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Family sessions - Mini vs. Full sessions - what is best for me?

Mini sessions are so popular right now with so many photographers, but what do they really mean? Are they the best fit for your family? Let's break it down in this quick read!

Mini sessions, full sessions, family photography, family photographer, st louis photographer, family mini session
This was taken during a mini session event at Laumeier Park. I had several little areas I used for poses, but I chose wherever the light was prettiest for each family. Each family had slightly different locations because of this!

Let's start with minis! What are the pros and the cons?


  • Short time for session - this is probably the number one factor. Usually mini sessions are quick, anywhere from 10-30 minutes. I've seen headshot minis that are even shorter, maybe only five minutes. This means you will not have as many poses to choose from in your final gallery, nor time to calm a fussy baby or bribe an active toddler. Depending on the size of your family, you may have only one or two images from a certain pose. It is key that you arrive ready to go, on time, and that your family is prepared for a speedy session, with their listening ears on!

  • Same location/set - there is a predetermined set or location. In other words, you do not get to choose. This allows the photographer to book these back-to-back.

  • Lower price point - because a photographer can book so many back-to-back, there is often a lower session fee associated with minis. The client receives a discount because the photographer is not utilizing their time by driving to multiple locations or having time wasted in between sessions.

  • Often will be themed - minis are a great way for the photographer to try out "themes" such as various holidays or creative themes (think confetti, fruit baths, dress-up, etc.)

If you are willing to give up your own creative control for a session, are not choosy on location, are on a budget, and feel that a shorter time period won't be an issue for your family, a mini might be the best option for you!

Now what about full sessions?


  • The photographer often won't set a hard time limit. They will keep on snapping until they get what YOU need. A family session could take me anywhere from 40 minutes-90 minutes, depending on the size of the family and the age of the kiddos. If a toddler needs a break, I have the flexibility to give that to them, let them run around for a few minutes before continuing. Your baby needs a quick bottle to soothe them? Sure, no problem! You likely won't have that same level of flexibility during a mini session.

  • YOU decide the location or the set. Clients often trust me to help with this decision, but if you know what you want already, I am all for it! If you want to go on a hike and capture your family at the top of a bluff? Done! If you want your family photos knee deep in a creek? No problem! If you want me to come to your family property an hour away? Would love to! Do you want to use my studio, but want several different backdrops and outfit changes? You got it!

  • Access to alllllll the perks! My full sessions include ALL of the following: hair and makeup for mom, exclusive access to my client closet (seriously, so many clothes!), styling assistance, freebies for each investment tier, and your own ordering appointment with a custom slideshow, wall art mockups, and snacks!

  • Higher price point, but includes a full, luxury experience, not just an outcome of pretty pictures.

So if you have a large family, or want a big variety to choose from, or have small children that you worry won't cooperate in a quick 20 minute session, or maybe you just want an experience that isn't rushed? Maybe you want to be pampered with hair and makeup and want to choose a beautiful dress from the client closet instead of buying one you'll only wear once? Or you want to include Grandma in a few pictures, but we would need to go to her? Maybe you know that you want to replace a few frames for your living room and you know exactly what poses you want, and we have to be SURE to get those? Or you want to go to this beautiful waterfall that you saw the last time that you were at Forest Park? Maybe your one-year-old is super shy and takes a good 30 minutes to warm up to a stranger? Or if the overall experience of portraits matters to you just as much as the outcome, a full session is for you!

Hopefully this helps you decide what type of session you would want for your family's next portrait session! Whether it is a mini or a full session, make sure you are taking updated portraits at least every other year, or even better, annually. Your children (and grandchildren) will thank you some day for these amazing, treasured keepsakes! Time is a thief, so let's capture these memories, today!

Family session, Family photography, family portraits, full session, mini session, stl photographer, saint louis
This was taken during a full session, at Castlewood, at the top of the bluffs. It was during sunset, so we had the most beautiful light. The full session meant Mom got to choose her favorite location during the prettiest time of the day.

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