By Nicola Toon
I’m a big holiday person. I love every holiday and the excuse to decorate, craft, and celebrate with my family and little ones. Christmas is a big deal in our house, and who doesn’t love Easter?
However, right smack in between, there’s a little day filled with hearts and flowers and pretty paper things that makes my heart go pitter-patter – Valentines Day!
A few years back, I decided to make this somewhat lesser-celebrated holiday part of my business plan. As a family photographer whose primary focus is not on mini-sessions, but on full-sized family portrait sessions, I wanted to make sure offering Valentine’s photo sessions made sense for my business.
I have learned quite a bit over the years, and in this article, I will share my top 10 Valentine’s Day photo shoot ideas and 4 helpful marketing tips you can use to promote your Valentine’s sessions and grow your photography business.
Top 10 Valentine’s Day Photoshoot Ideas
Let’s start with my top ten favorite Valentine’s Day photoshoot ideas! I have always had GREAT RESULTS with these, and CLIENTS LOVE THEM!
1. Golden Hour Photo Session
What’s more romantic than watching a sunset or sunrise with your significant other? You can immortalize this romantic feeling by doing a photo session during golden hour.
Choose a special location for the shoot – for example, where they shared their first kiss. Otherwise, a field of flowers or the beach are usually great locations for a golden hour photoshoot, depending on where you live.
If you’re not particularly outdoorsy, you can use an urban setting or a beautiful landmark as a background.
2. Create a Flat Lay Photo
Valentine’s Day cards are a must. They can be used to write a love message, an invitation to a romantic dinner, or simply include with a present.
A flat-lay composition (an image of an array of carefully arranged objects shot directly from above) is a perfect way to make the card extra special.
The objects used in the flat lay can be personal items or Valentine’s related ones, like gifts from a partner or souvenirs from trips taken together – all great ways to make a unique Valentine’s Day card.
Consider leaving the center blank so you can add a message in Photoshop during post-processing. A simple “I Love You” or “Will You Be My Valentine?” using a pretty font should do the trick.
3. Use Heart-Shaped Props
Sometimes classic ideas are classic for a reason. Nothing says Valentine’s day more than hearts.
Include heart-shaped props in your photo session to get in the spirit of the celebration. You can use balloons, frames, or message boards… anything you want. And If you’re handy, you can even build your own props.
Otherwise, browse any dollar shop, supermarket, or even online to find some creative Valentine’s Day photo props.
4. Create Heart-Shaped Bokeh
Simply speaking, bokeh is an effect created when you photograph out-of-focus lights. The shape of your lens aperture determines the shape of the bokeh, which is why different lenses create different bokeh.
You can even create your own bokeh shapes if you get a little crafty. And what’s better than heart-shaped bokeh for Valentine’s Day?
To do this, use a piece of black poster board or Fabriano paper. Next, cut a circle that’s the same diameter as your lens. Then, cut out a heart in the middle of the circle.
You just have to hold that piece of paper in front of the lens while shooting. You can even hold it in place by pressing it between the lens and a UV filter. Otherwise, you can attach a couple of flaps to it using scotch tape. Then, use a rubber band to hold the tabs around the lens.
Now you’re ready to start shooting:
- If you’re capturing a subject in front of the lights, make sure you use a very wide aperture, so the lights behind them are out of focus.
- If you’re ONLY photographing the lights, just make sure they’re out of focus.
That’s how easy it is.
5. Try Light Painting
Light painting is a fun technique where you leave the shutter open in a dark environment while you move a light around to “paint” your subject.
As a Valentine’s Day photoshoot idea, you can paint a heart or a short message such as “I Love You” using a torch, an LED, or a glowstick if you want some color.
To achieve the proper effect, you will need to use a tripod along with a remote trigger or timer when shooting this type of photo.
As for the settings, use a low ISO to keep your image noise-free, set a narrow aperture to keep everything in focus, and experiment with a shutter speed that is long enough to paint what you need.
6. Valentine’s Day Themed Pet Photoshoot
There’s no better way to share the unconditional love that pets give their owners than capturing them in a photo that they can cherish forever.
If the pet session idea is popular with your clients, you can set aside an entire day for dog and cat photoshoots and use them to create a fun Valentine’s Day card or a calendar full of themed photos to give as a present.
7. Experiment with Light to Create a Romantic Atmosphere
There are many creative ways to light a scene when you’re doing Valentine’s day photoshoot.
The first one that comes to mind is candles. Most people would associate a candlelight dinner with a romantic date, right?
The deep shadows and warm tones created by candles communicate intimacy. If you don’t like candles, you can use fairy lights for a similar effect.
8. Get Messy
Who says the only way to celebrate Valentine’s day is by doing something formal or serious? There’s nothing wrong with having a fun photoshoot that celebrates a couple’s intimacy.
There are many ways to get messy depending on what everyone is willing to do. For example, you can start by having them bake delicious cookies in the kitchen and then start a food war.
You can also get a big piece of fabric and some hand paints for them to play with. Get as creative as you want!
9. Experiment with Closeups and Perspectives
If you’re tired of all your photos looking the same, you can use this opportunity to experiment.
Try changing your vantage point or moving the camera angle.
You can also experiment with different crops:
- A wide shot is perfect for showing the environment and creating an atmosphere.
- A tight crop can be intimate and sensual.
You can search for composition guides online to get better results or use Pinterest and Instagram to find inspiration.
10. Solo Photoshoot
A solo photo session is empowering, can help boost a subject’s self-esteem, and is a great way to celebrate self-love. A boudoir session or a dressy formal session are perfect for this type of shoot.
The images can be a gift to a significant other or just themselves. The choice is theirs. Not only will they love looking back on the photos you take, but they will also enjoy the pampering experience that usually goes along with this type of photoshoot.
If you offer multiple sessions of this type on a particular day, consider including professional hair and make-up styling. Just make sure you build the cost into your session prices.
Valentine’s Day Photoshoot Marketing Tips
EVERYONE seems to offer Christmas and Easter mini-sessions galore. However, I relished the opportunity to bring some attention to my work during the off-season and to breathe a bit of marketing back into my photography business during these cold Canadian months, and that’s when I decided to offer Valentine’s mini sessions to my clients!
Here is some information about why Valentine’s photography has worked so well for me and some tips on how you can make your own Valentine’s photo sessions a unique and unforgettable experience for not only your clients but also a great kick-start to your marketing for the upcoming year:
1. Timing is Everything
As I mentioned before, I happen to live in the good old Canadian North, where we don’t see our neighbors from December to April. Naturally, business tends to slow down during this time.
So, in addition to offering Fall family photo sessions during the busiest time of the year when clients are willing to pay full price, why not offer mini-sessions during the slowest time of the year when clients are harder to come by?
By staying active during the off-season, you will keep your clients engaged and bring more attention to your work. It will also get them thinking about the upcoming spring season and why they should book with you! And the extra income during the slow season doesn’t hurt either.
2. Keep Your Prices Consistent
Just because your mini-sessions are smaller, it doesn’t mean the price tag has to take a nosedive. Keep your Valentine’s mini sessions priced relative to your full sessions. For example, if you’re charging $800 for a family session, don’t give away the farm by pricing your mini-sessions at $50.
If your mini sessions take you a third of the time to shoot compared to regular sessions and you include a third of the files, prints, etc. – then you should charge a third of what you usually would for a full session. Of course, this is only a guideline, but a little food for thought.
Keeping your pricing in line with what you’d typically charge gives your client base a foundation for what they can expect from you if they want to book an entire session.
Also, keep your Valentine’s sessions short. I work with a set and find that 15-20 minutes is plenty of time to capture the images I need. Sticking to a short timeline prevents overshooting and will also save you time at the computer later.
3. Keep Your Clients Coming Back
Getting creative with your sessions will help keep your clients coming back to you again and again.
Try offering one-on-one design and ordering sessions to help them see the incredible ways they can enjoy their portraits professionally printed in a stunning wall gallery.
Offering this kind of service builds a relationship with your clients and lets them know what to expect when working with you. Alternatively, you could give each client a gift certificate for a spring session as a thank you.
4. Be a Photography Marketing Machine
Why do Valentine’s Mini Sessions and not Easter sessions? The answer can be summed up in one word. Marketing!
During my Valentine’s sessions, I include a set of watermarked, personalized valentines cards with images from the session. Your little clients can then hand out these sweet treats to all their classmates.
Not only are your clients walking away with something gorgeous and tangible, but you’ve also just delivered hundreds of marketing pieces directly to your target market (local moms with young children)!
A Valentines Day photoshoot can be a great way to get your clients geared up for the spring portrait season and hopefully ensure they FALL IN LOVE with your work so when the time comes for their family portraits; they return to YOU!
I hope some of these photoshoot ideas and marketing tips help spark some interest in adding Valentine’s photo sessions to your lineup this year!