because it is incredibly important to your success that you safeguard your time and energy.  No client is a client until they pay + sign contract.
  • Upsell -  As discussed above, upselling your clients to purchase additional products is a wonderful way to maximize the mini session.  It is important that this does not become a bait/switch situation, always show the client what additional product pricing would be ahead of time.  Also, be sure to protect the sale with final sale language and product delivery acknowledgement forms.


How do I leverage mini sessions for future marketing?

Mini sessions, as any sessions, should be used as leverage points to acquire new clients. To maximize this approach we need the following actions + legal tools to assist:

  • Use photographs in future marketing - easily done if you have a signed Model release - this document is the client giving permission to photographer to use of client's privacy rights in photographer's marketing
  • Get testimonials - solicit testimonials from your existing clients for use in future marketing. Be sure to use a testimonial release form for permissions.
  • Add clients to your email marketing list- once you've acquired a client, maximize your service to them for more sales and referrals. The cheapest, easiest and most direct way to stay in front of existing clients is by email marketing.  Be sure to have requisite permissions to add them to the list, including use of a Privacy Policy and Website Terms.
  • Use pixel tracking - use Facebook/Instagram and other pixels for targeting your existing and potential client lists for future marketing.  Be sure to have proper pixel tracking legal language in your website terms


What if I am a brand new photographer, what do I absolutely need?

I know, I just threw a lot of information at you. The goal is to give a strategic and legal view of what all is needed to legally protect, but don't let it overwhelm you. Here is the baseline of what's needed to get started.


Additional resources


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