Episode 27: She Stopped Doing Mini-Sessions. Here’s What Happened.
with Sarah Petty
What would happen if you said no to photography mini-sessions during the holiday season, and instead spent your weekends making memories with your family?
Jen Pisani is one of my students who did just that.
This is how she created more time for her family, without sacrificing her income.
A year and a half ago, Jen Pisani did 65 photography mini-sessions in one holiday season.
She blocked off entire weekends, shooting a new family every 15 minutes.
Jen shot so many images over the weekend that during the week, she hid in her office editing as quickly as she could.
Your Kids See You Overwork Yourself With Photography Mini-Sessions
One thing Jen’s daughter said changed everything for Jen.
While Jen was editing in her office, her oldest daughter walked in.
Jen shooed her away saying
“I’ve got a lot of editing to do.”
Her daughter replied,
“I know, mom. This time of year we never see you, from the fall until Christmas, you’re never around.”
And then she walked away.
“To hear that come out of her mouth, was the most heartbreaking thing. I sat there for the longest time going,
‘Oh my gosh, things are happening and I’m missing them’
I’m not doing my family any good.
And I’m not serving the families that I’m shooting because I’m rushing through their images.
I said to myself,
‘Things have to change.’”
The Wrong Way To Run Your Photography Business
At this point, Jen was charging $125 for 10 images on a jump drive, and working her weekends away.
After spending $10 for a drive and putting it into a nice package, there was hardly any profit and she had no time with her family.
“I have two younger daughters who were in middle school and two sons in their twenties.
My sons were coming into town from 10 hours away and I would only see them for a few hours because I was working so much”
Jen had been following me on and off for many years.
She knew about the boutique business model but thought, I don’t want to mess with ordering and knowing products.
Finally, she realized,
“I am a photographer and I don’t have many pictures in my house of my family.”
That’s when she realized that digitals weren’t serving her clients. She said to herself,
“Oh crap, I’m doing this all wrong. Giving clients a CD, jump drive, or transferring files to them on a gallery, doesn’t serve them.”
Our Art Is Worth More Than We Think
Jen’s town was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.
Houses were four and five feet underwater.
People lost everything.
So many of her clients came back and said,
“I never printed those images on my flash drive and it floated away in the storm. Do you have those photos?”
Jen couldn’t believe that after all these years, her clients never printed these images.
Some of their sessions were over eight years ago.
It broke her heart.
As photographers, we don’t realize how important our work is until tragedy strikes.
You don’t think about the importance of printed images until they are gone.
The Switching to Becoming a Boutique Photographer
Two Christmases ago, Jen’s holiday season was terrible.
Last Christmas, Jen converted to boutique and spent her time with her family and shooting seniors.
It was fantastic. Ideally, Jen would shoot only four clients a month.
She would shoot them while her kids were in school, and spend the rest of the week helping her clients pick beautiful artwork for her home.
“Last Christmas, my girls and I went to get mani-pedis with my niece and my sister-in-law. It was amazing being able to spend time with my own family instead of cramming my weekends taking photos of others.”
This February, Jen was on track to make six figures through the boutique photography business model and ditching photography mini-sessions.
Then lockdown hit.
Jen realized that in Texas, they weren’t completely shut down and she could still shoot outside while wearing masks.
Then, she would do an in person sale over zoom.
“Things definitely slowed down a bit, but not to the point I originally thought. It was comforting that people still wanted the art I was creating in such an uncertain time.”
Building Relationships With Other Small Businesses is Important
Jen focused on building relationships with the small businesses in her community.
She chose one particular charity and did porch portraits while donating the session fee back to them.
From that photoshoot, she has had several seniors book her through referrals from the charity she partnered with.
One client said
“They’ve told us so much about how you have given back to them for years. How could we not support you in the way that you supported them?”
That is so powerful.
It made Jen realize that people care about the difference you make in your community.
When Jen was doing photography mini-sessions, she wasn’t able to work with charities because she didn’t have enough money to pay her own bills or enough time to partner with these organizations.
Now that Jen is able to give back she says,
“It feels really good. I’m now making a difference and my kids see that too. They see the value in supporting one another and your community.”
Switching from being a shoot-and-burn photographer who filled her calendar with mini-sessions, to the boutique photography business model, Jen’s family gets more time with her, she is able to give back, and is making more money.
Jen’s story is amazing and I am so grateful for her sharing it with us because a lot of you are stuck in a photography mini-session world and missing out on your families.
I hope this inspires you to take a look at your business and life balance.
You got this.
I'm Sarah Petty
I’m a photographer living in the middle of a cornfield (central Illinois), momma of three teenage kiddos (plus a cat & dog) and an educator for all things photography business. Favorites: Earl Grey Tea (not coffee!), anything orange and clothes that are made for tall girls