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Differences Between a Full Family Session vs a Mini Session

Every fall season, this question comes up a lot:  “What is the difference between a full family (Family is Home) session and a Sweet 30 session or mini-session?”  Its a great question, and it comes up so frequently that I thought I could help answer it better for you in a blog post.

1.  Timeframe.

The most obvious difference is that the word mini implies smaller and in the photo world it is in relation to the amount of time.  Most mini sessions are between 15-20 minutes in duration, and my Sweet 30 sessions are 30-minutes, so they are fast and furious.  You may think that that is plenty of time and it is if you are looking for photos for holiday cards or photos documenting the 6-month milestone of your little guy who is now sitting up by himself.  As a comparison, full regular sessions, depending on who you hire, range from 1 to 2 hours. These sessions, while they sound really long, typically include more time for little breaks for your kids, time to chat a bit more and break the ice, and certainly time to get more creative and artistic in a collaborative way with you and your family.


2.  Variety of Photos.

Going into that last thought further, mini and Sweet 30 sessions give you a limited number of photos to choose from, and typically all sessions follow the same formula the photographer has put together for them.  For instance, with my Fall minis I offer once-a-year, my goal is to capture 3-4 family photos with one where everyone is looking at me smiling.  I capture the siblings together, the parents together, mom with kids and dad with kids, and finally a headshot of each family member.  Again, the minis and Sweet 30 sessions are more about creating a timestamp for your family in a professional way.  In contrast, you will see a much greater variety in a full photo session, where the sky is the limit with creativity and collaboration based on the following things:  location, mood, personalities, energy levels, age range, and surprises that pop up.  This is why I personally love in-home family sessions so much more as they are customized for your family and your family dynamics.  No two sessions are the same and it is a true representation of your family life at that moment.

3.  Location.

Typically, mini-sessions and Sweet 30 sessions are all held at the same location and are photographed with specific time slots throughout the day.  Families don’t have a choice where the session will take place unless the photographer has special circumstances in mind.  With full sessions, families get to choose where the session will take place.  Again, I prefer in-home sessions as that is where I believe the magic takes place and kids are most relaxed and themselves.  Some families prefer outdoors, and we discuss what the optimal location and time would be for that.  Last, some photographers shoot in studios for either the mini-sessions or all sessions.  So I would ask you this – How important is the location for you?  Would you like to have flexibility in being able to choose a special location for your family session?

4. Price and products.

The last main difference between Sweet 30 or mini sessions and full photo sessions is the session price and what is included.  Since Sweet 30s and minis are much shorter but can be scheduled back-to-back, they are less expensive.  They typically start at $350 – $650.  You will also expect to see a much smaller viewing gallery (20-40 images) with limited products offered or included.  Most commonly, mini sessions include 3-10 high-resolution files with different product and upgrade options.  My slightly longer Sweet 30 sessions include 40 files.  As expected, full sessions are more expensive, due to the customized experience, amount of time spent collaborating, the number of photos taken and thus the size of your gallery.  My typical Family is Home galleries have about 70-90 images.  Some photographers include digital photos in their all-inclusive price. Some charge a session fee up front to cover the planning, actual session itself, editing, and gallery creation, and then provide additional products, digital files, or collections after you have viewed your gallery.

So if you are looking for some quick updated photos of your family for holiday cards, or to document a milestone like baby’s first birthday, then a mini-session or Sweet 30 session could well be the best choice for you.  However, if you are looking for something that truly represents your families’ personalities in a more artistic and creative way, photographed in a location that is meaningful to you, then I’d recommend a full Family is Home session.

As always, please reach out if you have specific questions about anything above or about the sessions I offer.  I hope you found this helpful!


Kim Hildebrand