Storytelling Portraiture vs Mini-Sessions: What You Need to Know

If you’ve seen any of my advertisements you’ve probably heard the terms ‘mini session’ and ‘storytelling portraiture’ mentioned from time to time. There are similarities in where they can take place, and the quality of the images you can expect. On the other hand, there are differences in how many images you’ll receive and how many people will be photographed. The main difference, from my perspective, is the level of detail (time spent) during image interpretation, and the tangible products I’ll be able to provide. In this post, I’ll explain what I mean by each, and why one might be a better value for you than the other.

Session Time

The time spent capturing images is one of the main differences between the two types of sessions. A storytelling portraiture session will generally last between one to three hours. This is  because we will have settled on the location(s) for the session, I will have completed any necessary location scouting, acquired permissions to take photographs, developed the theme with you as far as wardrobe, storytelling elements, props you want to bring, and worked out the major poses or attitudes/moods that you want to project. Lots of attention is paid to the very specific details that we’ll be capturing.

My mini-sessions last from 30-40 minutes, depending on whether we’re capturing headshots or three-quarter to full-body portrait shots. For these shortened sessions, clients will already have an idea of what they want to do in terms of wardrobe (for mini-headshot sessions) and/or posing (if it’s a mini-portrait session). Changing outfits is fine, but not recommended beyond basic things beyond a top or adding a jacket, due to the shorter session time.

Number of Poses and Photos

Because storytelling portraiture goes beyond the forensic details (what you look like), and moves into the artistic aspects of the message or feeling we’re conveying, time is spent perfecting things like hand placement, head tilt, group position, etc. These high-end sessions will yield about 12-20 images per hour (but sometimes more). A storytelling portraiture session captures both candid and posed moments as the art produced is the most-important aspect of the session. I sell fine-art prints, so the more perfect the moment we capture, the better the chance you’ll want to show it off for years to come. All images will have a degree of interpretation (retouching) that is worthy of a gallery print. This is a great value to clients who want signature pieces to display in their homes or to gift to loved ones.

Mini-sessions yield 4-5 retouched images. This is a really good value for clients who don’t need prints, but understand the importance of a headshot in making a good first impression for networking or dating websites. The level of retouching is good for removing blemishes and evening out skin tones, and I even smooth out the odd wrinkles and bunching of clothing that can happen when you sit or stand. The result is that suits and blazers have a “tailored” look instead of the “off the rack” look. For business, it sends a message that you’re about the details. For social applications, it communicates a more cultivated look.


Both storytelling portraiture and mini-sessions can be held indoors or outdoors, but the difference lies in exactly where. For example, storytelling portraiture sessions are held at my professional studio with more backdrop and prop options that contribute to the story. They may also involve more complex lighting setups if done indoors. For my portraiture clients who want outdoor photography, the session will be held at the spot we agree on that works best for your needs. We will need to consider weather, time of day, and any mobility issues, among other things. Pets are also taken into consideration (for outdoor only). Storytelling photography can even take place at a client’s home because I bring a studio lighting setup right to your door!

The mini-sessions are held either at my home studio (where we work magic on a smaller scale), or at a pre-defined, nearby outdoor location that is spectacular for all seasons. There is a small difference in duration and cost for outdoor mini-sessions, but it can be a better value if you need to be photographed in a natural setting near trees and water.


What you get in the end—and when you get—are another of the major differences between a storytelling portraiture session and a mini-session. My portraiture clients demand the finest work to be shown in a physical format. Typically, this is as a large-format fine-art framed print (measured in feet), but can also be canvas, wood, metal, glass, or just about any other surface. Albums are usually ordered from these sessions as well (think engagement portrait albums or senior/grad albums). The delivery process has a few stages: The client has their digital gallery delivered, and then chooses which images they’d like as their session-included prints. The number and size of the prints depends on the length of the session. Digital galleries are typically delivered 1-2 weeks after the photo shoot, and the prints are delivered a week after the client selects them.

Mini-session digitals are delivered between 1 – 3 days after the shoot because of the smaller amount of images and level of retouching involved. The galleries are also delivered via email, rather than a sharable, hosted gallery with music and print purchasing options. This suits mini-session clients well as they usually need the image for a specific goal, and won’t need to print the image.

Which Session is Best for You?

Actually, for some clients, the answer is both!  A professional mom or dad may only need a LinkedIn profile image or to update their company headshot, and then hire me for family pictures in the park because their grandparents are visiting and they want prints to capture that perfect moment. Others may not have experienced having their picture taken professionally, and want to see how the experience goes. I like both of these types, because I’ll spoil them for what to expect from professional photography. Folks who have hired me before know that if it’s too important to trust to their iPhone and filters, Photography by Terrance is the option that will have them looking their best and having the most fun during the process.

Regardless of which you choose, I look forward to working with you to capture your most perfect moment in the best light!

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