How to get professional family portraits without breaking the bank

thumb O FamilyLife Faulkner MiniSessions 1Although the holiday season may seem like the distant future, now is the time to start thinking about getting the family together to get some photos taken.

Whether the photos are for refreshing the frames on the mantle or for sending in the mail with holiday cards, a mini-session might be a cost effective solution for getting some updated shots. More and more photographers are beginning to offer these quick sessions, which are a budget-friendly option for anyone who has time to stop by a local venue for a short time to smile for the camera.

Kathryn Kranenburg decided to try out a mini-session for her family this year after seeing an advertisement for Shannon Hilton Photography on Facebook.

 “When I saw Shannon’s ad I thought it was a great opportunity with the good weather and the good price,” she said. “Photography can be expensive, in the past when we have done family sessions it has been quite pricey.”

Kranenburg met Hilton in Fish Creek Park, which she said was a “photographer’s heaven” because of the beautiful fall setting with the trees, leaves and the pathways.

OO FamilyLife Faulknr MiniSessions 2Cousins Julianna, Lauryn, Jackson, Caitlin, Riley and Annalise, who is holding Chloe, met for a short photo session in September to have their photos taken during a mini session.  

Photos courtesy of Shannon Hilton Photography“It was a fun place for the kids to run around and the scenery was perfect, but it was also convenient,” she said. “(The session) was also quick, about a half-hour long, so it was fabulous for the kids.

“The ages between my sister-in-law’s kids and mine ranged from six months to 10 years, so it was great to let them run around outdoors instead of them being confined to a photo studio. This way they weren’t losing their minds.”

Kranenburg said the mini session worked out well for them, and it is something they would consider doing again.

“For some it might seem like it’s in and out and that you’re being short-changed, but you’re actually benefitting by meeting somewhere and having them work with you to get some good pictures taken quickly,” she said. “It worked really well for us.”

Mini sessions typically last between 20 and 30 minutes, and clients walk away with anywhere from five to 20 photos, depending on the photographer’s rates.

Mathieu Young, a photographer from Calgary, is also offering mini-sessions this fall. He said that a ballpark cost for his mini session is around $100.

“It’s usually half the cost of a full portrait session, but you’re getting a limited number of shots, usually with the option to purchase more,” he said. “On average, you get about seven photos, all of which are edited and ready to print.”


Young said that mini-sessions give people an opportunity to get their pictures taken on location without any bells and whistles.

Cara Madan runs Captured by Cara Photography, said she decided to offer mini-sessions this season because she knows how important it is for families to budget.

“I’ve based my (photography) business on myself and my family,” she said. “I have a family of four with two little boys, so I based my price on what I could afford as a stay-at-home mom with two kids.

“I personally can’t afford to spend $500 a year for family pictures, so my goal is to provide great photos at a good price.”

Madan said mini-sessions are quick but effective if the right photographer is chosen based on a family’s style.

“It’s important to look at the photographer’s work and check out their portfolio and make sure its what you’re looking for,” she said. “Everyone is slightly different and has different styles, so it’s important to make sure it’s going to be a good fit.

“You get a limited amount of time, but if you come in with an idea of what you want, you can walk away with a few shots of the kids and a couple pictures of everyone together. It’s perfect for a family on a budget.”

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