The difference between MINI sessions and FULL family photography sessions

vertical family portrait of mom and dad laughing together with their 3 boys, dad holding the youngest on his shoulders

There is a lot of confusion around the difference between a mini session and a full family photography session. The truth is that both sessions capture pictures of your family, there are some basic differences that you should consider when deciding which type of family photo session is best for you. Read on to learn more.

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Mini sessions are very short portrait photo sessions. They are held as a day-long event at one location in Pittsburgh and families are scheduled into 20 minute timeslots throughout the day, so punctuality is important! As mini session rates are lower than full session rates and they only include a handful of digital files instead of the full gallery, it is a great opportunity to try out working with me before committing to a full session. Minis are very popular for birthday/Mother’s Day gifts and holiday cards!

During your 20 minutes I lightly direct your family in where to stand / basic activities, but my focus is really on capturing natural interaction between you as opposed to a more formal portrait. So your photos LOOK candid even though I am talking with and directing you! These photoshoots are easy, fun, and quick. (You can learn more about how I direct portraits here and check out the upcoming mini session schedule here.)

dad laughs at the camera while mom cuddles with toddler and kids run around


Full sessions INCLUDE mini sessions! That is, for every regular family session you book I always offer 20+ minutes of directed portrait time. This means that for the majority of your photography session I will hang out with your family capturing candid natural moments without directing at all… but then once your kids are comfortable and have warmed up and the weather is perfect and we have found the ideal location here in Pittsburgh, we can also do a casual portrait shoot. Because we have the flexibility of time and can work around your children’s moods, you are really setting yourself up for getting beautiful natural photos!

And of course not only do you have more relaxed portraits, we have also captured your everyday story in pictures, too. Bonus.

Finally, families really love the flexibility that full sessions offer! If someone in your family gets sick or if the weather isn’t looking promising, we can reschedule for another date. And you get to pick a location that matters to you! This is especially helpful for young kids… when they are in a location they are familiar with, it is a lot easier for them to relax around the camera.

So which is best for you??

If you’re not typically a punctual person, or you expect your family might feel rushed and stressed at the idea of arriving on time and performing within the 20 minute window, then a mini session might not be for you. Consider the flexibility that a full session offers!

If you want to be able to pick the date or the location for your photo session, then a full session is definitely for you. Mini sessions are announced a few times a year, for clients to sign up for a short timeslot on a predetermined date and location. With a full session, we chat about a location/time that is a good fit specific to your family.

If your kids are older and cooperative, and you’re just looking for a great group portrait or two, a mini-session is a great fit! Like with this sweet family of two pre-teen girls who were happy to smile for the camera and enjoy the experience with their parents…

family of four with two teenage girls laughs together surrounded by fall foliage.

If your kids are young or they tend to be shy around strangers at first, then I’d think more about investing in a full photography session. There is something to be said about how low stress these sessions really are.

Finally… If you want to try out my services but aren’t certain yet about investing in a full session, a mini session is a fantastic way to ‘try before you buy’! We get to know each other better, you see how your kids interact with me, and you get a teaser of the style of photos that you would receive in a full session.

If you’re still not sure, let’s chat! I’m happy to talk about your individual situation and make some recommendations… I’m looking forward to connecting with you! 🙂

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Pamela Anticole

Serving PA OH & Beyond

Pamela Anticole is a Pittsburgh based newborn and family photographer. Her award winning style is thoughtful and emotional, and your client experience is both relaxed and fun!


Pamela will photograph your baptism, birthday party, anniversary, bar/bat mitzvah, or wedding in a documentary style learned as a newspaper photojournalist. It is her focus on real, natural relationships and ability to anticipate emotional candid moments that bring sensitivity to her work as a documentary photographer. Pamela is located in the Wexford area of Pittsburgh, PA and available for family photography within 45 miles of downtown Pittsburgh. She also offers photography education for parents both online and on location in person in the Pittsburgh area.