How to photograph mini sessions

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Last Saturday, I held Mini Photo Sessions, which I call Petite Portrait sessions (just for a fun and different name).  I thought I’d share some tips for how to photograph mini sessions, for the aspiring photographers out there, on this Photo Tip Tuesday. I was delighted to photograph 4 families all back to back. Enjoy a little sneak peek of the families I recently photographed, amidst the tips.

How long should a mini session be?

I have my sessions 15 minutes long with a 5 minute buffer in between.  That means I schedule them every 20 minutes, 3 booked in an hour.  So many of my photographer friends wonder how I can do it in such a small amount of time, and the only thing I can say is…no fluff! A lot of people book it because they love the idea of “quick and painless” while others don’t want to because they want more captured, or think their children will need to warm up to the idea of a photographer with a camera in their face.  I’ve been photographing families for 10 years, and I just started the mini sessions a year ago, I knew how long it would take me, and after holding about 20 mini sessions in the past year, it’s never been a problem. Sometimes I do have a hard time sending away the last group, because there isn’t another one waiting…just to play a little longer.

In my experience–especially with young children–I get my best stuff, and their happiest demeanors in the first few minutes, so it’s perfect. I have found that if little ones are nervous at first, they are still concerned an hour later, too.

Austin PhotographyTricks to get Quick Smiles

I aim to greet little ones with a cheesy smile right from the start. I don’t pull out any tricks at first, just going for the natural route. I’ll then ask mom about a favorite song, and then will sing something like, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Dora the Explorer. I also keep a few tricks in my bag such as a baby rattle, or a ball with bell inside. I’ll throw around a noise making ball to get their attention and smiles.  Every once in a while, I’ll pull out the monkey noises, or may need to jump up and down.  Smarties are also a great treat that toddlers and big kids like, if extra incentive is needed (and cleared with parents first). They drool clear (unlike M&M’s or other candy).


sibling pictures

{I photographed the entire family last year, this year was just the kids. They’ve recently begun martial arts, and had fun showing me their moves!}

What do I plan to photograph?

Having the quick time slot allows me to photograph:

  • the family as a whole
  • each child individually
  • just the kids as a group
  • just the parents (sometimes I get resistance on this one)
  • if we still have time–the family again in a more candid way such as the “family walk.”

The hardest part about mini sessions is not being able to chit chat and get fun stories out of my clients. One thing I love so much about being a photographer is making new friends, learning about people. I just don’t get to hear that as much in petite sessions, because we get right down to work!

Round Rock Family Pictures

{I also photographed this family last year, she wasn’t even expecting the cute baby she’s holding in her arms! }

What clients get with a petite session

I’ve changed so much from year to year on how I structure things, but I will generally give all the images, no prints, with my petite sessions. It ends up being about 20-25 images. With a custom session, I’ll have up to 75 images with lots more fun/lifestyle/candid moments captured. I’ll also give a wall print with my custom sessions.

I’ve found that I really do love the flow of the mini session. People get what they want, I spend less time shooting and editing, and it makes happy for both.

The last group had a little bit of extra time because they were at the end AND the momma was my sons teacher last year, so I had to give her a little extra love;) Loved the coral and animal print combo (see momma’s shoes).

Austin Texas Photographer

Any questions or comments about mini sessions? I know I’ve got lots of photographers out there reading.

To see more petite portrait sessions, go HERE and HERE.

To see more photography tips such as How to Start a Photography Business, head HERE.

Join The Discussion



  1. Mindy says:

    I’m amazed you can get it all in 15 minutes! I fear kids don’t have enough time to warm up either, but you’re right, they usually have the best natural smiles in the first few minutes (before they’ve caught on to why they are there to see you!) Good to know what you capture in that short time. Thanks for the tips!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yeah, kids get bored of me after too long and stop listening!!

  2. Nicole says:

    If only we lived where you are (or vice versa). I would love to have you capture my family.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Where are you? I travel sometimes;) You’re sweet…

      • Nicole says:

        Minnesota. But you don’t want to come here for the next 6 months. We’ll be frozen solid! 😀
        I should head south.

        • Kristen Duke says:

          I LOVE snow family pictures!!! Head south though, I’ll be here;)

  3. My husband and I are gearing up for our first mini-session. Your tips are incredibly helpful. It’s nice to hear what works from those who have been there, done that. We love your style and photography.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!!


    • Kristen Duke says:

      Awesome, good luck! Fun to do it as a team!!

  4. Meghan says:

    THanks for sharing your beautiful images and tips and tricks!

  5. Wow! I am not that fast but it would be fun to try. Thanks for the tips!

  6. I need YOU to live in Sacramento 🙂 Love all these great tips Kristen!

  7. Jenn says:

    This is great advice. It would be great if you would link up to my link party

    Have a great day!

  8. Erin says:

    Oh my I love the name petite portrait!!! So wish I had thought of it 🙂 Thank you for the inspiration and knowledge. It is truly appreciated!

  9. Kirsten says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’m loving your site, I’m trying to plan and research everything as I’m starting my portrait photography business soon and your posts are so helpful!

  10. Love these tips that you have shared! Precious kiddos and families that you’ve gotten to work with. (Love the leopard and coral combo!) 🙂

  11. sho says:

    How do you come up with new poses on the spot instead of using the same ones over again. Also, do you have the props such as the glasses that you bring with or do the families usually bring that? Thanks so much! Great work!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I often recycle poses from family to family. I generally have the family bring their own, sometimes I’ll suggest something.

  12. Steven Danielson says:

    I am a photographer with all the equipment and training, but I don’t have a studio. It’s just too expensive and my home living room is too small. If the weather is not suitable, where can I do mini sessions?