Should This Portrait Photographer Offer Their Client a Free Reshoot?

If you’re a portrait photographer, what should you do when you when you’re unhappy with the photos you made for your client?

A portrait photographer that earns money from their work has likely encountered a client that isn’t pleased with the images they paid for. Maybe they don’t like the edits, or sometimes they’re unhappy with the final selection. A client not being happy is part and parcel of being a photographer that charges their skills. But as photographers, we tend to be our own worst critics. And if the occasion arises where we’re not pleased with images we shot for a client, what should we do about it?

Portrait Photographer Wants to Shoot For Free

In a Reddit post, a photographer wrote about a recent photo shoot they did. It was a paid shoot for a couple who were celebrating their anniversary. Unfortunately, on the day of the shoot, the weather was dark, grey, and drizzly. These conditions are not ideal, to say the least.

After importing the files into their editing tool, the photographer noticed how dull and lifeless the photos were. They also realized the couple looked awkward and tense in the images. On top of that, they chose to wear the color green in a garden already full of the same color. The consequence of all of this was bad photos. Understandably, the photographer felt guilty asking for their fee.

In conclusion to his post they ask the question: Should I offer a free reshoot?

Note: We do not have access to the images from the shoot. The photographer chose not to share them.

When to do a Free Reshoot

In this instance, from the information we have from the photographer, I think it’s only fair they do the shoot again free of charge. Here’s why.

There are a few things the photographer had the option of controlling leading up to the shoot. Firstly, they should have spoken to the couple about what to wear. This is their anniversary, they want to stand out. Wearing green in a garden means they’re only going to blend in with their surroundings. To avoid this, the photographer should’ve taken the chance to speak to them about the dress code prior to the shoot.

Plan correctly, understand your locations, and always be as transparent as possible with those paying for your services. The last thing you want is to do a reshoot for free.

While the photographer has zero control over the weather, they do have options to improve the image quality when mother earth isn’t on their side. For example, they could have brought up the option of shooting on a different day. While you can’t rearrange events such as weddings and parties, with a portrait shoot you often can. It may have disappointed the couple but had the photographer explained the benefits of shooting in better light, I’m sure they would have been happy to do it on a different day – especially considering their paying for the product.

A Good Portrait Photographer Knows The Best Light

If natural light isn’t giving you the best light, then another alternative is to use artificial lighting. Whether that’s a simple Speedlight or some portable studio lighting, adding some artificial light would have brought the images to life and given the photographer more creative options. It may be the case the photographer isn’t comfortable using external light. If that is the case, I would suggest they’re not ready to start charging a fee for their portrait photography.

Using artificial lighting makes all the difference when shooting outdoors.

As for the couple looking awkward, it’s difficult to know if the photographer should have done more. Yes, the best portrait photographers can get the most out of their subjects. But sometimes, no matter how much experience you have, if someone freezes up in front of the camera, there’s little you can do about it.

I can’t fully confirm if the photographer didn’t do any of the above. But judging from the outcome, it heavily suggests they didn’t.

A Lesson Learned

The biggest takeaway the photographer should have from their experience is the importance of the work leading up to a shoot. You can have all the photography skills in the world, but if you don’t have the right conversations with your clients then they can mean nothing on the day of the shoot.

Plan correctly, understand your locations, and always be as transparent as possible with those paying for your services. The last thing you want is to do a reshoot for free. It takes more time away from your schedule when you could be earning more money with a new client on another shoot.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host of professional photographers within the industry.