How to shoot Mini Sessions

Ok…the title is a bit broad and I certainly do not assume to know everything. Not even close. Everyone has their own styles and artistic vision that they place on their work but this is what works for me. Normally I schedule one to one and a half hour sessions for my clients. I don’t like to be rushed and I like to establish a relationship with the people I’m photographing. It puts them at ease and makes for a better session without a doubt. I also like to scout out the area with them and allow my clients to see me evaluating each patch of light, each area. I want them to know how important these things are to a good photographer. In todays market anyone can purchase a camera and charge money. Doesn’t mean it’s going to look good at the end of the day.

For my mini sessions I like to go to a familiar spot that I use often in various light. A place I know like the back of my hand and can predict certain light patterns. I usually only shoot for 20 - 30 minutes so I need to have a place dialed in to garnish the best outcome.

Know what poses you are going to use in each spot but don’t be afraid to get creative if the moment inspires you. I usually have a vision for each location and what I want to accomplish but depending on the client and vibe between all parties involved I will stray from time to time.

Make it simple…….I usually shoot one camera at minis. I’ll always stick to my rule of having a back up body but usually I’m shooting one camera. On this session I was using the Canon EOSR with the EF 50mm 1.2L and 135mm f/2. Thats the second part to making it simple. I bring one small bag with 2 - 3 lenses max. The legendary 50mm and 135mm are amazing for this.

This is your time to get creative. If I had a 50mm lenses for the rest of my life I think I would be fine with that. It’s amazing lens choice for environmental portraits as well as pano work. Often I’ll create a few full body shots and then at the same scene I’ll create a 4 to 5 shot bokeh pano which I can stitch later on in Lightroom. Essentially I’ve created 4 different looks. The standard image, then a stitched bokeh pano which will act as a wide angle portrait and showcase the location. Then I can also convert each file to black and white to offer a different look.

Make sure to capture candid moments. Nowadays it seems that more clients are shifting towards “unposed” photos. I love it to be honest. With the popularity of social media platforms such as facebook and instagram more and more people share their moments online which means most of your images will be viewed in this way. This is not to say that the days of the wall hung family portrait are gone but don’t spend so much time on them. Capture them and move on to story telling and more true real moments. Your clients will be happier to see you show such attentive and creative thinking in your work. If your client stands in front of a lens posed most likely your client can predict what the outcome will be like but if you catch them during their special interactions with one another they will be forever impressed and more likely to refer you to others as well.


Save yourself some time and create a preset for your session. I like to start with either a Kodak Portra or Fuji 400H film simulation base to work off of. I choose Mastin Labs to start my base coloring effect. From there I place my own little twist on what my colors should FEEL like. I’m choosing the word feel because that’s what I’m trying to accomplish with my look…..a feeling my clients get when viewing their images. I want to stay true to the scene and also pay homage to traditional film photography. I also want my style to be recognized which in turn will attract more business. I’ve heard both positive and negative remarks about my coloring and overall imagery. You most likely will as well but if you have a true vision of what you want your work to be like then stick with it and don’t stray to please others.

Over deliver. Now I’m not saying to go crazy but if you promised 20 images on your mini sessions then push beyond that. Even if its repetitive imagery in black and white or a slightly different perspective. Your clients will appreciate this and pass on the word.

Again, this is not the gold standard of how things must be done but just a few helpful insights that I’ve learned along the way. Minis can be a great way to introduce yourself to new clients which may return with bigger projects. Maybe even repeat business every year. Have fun with it and explore new techniques.