Mini Session vs Full-Length Family Photo Session | Pittsburgh

“Mini photoshoot or a regular photo session?!”

So you finally decided to hire a photographer for your family but now you have to decide on a mini photoshoot vs. a full-length family photo session. In this post, I’ll explain the difference between each one and help you decide which may be right for your family.

There are many photographers out there to choose from and it’s important to note that you’ll find each photographer handles mini-sessions differently than the next. There are no set rules on how to do a mini-session. When you choose a photographer, be sure to read the fine print on what is or is not included in your session.

mom dad baby boy brother and sister sitting and smiling for a photo

Session Length:

The main difference between these two types of sessions is the amount of time spent on each session. Mini sessions are usually much shorter than regular photo sessions. Depending on the photographer, they can last anywhere from as little as 5-10 minutes to around 25-30 minutes.

Parents often think a mini-session is best for their children because they may worry their child will not behave for a session longer than 15 minutes. While this may be true, it’s important to also think about what kind of photography style you are considering. If you’re thinking of a posed portrait session where they have to behave, stand still, and smile for the camera for an hour, then yes, a mini-session may be a better idea.

However, if you choose a lifestyle full-length photo session with a photographer like myself, your kids do NOT have to pose and smile and behave for an hour or more! This is the kind of session I do with families and I encourage running, playing, and even roughhousing and being goofy! I want kids to have fun, relax and be themselves, even if that brings some chaos.

family on a wall looking at each other

A mini-session can also end up being a bit stressful for parents. Sometimes, 10 to 15 minutes is not enough time to get your baby or child to relax and smile. Mini sessions usually have strict time constraints and you can not go past your allotted time slot.

This can be stressful if you spend the 1st 10 minutes getting your six-month-old to stop crying or your four-year-old to stop running off. A full-length session can be less stressful for the parents and the children because it leaves plenty of time to get them to relax and smile naturally.

I personally feel like 15-25 minutes is not enough time for a family photo session. I prefer to spend more time with families and get to know them. I love to have the time to get to chat and get everyone to relax and loosen up so they can have fun and be themselves. And I love being able to get down on your child’s level and talk to them for a bit. Sometimes, I even wait 10-15 minutes before I take my first photo! This is especially true if I’m photographing a shy or apprehensive child.

family lifestyle photo session at beechwood farms in pittsburgh

What’s included?:

Also depending on the photographer, Mini Sessions usually include just a few digital images. You can expect as little as one or two images or even upwards of 30 digital images. However, some mini-sessions have a session fee that does not include anything but the session time and any digital images or products are an additional purchase.

mother and son on bench in Mellon park walled garden with yellow flowers mini photoshoot vs full-length family photo session

Who is included?

Sometimes mini sessions are just for the kids and do not include the whole family. Sometimes they only include the kids with just Mom or just with Dad, which is common around Mother’s and Father’s Day. Sometimes a photographer will include the whole family. Be sure to ask your photographer who can or cannot be included in the session.

Themed Mini Sessions:

Often, mini-sessions have a set theme for holidays or seasons. Some will include props and a decorated setting in a studio or outside, and others may have no props. Around Christmastime, you can find photographers that do mini sessions with Santa Claus or outside on a Christmas tree farm. In the Spring, you can find Easter and spring-themed sessions in a studio or outdoors. Sometimes these will be outdoor photos with spring blossoms or studio sessions with baby animals.

So do a little searching around on Facebook or Google to see what kind of mini-sessions are available in your area.

mother and son for lifestyle family session at beechwood farms pittsburgh

How much?

Another one of the main deciding factors for families when faced with this decision is cost. In most areas, it’s not hard to find plenty of photographers offering very affordable mini-sessions all year round.

A mini-session usually costs much less than a full session so it may be enticing for a family to choose a mini instead of a full-length session for their family. You can expect to pay as little as $50 and upwards of $300 or more. In Pittsburgh, the average cost of a mini-session is usually around $200-$300.

Mini sessions have their place and it’s a wonderful alternative if you’re on a tighter budget and want up-to-date and affordable photos of your family and children. You may also consider alternating full-length sessions with mini-sessions every other year or so.

sister making silly faces in sewickley riverfront park

I know many families that do this. They schedule a full-length session with me in the spring or summer but they may do a Santa or other Christmas mini-session later in the year with a different photographer. I think that is a wonderful idea.

mother with son and daughter on Townsend park murrysville with fall foliage for a mini session

You may have noticed by now that I’m not a huge fan of shooting mini-sessions. I’ve done many of them in the past but have since decided they are not exactly the right fit for myself and my style of photography. I REALLY LOVE and want to spend more time with the families that I photograph.

However, there is a (small) chance I will do them again sometime in the future…

mom and her little girl on porch of pittsburgh home

I hope that this post was able to help you decide if a mini photoshoot vs a full-length family photo session is best for your family.

If you think a full-length family session may be the best decision for your family, then I may be the perfect photographer for you!

If I should change my mind and schedule mini-sessions, get on my email list to be one of the first to know about it! I’ll send an email before I share it on social media. You can sign up here!

Go check out my family galleries and learn more about family photo sessions.

Have any questions or concerns?  
Please get in touch to ask me anything or to book a family photo session!

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~All images by Mary Beth Miller Photography ~

Mary Beth Miller Photography specializes in lifestyle and documentary family & newborn photography in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and many of the surrounding areas.  Her style is very relaxed and natural and your family session will feel like a stress-free Sunday afternoon with your family!

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  • Kami

    You always share so much helpful information and beautiful images!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Milward

    Mini sessions are definitely not for everyone, this is a really great post because not everyone really understands the difference. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin

    This is super helpful information! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

Mary Beth Miller Photography


Established in 2009
Family & Newborn Photographer serving the greater Pittsburgh area; Wexford, Mars, Cranberry Twp., and also serving Boardman, Poland, and Canfield, Ohio.

Mary Beth Miller Photography

best newborn photographers in Pittsburgh Expertise logo award

Established in 2009
Family & Newborn Photographer serving the greater Pittsburgh area; Wexford, Mars, Cranberry Twp., and also serving Boardman, Poland, and Canfield, Ohio.