I’m a big holiday person.  I love every holiday and the excuse to decorate and craft and celebrate with my little ones.  Christmas is a biggie in our house, and who doesn’t love Easter?  However right smack in between there is a little day all hearts and flowers and pretty paper things that just makes my heart go pitter patter.  Valentines Day.

A few years back I decided that I really wanted to make this perhaps slightly lesser celebrated holiday part of my business plan.  As a family photographer who’s main focus is not on mini sessions, but on full sized, ooey gooey family portrait sessions, I knew I really wanted to limit my mini session offerings through the year and ensure that the pint sized sessions that I was offering made sense for my business.  It seemed that everyone was offering Christmas mini sessions and Easter mini sessions galore, however I relished the opportunity to bring some attention to my work during the off season and to breathe a bit of marketing life back into my business during those cold Canadian months, and that’s when I decided to offer Valentines sessions to my clients.

Here are a few little nuggets of information on why Valentines sessions have been great for me and how you can make them amazing for not only your clients, but also a great kick-start to your marketing for the year!

Timing is everything

I happen to live in the good old Canadian North, where we don’t see our neighbours from December to April.  Naturally, business tends to slow down during this time.   So instead of offering Fall family mini sessions during the busiest time of the year when clients are willing to pay for a regular session, why not offer mini sessions during the slowest time of the year when clients are harder to come by? 

By staying active during the off season you are continuing to keep your clients engaged and bringing attention to your work.  Get them thinking about the upcoming spring season and why they should book with totally amazing you!  The extra income during the slow season doesn’t hurt either.

Keep it Consistent

Just because your session is small in stature it doesn’t mean the price tag has to take a nosedive.  Keep your mini sessions priced comparatively to your full sized sessions.  If you’re charging $800 for a family session, don’t give away the farm at your promotional sessions for $50.  Keeping your pricing in line with what you’d normally charge gives your client base some foundation of what they can expect from you if they want to book a full session.   If you’re mini sessions take you a third of the time that your regular sessions do and you are including a third of the files, prints, etc.  Then charge a third of what you normally would.   This is only a guideline of course, but a little bit of food for thought.  Also, keep your sessions short.  I work with a set and find that 15 -20 minutes is plenty of time to get what I need. Sticking to a short timeline prevents from overshooting and will save you time at the computer later.

Keep them coming back

Try to get creative with your sessions so that you can get your clients to come back to you again.  Why not offer one on one design and ordering sessions to your clients.  Help them see the incredible ways that they can enjoy their portraits professionally printed in a stunning wall gallery.  Offering this kind of service builds a relationship with your clients and lets them know what to expect when working with you.  As an alternative you could provide each client with a gift certificate toward a spring session as a thank you.

Marketing Machine

Why do Valentines Sessions and not Easter sessions?  The answer can be summed up in one word.  Marketing.  During my valentines sessions I include a set of watermarked, personalized valentines cards with images from the session.  These sweet little treats can then be handed out by your little clients to all of their classmates.  Not only are your clients walking away with something gorgeous and tangible, you’ve also just delivered hundreds of marketing pieces directly to your target market - Local moms with young children!  

I hope that some of these tips will help you to fall in love with the idea of adding Valentines sessions to your line up for 2014 and beyond.  They can be a great way to get your clients geared up for the spring portrait season and hopefully ensure they fall in love with YOU so that when the time comes for their family portraits they will choose YOU!

Nicola Toon is the owner of Hulahoop Children's Photography, based outside of Toronto, Canada, where she lives with her husband and three young children. Nicola is a natural light photographer whose lifestyle centric work has a playful quality and editorial flair.  She strives to tell the stories of her clients through her imagery and find the whimsy and beauty in the everyday moments of their lives.  Nicola's work has been featured in Professional Photographer Magazine and Chic Magazine.