Last modified: February 7, 2017
What a perfect day to celebrate love and affection Valentine’s Day is…
Families with adorable babies, couples madly in love or passionate women looking for boudoir shoots, all these people will want to seize their moment of magic and love.
But as they reach out for your photography services, chances are your clients will prefer to book a mini-session instead of a full session. And the more different clients you’re working with on one day, the more challenging it will be.
This year, are you ready to make the best of your Valentine’s day photography offers? Did you do your math and plan out how you’re going to proceed? What are you going to do in order to work effectively, take in more clients, and make them perfectly happy with your services while avoiding you being burned out?
In my experience, there are 7 essential things you need to cover to safe pass an important day such as Valentine’s day.
Think in numbers
You’re probably thinking in hearts, hugs, kisses and rainbows, and I can’t blame you. That’s what you’re going to see for a couple of days, but try to scratch all that and picture some numbers:
- How many clients can you take?
- How many sessions can you handle a day?
- How long will a session last?
- How much will you charge to make a profit?
- How many prints are you going to offer and at what sizes?
- How much do you really need to invest in props, extra equipment or perhaps even an extra helper?
Set up your safety net
Say you’ve managed to pull yourself out of this mirage of love and strategically planned how it’s going to be, in numbers? The time has come to draw your safety net and have a plan B for every plan A out there.
The point of thinking in numbers was to help you plan and organize your day. A tight schedule will allow you to cover everything you decided to offer your clients during these Valentine’s Day mini sessions. So you have to ask yourself a lot of “what ifs”:
- What if your schedule messes up?
- What if the kids will be less cooperative, taking you more time than you anticipated or preventing you from taking the shooting?
- What if a client can’t make it on time?
Are you willing to bank that session for later, offer a reshoot, spare them from the session fee? Establish all these in advance and make sure you communicate it to your clients as well.
Bare in mind that for some clients, like the ones with kids or even newborns, it might be smarter to convince them to book a full session. That way, nobody will have to hurry and the little ones will get the time to play their tricks without threatening to kill the whole shooting. On top of all that, parents appreciate the extra time they can get for changing clothes or feeding the toddlers. Insist if you have to, it’s in your client’s best interest.
Pick a great location
If you have a great location, even the simplest props can have that wow effect. You are probably already oscillating between a studio and a superb outdoor location, yet the questions will have to keep flowing:
- Is the outdoor location easy to reach?
- Do you have a backup place in case the weather won’t be on your side?
- Is the beautiful scenery worth the effort of making your clients use a map just to reach a remote location?
- Is the outdoor location practical enough for families with small kids?
I probably don’t need to tell you that, but studios are easier to control. If control and predictability are what you’re looking for on this busy day, perhaps you should focus more on setting up an indoor decor.
Spread the word properly
You’re going to help them spread the love, so spread the word about it. Let people know in advance that you are preparing something special for Valentine’s Day that is truly limited and that they really don’t want to miss out.
Even if you’re offering mini-sessions during other times of the year as well, as long as they’re not a monthly or weekly event, advertise it as a once in a year kind of offer. You can march on the special props that you have been putting together or on a special package of photographs that you’re offering, even on the pricing if you can include a little take away for your clients.
Whatever it is, just pick something and make it look really big. Don’t forget that marketing your mini-sessions the right way can prove extremely productive for your business in the long run.
Make your life easier in advance
If there’s anything that could make your work easier and that you can prep in advance, make sure you got it covered. The more you and your clients know about how the mini sessions are going to work, the smoother everything should go.
If you did your part and planned ahead as I suggested so far, you can still help your clients. For instance, you can educate them on how to dress up for the photo session. You can also send them helpful information through email, such as:
- Your contact details;
- The address of the location where you will be taking the shooting;
- Their dedicated time slot;
- Some basic rules like:
- If they need to come earlier;
- If they need to bring something with them;
- Or anything else you would find relevant.
Also, it will probably help you a lot if, on the big day, you will have a printed list with the names of all your clients, grouped by couples or families, so you will know exactly who are you working with on each time slot.
Valentine’s day is all about showing the love, but people need to feel truly comfortable in order to open up their souls in front of the camera. That’s why you’ll have to help them feel as cozy and at home as possible. You’ve started by telling them by their names, with a warm and direct dialogue, but now you have to encourage them to laugh and talk about their relationship, to help draw out the love in the photos and avoid wry, fake smiles. You can try to:
- Play some joyful music or even ask them in advance if they have a special song that you can play during the photo session;
- Tell jokes to kids or ask them what they like most about mommy and daddy;
- Ask couples to remember how they met or how was their first date – have them look into each other’s eyes and tell the story completely absorbed by each other, forgetting that you’re watching them behind a camera.
Planning all these ahead is even more important as you have a limited time for each client and you cannot wait for minutes to break the ice. You need to create all the comfort from the very beginning.
Bring in some help
I know, I kindly suggested you earlier that you should consider some extra expenses for hiring an assistant. I insist on it, for a very good reason: you might feel like you can do it all by yourself at the beginning of the day, but you might turn yourself into a grinch, completely burned out and drained of energy by the end of the day. Neither you nor your clients deserve that.
Imagine only how much effort it will take you to keep going back and forth, between the clients who need help at posing and the camera. You really need someone handling the client at the filming scene, allowing you to fully focus on the actual shooting.
The same assistant can also greet your clients, walk them on their way out and even take care of some unpredicted situations. Should I say more or did I convince you from the grinch part?
Consider the post-session
Your planning work doesn’t stop when you turn off your camera. The back-end of your mini sessions is actually just as important as the initial planning. You might have won their hearts by the way the shooting evolved, but you still need to maintain professionalism and deliver the photographs fast, accurately and just as you initially agreed with the client.
Since we are talking about mini sessions, perhaps it is best to offer only one-third of the photographs you’d offer after a full session. Moreover, let your clients know how much time they have to order extra images from the moment you released their gallery – I’d say two weeks is a decent timeframe, but make sure the client is fully aware of the post-session terms.
Just to recap, for your Valentine’s day mini sessions to run smoothly, you need to think practical, come up with different scenarios, and plan ahead as much as you can, with an assistant by your side. If you cannot afford to pay someone extra to help you, consider scheduling a smaller number of mini-sessions, to offer your clients the time and attention they deserve and allow you to work at full capacity throughout the entire day!
This is one of those unique times of the year when people are more interested than ever in booking photo sessions. At the same time, it’s your chance to advertise your business through the quality of your work and turn a few new clients into repeated clients for the months to come.