HOW TO DECIDE BETWEEN A FULL OR A MINI PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION: Choosing the right session for your family!

November 8, 2023

beautiful fall golden hour mini session husband and wife with puppy


This is THE question I probably get asked the most when I start chatting with clients or friends about photography sessions: what’s the difference between a mini session and a full session? Sometimes it’s phrased in a different way: more along the lines of “but I’m not sure my kiddos can handle the time of the full session! How do I know which one is best for us as a family?” Other times it’s a definite conundrum of “I want a beautiful gallery but my kids are soo little (or wild and crazy) and there is no way they are going to last that long! What do I do?!”

Well, that right there is the exact question I wanted to help answer and if you have been reading along the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what the difference is between a mini session and a full session, we talked all about the full session and what the benefits are of a photographer’s full session and how it’s the heart and soul of why they do what they do! We also discussed yesterday all about the mini session and how it can be an amazing opportunity for family’s with specific needs or family’s with busy schedules!

But how do you really decide between the two? How do you know which one is right for your family? That my friend is what I want to help you with today!

Things to consider when choosing between a full or mini family session:

  • BUDGET: I put this first on the list because I know this is a factor for so many. It’s super important to determine your photography budget. Mini sessions are typically more cost-effective for family’s (especially during the holiday season). Full sessions are usually a bit more expensive, however, they offer more options and provide MORE in every sense of the word (experience, products, and value).
  • TIME CONSTRAINTS: Think about how much time you have available or how much time you want to spend at your photography session! Mini sessions are much shorter. Some mini sessions are 15 minutes, others can be 20-30 minutes. Please find out from your photographer! Full sessions can be 1 hour to 1.5 hours! Please remember though that for a full session it’s not always about the time! I tell my clients that we start 1 hour to 1.5 hours before the sun sets (golden hour) and we shoot until either your family is finished with my crazy games OR until we loose the light! We never have to shoot the whole time! I will tell you that so far the sun has always set first!
  • NUMBER OF PEOPLE! This is also a big one but often forgotten! How many people are going to be present for the session? Are you bringing pets? Mini sessions are truly geared for smaller family’s or couples. Full sessions are much better for larger families, groups and extended families!
  • LOCATION: Is there a location that you love that you would prefer to have your family photographed at?! Full sessions are perfect for clients who want to choose their own location. For my sessions, it’s important for us to collaborate and if at all possible have my clients choose a location that has a special meaning to them! During a typical mini session shoot, the photographer chooses the location and the time slots!
  • SPECIAL OCCASIONS: Most often one of the first sessions that we have is a milestone session or a session where we all come together so we can celebrate something! Full sessions are the perfect session in order to capture something magical and memorable like this! It is possible to do a mini session (like a cake smash) but this is where the full session shines! It gives you time to be together, to have outfit changes, and truly shoot in a way that captures the moment!
  • DESIRED IMAGES/SHOTS: When I send out my questionnaires to my clients this is one of the things I am most interested in: What types of images are you looking for! What do you want to do with the photos that we take! When you start to think about whether you want a full session or a mini session, really think about the images you want! Mini sessions are going to focus on short, quick images! If you are with me we will play one or two games! You will have a few key poses and we won’t move around the location too much because of the limited amount of time. Full sessions allow us the opportunity to take our time, play lots of games and get relaxed and comfortable. We use as much of the location as we can and often walk around using the space where the light is beautiful (for example if we are at the beach we will start on the walkway, then the dunes and finally end up at the waters edge/ocean). You will have a wide variety of images that will read like a storybook. You will have candid moments and posed. You will have images that capture all the little details of your family in that moment right here and now. There will be opportunities for just couple moments and images of you and your significant other! The more time, the more opportunity for images.
  • COMFORT LEVEL: This is also a big one for me when I am speaking with my clients! Take into account the comfort level and personalities of each member of your family! Do you have someone in your family that is shy and slow to warm up? Will they need extra time to relax? This is where the full session has it’s benefits. I have a background in play (literally I have a bachelors of science in child development and play). On every one of my full sessions, I take the time during the in between moments to make sure that my camera is down so I can play and make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed! I want that space to be safe, silly, and most importantly FUN! This can be done during a mini session as well but it takes time and that time is a precious commodity! The more time I spend playing and helping someone to feel comfortable the less time I am able to shoot and take pictures!
  • WEATHER AND LIGHTING: Mini sessions are usually set up by the photographer! A date or dates are chosen, location is picked and then time slots are created! As the client it’s usually first come, first serve when you see that sign up list. You then pick from that list which date works best for your family and which time slot. Most photographers will choose a rain date in case of inclement weather but sometimes it doesn’t always work for everyone. Full session clients have more choices and collaboration than mini session clients. My clients and I choose a date together that works well for everyone. No one else is scheduled on this date so that I can focus my sole attention on them. They are given the best time for lighting. If there should be inclement weather, we discuss rain out options that work best for them and make sure that once again the date works well for everyone and they have the best options for lighting. They always get the best of the best and the communication is ever present!
  • PRINTS AND PRODUCTS: This is something that goes right along with thinking about what you want to do with your images! It’s important to talk with your photographer and find out what they offer with their packages. Do you want prints or custom products? Full sessions often include boutique products such as hand crafted albums, prints or canvases. Mini sessions are usually finished once the gallery is delivered but there may be options to upgrade to print options such as holiday cards, prints, etc.
  • PACKAGE INCLUSIONS: Make sure you are checking what is included in both the full session and the mini session package. How many images are you getting? Are you getting a gallery? Do you get prints? Are you able to pick your location? Do they offer styling guidance? These will all help you determine if what you getting is of value to you at the price point. Also have chat with your photographer because some of the things they will provide for you might not be tangible products but something they offer that can not be found elsewhere or can’t quit be put into words~ Experience and quality of service are just two of those things!
  • CONSULTATION: If you still aren’t quite sure, don’t be afraid to get on the phone with the photographer of your choice! Ask for a recommendation from them and explain your family’s specific needs. Tell them your preferences and your concerns and ask them to make their best recommendation to you! Ask to see both an entire gallery of a full session and a mini session from that photographer. Often, photographers will show their best one or two images from each session. Ask if you can possibly see an entire session so you can get the feel of what it would be like to shoot with them from start to finish. Most photographers would be happy to show you.

Remember: There is no “best session”! Both the full session and the mini session have their advantages and both have their disadvantages! Ultimately there will be times when they each fit your family’s needs. It’s important to know the difference and benefits of each so you can make the best choice for your family every time you decide you want to step in front of the camera! Honestly, the best choice you can make is to step in the picture yourself and spend time playing with your family and documenting this precious time! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a full session or a mini session as long as you are in it and you are together!

In the meantime, if you do have trouble deciding… I created a questionnaire to help you start to think about which session might best suit your needs! You can download that here!

Until then… just remember as long as you are capturing the moments that you will one day come to cherish you can’t go wrong!

beautiful fall golden hour couple mini session in virginia beach brooke tucker photography
beautiful fall couple and dog mini session virginia beach brooke tucker photography
couple mini session fall golden hour with puppy virginia beach brooke tucker photography
beautiful warm golden hour fall photo session with puppy in virginia beach brooke tucker photography

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FROM THE journal



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