Once photographers decide that mini-sessions are absolutely worth doing (not sure yet? read HERE), one of the biggest questions I get relating to logistics is about RESCHEDULING.
What happens if it rains?
What happens if I (the photographer) get sick?
What do I do if a client gets sick and is asking to reschedule?
How do I even go about rescheduling everyone?
What if my clients aren’t available on the rescheduled date?
These scenarios get tricky because, as I talked about in “What Is A Mini-Session? (And What ISN’T)”, mini-sessions are never supposed to be stand-alone sessions…meaning you should never be shooting a single mini-session at one time.
I say “never” loosely because there are exceptions when it comes to rescheduling. But those exceptions are very few and far between, so stick to your guns if you can!
So let’s address the HOW first.
When I schedule date of minis, I don’t automatically schedule a rainout date. I know some photographers who do, but because I shoot in such high volume it is very difficult to keep up with all the rainout dates. Instead, I tackle each date as it comes.
When planning my minis, I make sure I leave a little bit of breathing room in case I do need to reschedule. (One year I didn’t and actually scheduled a full weekend every week in October…and it rained EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND. That was NOT fun to reschedule.) Basically I try to only shoot Saturday or Sunday each weekend so I at least have one weekend day per week that is open.
So when I do have to reschedule a set of mini-sessions, I try my best to keep everyone’s time slots the same. If they’re scheduled for a Saturday from 4:30-6:30pm, I’ll either move everyone to the following Saturday with the same times, or possibly my next available Sunday with the same times. It’s usually easier if you keep the day of the week the same as well, but I know that isn’t always possible, especially if you’re shooting every Saturday in the fall.
Typically when something like rain is causing us to have to reschedule, my clients generally are pretty flexible because they know it was out of our control. Every once in a while I get a client who isn’t available on the date we set to reschedule. If that happens, I first see if they’re available on a different date I already have set for another type of minis. Usually that means it will be a different location (and possibly a different theme like Christmas instead of Fall), but most of the time they don’t mind.
If we still can’t find a date that works for them, I will offer to do a stand-alone session. (Exceptions, remember?) But here’s the kicker…I require that it be at a location convenient for me. I pick a spot close to my house so it minimizes the extra time I have to spend doing their stand-alone session. They still only get 15 minutes. I’ve only had to do this maybe twice, so it really doesn’t happen often.
Now let’s address the different reasons we may have to reschedule mini-sessions. Since each scenario is different, I’ll tackle them one at a time:
At the beginning of each week, I take a look at the weather forecast. I currently live in Texas (moving to TN soon). If you’ve never been to Texas, basically we have bipolar weather…literally. It could be 90 degrees in the afternoon, then drop down to 50 degrees out of nowhere as a storm blows in. (Yes, it’s happened.) So we take the weather forecast with a grain of salt.
On Monday if it is looking like there’s a chance of rain for the weekend, I will mention in my famous Final Info Email that I’m watching the weather and will let them know if we need to make changes as we get closer. Then I’ll check again 2 days before our minis are scheduled. If there’s a 70% chance or higher of rain, I’ll typically go ahead and pull the trigger to reschedule. If it’s still a 50 or 60% chance, I let everyone know that I’m waiting it out to see what happens. Sometimes I’ll wait until the morning of our sessions (if they’re scheduled in the evening) to see what the weather is doing. I always give them AT LEAST a 12 hour notice.
Because minis aren’t easy to reschedule, I prefer to hire an associate photographer to shoot them if I’m unable to. I have a clause in my contract that states if I can’t photograph for whatever reason (I get sick, family emergency, things like that), then I will find a replacement photographer to take my place. This actually happened when I went into labor with my son! I had Valentine’s Minis scheduled and couldn’t shoot them, so I had an associate photographer shoot them for me. I paid her hourly to take the photos, and I still edited and delivered the images to my clients. (It turned out that I was in real labor for a full week so I had the time! Click HERE to read that crazy story.)
Whether you choose to have an associate photographer as a back-up like I do or reschedule everyone, it’s really important especially in today’s day with Covid to have that plan set up before you need it. Put something in your contract to address this so your clients aren’t surprised if it does happen.
If one of your clients gets sick or something comes up and they aren’t able to make their session, you have a couple of options. I sort of treat it like I do if they can’t make my rainout date. First I’ll offer for them to move to a different date of minis I already have. If that won’t work, I allow them to cancel or to use their 50% retainer they’ve already paid towards a session in the future. Either way, I never return that retainer. My contract states that it is non-refundable, and I stand by that.
I don’t usually offer to do a stand-alone mini-session for these clients because they’re the ones canceling. Most of the time, we are able to get them in on a different date and it all works out. I’ve only had a couple of instances where we just transferred their retainer to a different session within 12 months. And it worked out fine in the end!
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