Cedar Rapids Photographer Ali Kerr on Mini Sessions

In this blog Ali Kerr, a Cedar Rapids photographer, will discuss what mini sessions are, her take on them, and if they are right for your family. As a Cedar Rapids Photographer, Ali is aware of the growing trend towards mini sessions in the area. These sessions, while seemingly convenient, may not have the same standards as a full session. Learn about what Ali Kerr Photography is utilizing as an alternative to minis and why she does these alternate limited edition sessions instead.  

What is a mini session?

Mini sessions are time constrained sessions that are most often themed and set up exactly the same between each individual that utilizes them. Photographers generally do these to provide simple sessions at a low cost. There are a lot of Cedar Rapids Photographer s offering mini sessions. While these cheap sessions can be very enticing, you should be aware of how these differ from full sessions and some of the drawbacks. Many mini sessions take place in ten to fifteen minutes. There are some Cedar Rapids Photographer s that offer longer “mini sessions” for newborns as well. I highly recommend a lot of communication up front with your photographer that you are considering booking a mini session with especially for a newborn. You want to ensure clear expectations are set before the session. I hear stories from many photographers that do not set these expectations upfront that end up with upset clients not understanding why. Read more to see what to expect from these sessions.

Why do you not offer mini sessions?

Below you will see the difference in all different kinds of sessions that can be offered as “minis” and I will highlight the key differences in each type of session. 

Newborn mini sessions are generally only wrapped sessions. While these sessions are a lot easier to do, I find parent’s don’t love these images as much. My table poses, shown on the right, tend to be more well liked by parents as time goes on. Creating timeless images parents cherish forever is my ultimate goal. I find that the time constraints of 30-90 minutes just does not allow for proper posing on the table or beanbag. S 

Above is an example of a milestone sitter session by myself, a Cedar Rapids photographer. The left is the result of a mini session where two outfits were done. The right was a full session where we had five different set ups, seven outfits, and many different headbands. As you can see, longer sessions enable photographers to cover more variety, but also allow for better quality images. Clarity, lighting, and composition can be tweaked in post processing, but there is a limit to what can be done even in photoshop. Taking these images within ten to fifteen minutes at this age is not ideal at all. As parents are well aware, children can easily have bad days with fits lasting well over ten minutes. Most photographers are well aware these mini sessions can be a disaster at this stage. I, myself, have lucked out quite a few times with happy babies during mini sessions. I am well aware how these sessions can go, but have been fortunate enough to not experience this during my time doing mini sessions. Ages five days to one year are my absolute favorite to photograph. This age tends to need some additional customization to the session. Your Cedar Rapids photographer will need to get to know how to make your little one smile, how they sleep best, and work around your schedule. All of these things are not done during mini sessions. Mini sessions tend to be on a very strict schedule, with a predefined setup. If you are looking for one to two photos a mini session is an okay option at this age, but if you are looking for quality portraits, with a full gallery to choose from, a full session is a better option.

Family sessions tend to be the most prevalent type of mini sessions in the Cedar Rapids area. Many Cedar Rapids photographer s offer fall mini or Christmas mini sessions. These are definitely the most acceptable sessions to offer in my book! If you have a family with older children mini sessions are doable. As with any other mini session there is a time constraint, so there is no room for running late or additional poses. As a consumer, you need to ensure clear expectations for your experience are set well in advance to booking a mini family portrait session. Many photographers do not set clear expectations and are a bit overzealous with their expectations for mini sessions. It is best to set a realistic standard on what can be done in only fifteen short minutes. I don’t like capping my sessions or doing sessions back to back. I like to give my clients my undivided attention. Family photos are something people tend to do once a year, so I really strive to ensure these portraits will create fantastic wall art. I want to capture the family’s true personality. While I do my best to get to know families before they come to their session, I find family members tend to relax and take the best photos twenty to forty five  minutes into the session.


Lighting, quality emotion, and posing tend to also be better during a less time sensitive session. I think many Cedar Rapids families want to get their photos done quickly, but my main goal is quality images. I find that when you feel rushed, you check your camera less, and settings can change quite drastically outside from one second to the next. Take a look at these maternity photos below to see this lighting example in action.

Maternity sessions are not a typical mini session that I see other Cedar Rapids photographer s do. I do think this would be one of the easier mini sessions to do, but there is not much opportunity for a change in outfits or location with condensed session times. I always like to get moms in multiple outfits or locations to add some variety to their maternity session. When there are other children at the maternity session, I find that these tend to take some additional time. I always encourage my maternity clients to get their hair done, nails, or whatever makes themself feel comfortable. I do not believe that it should take significantly longer to get ready for the session than the session takes. I think moms should feel comfortable at their session and leave feeling like they are in love with their images even before they see them! I do not feel this full service experience can be done in under thirty minutes. I think it takes time to love your images and get those beautiful images that you deserve.

Are mini sessions right for you?

This is a black and white image showing a baby sleeping in their father's hands. The dad has tattoos on one of his arms.

I typically don’t recommend mini sessions for most of my clients. I feel that no photographer can do their best work in 10-15 minutes, while photographing multiple families, especially when children are involved. I have been a Cedar Rapids photographer for many years, but I cannot produce quality images up to my high standards in such time constraints. I like to allow for some time buffers, as life (and children) can be unpredictable! As much as I would love to be able to produce images that live up to my high expectations in 10 minutes, I find this is not possible. While I am able to get images that work, I find I am not able to get through everything and perfect my work. I would suggest that if you are looking for a mini session you consider looking into full sessions. I know price can be a bit higher for full length sessions, but I would rather have a large quality gallery to choose from when I am paying for professional images. 

The alternitive to mini sessions | Limited edition sessions

A lot of individuals like the themes of mini sessions. I hold limited edition sessions for this reason. Limited edition sessions are themed sessions that come around once a year with a limited spots. They are usually seasonally themed, but unlike mini sessions these are a full session time length. Below you can see an example of a holiday set up for a limited edition session. There are generally two limited edition sessions per year, a flower farm session and portraits with Santa. My portraits with Santa are not your typical mall picture with Santa and one photo is taken. This session tells a story, your children will interact with everything in the surroundings to tell a story. The storybook includes a custom story written exclusively for Cedar Rapids photographer Ali Kerr each year and include images of your children. This storybook can be read to your children each year at Christmas time. The flower farm limited edition session tends to be a mommy and me session or a senior session. The flowers in bloom at our exclusive flower farm vary year to year and are always beautiful!  

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