In this personal opinion piece, I’m going to share whether I believe tipping is necessary for wedding photographers. The to-tip-or-not-to-tip debate is generally split about 70 / 30 according to articles I’ve found around the web. The majority say that tipping your wedding photographer is not required. Remaining voices say that yes, you should tip.
As a wedding photographer myself, I have a unique insight into the debate. A working wedding professional’s input can often be more valuable than the generic ‘wedding tipping guides’ that you can find in abundance. So here’s my two cents to add to the debate!
In this article, I’m going to take you through whether you should tip your wedding photographer, when to tip them, how much to tip them and alternatives to tipping. The conclusions are quite surprising. Let’s get to it!
Looking for ways to love on your wedding photography client – including those that don’t involve tipping? Here’s my list of 17 ways you can be the best wedding photography client!
Should you tip your wedding photographer?
Tipping is totally down to personal preference. In wedding photography, tipping is never expected but it is certainly appreciated. A wedding photographer will never take offense if they do not receive a tip. It is largely down to personal preference and whether you are simply the type to show appreciation tips!
Generally speaking, a tip is not standard practice. Personally speaking, I would say that only about 20% of all wedding clients give me a tip.
The smallest tip I have ever received was $10. The largest, that I received on two different occasions, was $500. So, it varies greatly. This, to me, is a sign that there is no real standard practice. A very general guideline amount for tipping wedding photographers in the United States was given by The Knot. Their guide was to tip $50 – $200.
Not the type to tip at every opportunity? No problem. There are many other ways to say thank you. Thanking your photographer for the service they provided does not have to be in monetary format. A tip is sometimes a gesture that many couples would like to make – but after the expense of a wedding, there is simply not the opportunity to do so. We feel you there!
How much should you tip your wedding photographer?
It actually makes a lot more sense to think of a tip as a percentage rather than a flat rate. As an example, my photography services range from $1,250 for a City Hall service, up to $5,000 and beyond for a full day with two shooters.
The amount to tip should be a meaningful one, calculated as a percentage (anywhere between 5% – 20%) of the total that you paid minus the tax. So, tipping $200 on a $1,250 would be way too much. For a lower-end service like that, a tip of between $50 – $100 is perfect.
That said, as tips are not expected, any amount is going to be appreciated. It is not seen as ‘cheaping out’ or insulting if you only give a small tip – because there is no expectation to tip at all in the first place.
Under what circumstances should you to tip and not tip?
There’s no need to work a tip for your photographer into your wedding budget, unless you feel strongly about it. Unlike many other service professionals, photographers are paid enough to make a living without the addition of a tip.
If you feel a photographer has gone above and beyond, however then a tip recognizes that extra level of service.
For example, a photographer throws in an extra half hour on your wedding day without charging overage fees (that would set you back $250)? A tip recognizes this, and the extra hours of work associated with that half an hour of shooting time.
A photographer lends you and sets up equipment that is beyond what’s stated in their contract, so that you could stream your wedding? Obviously, they have saved you a lot of money, so tip them!
You have asked for multiple phone calls, venue visits and extra meetings that are above and beyond what’s usually offered (and which photographers do not charge for)? A tip compensates them for the extra time they ungrudgingly gave to you.
That said, I am not trying to suggest with sleight-of-hand, that in fact all circumstances somehow do merit a tip after all. I have a separate post that deals with the economics of wedding vendor pricing.
In this post above, I explain how wedding photography pricing is designed to take into account differing levels of client needs. So, even if you asked for more than standard, a tip is still a nice-to-have, not a necessity that the photographer is dependent upon.
And it goes without saying, if you were NOT at all wowed by your photographer’s level of service, then there is absolutely no obligation to tip! In a restaurant, you tip a waiter even if the service he provided was horrible. This is because waiting staff depend on that money to make a living! (In the US anyway).
Photographers do not depend on their tips. They truly are just a bonus. Never feel pressure to tip.
When to tip your wedding photographer
Whenever I do receive a tip, it’s almost always on the wedding day itself. Occasionally, couples tip during the payment process which is done online prior to the wedding. It’s always OK to ask your photographer what they would prefer if you want to give a tip. Some would prefer it to be in cash or Venmo to keep it off the books. Others may prefer this to be done online with the rest of the payment.
Side note – wondering about wedding photographer pricing and what the etiquette is around price negotiations? I’ve written a detailed guide on wedding photography negotiation best practices, linked below!
The strange thing about tipping is that we tip based on the service, rather than the outcome. But uniquely with photography, the outcome of their services is not seen for several weeks or even months. The purpose of the tip is to thank your photographer for the service and help they have provided in the run-up to the day – and the big day itself. It’s not really as a way of signifying approval of the finished photos.
Personally, I have never gotten a tip after delivery of the images. I am not sure there would even be a way of doing this. I can’t tell you how many times a couple has said ‘oh, we will for sure tip you! You were amazing! We have an envelope for you but I can’t remember where it is right now.’ Does the tip ever materialize at a later date? Never.
So, if you are going to give a tip and have budgeted for it, make sure you designate a point person to give out tips.
This person is usually a wedding planner. It’s a normal part of their job to deal with tipping the vendors. However, many couples do not have planners, in which case a parent or bridesmaid is a good candidate for distributing tips. The trick is to remember to hand them out just before each vendor’s scheduled departure time. Otherwise you’ll be going home with that tip which will never find its way to the vendor afterwards.
The Knot’s advice on tipping wedding photographers
The Knot is the largest wedding publication in the US. Their advice is followed and treated as authoritative by thousands of people who seek information on the topic of tipping wedding vendors.
You’re not expected to give your shutterbugs [a tip]. But if the wedding photographer or videographer doesn’t own the studio, consider tipping each person (or give a certain amount with a thank-you note to disperse to staff).
The Standard: $50–$200 per vendorThe Knot, Your Wedding Vendor Tipping Cheat Sheet
The Knot raises an interesting point. They draw a distinction between whether the photographer present is an independent contractor paid by the hour, vs. being a business owner. The thinking is likely that an independent contractor will only receive a small amount of what the couple paid for the photos. Therefore, they deserve a little extra.
To understand more about photographers that do not own the business they shoot for (aka ‘associate photographers’), check out my article linked here:
I certainly understand the distinction and thought it was worth bringing up here. However, as a photography business owner myself and not an independent contractor, I would not be so fast to draw a binary distinction like this. I believe it is a much more nuanced conversation than simply paid hourly = tip; studio owner = no tip.
Perhaps there is an implicit argument that if the photographer is a business owner in their own right, a tip is considered insulting? As someone on the other side of the debate, I can assure that this is certainly not the case.
Side note: The Knot has got into hot water with vendors many times for some of the questionable advice they give out to brides. Like advice on how to ask for discounts or get free wedding services!
I always suggest having open conversations directly with vendors especially for money-centered discussions. Large publications that use paid content writers are sometimes out of touch with the reality of being a small business owner and wedding vendor. They are not at the grass roots level; they are at the top looking down. They aren’t in the wedding industry, they’re in the media/ publishing industry.
On top of that, each business runs differently. Any questions or concerns should always be addressed directly with the business in question.
/ End rant.
Other ways you can show your appreciation without tipping
Tipping isn’t always the most valuable way of showing your appreciation! A referral is the ‘tip’ that keeps on giving. Making it a point to share your photographer’s information with friends and family members who are getting married soon is something any photographer values.
Writing online reviews
Writing a review is also an absolutely excellent way of showing your photographer you care about them! It takes you 15 minutes to write and will help increase the visibility of their business online, bolster trust and provide excellent social proof for years to come. That is beyond anything that can even be purchased!
Want to go above and beyond? Ask if your photographer would like a video testimonial that they can use in their marketing. A simple video made on your phone is so helpful because it conveys authentic praise from a real client.
A small, inexpensive gift
I have received lovely gifts from clients too, which have made me very happy! A well-chosen gift does not have to cost very much, but can really make us feel so appreciated.
Email of thanks or a greetings card
You’d be surprised how many times we send off a client’s gallery and never hear from them again. All those hours and days of work and we are left thinking, ‘did they like the photos? Did I do right by them? Are they going to ask for changes or the dreaded more photos?’
A heartfelt thank you email, that signals your happiness with our services, is the best way of concluding the transaction. No need to get your wallet out.
You can give a greeting card at the wedding or send it along by mail afterwards with your thank-you cards to guests. Many photographers keep all physical correspondence they receive from clients as little souvenirs. These mementos can actually keep us going when things are tough. So, never underestimate how long a simple card, postcard or note of thanks can go.
We know that weddings can be financially draining. Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, a tip is simply not possible and we do not hold it against you – far from it! Other times, couples choose not to tip or it simply does not occur to them. We respect that a tip is not our right in the profession we are in. And we never, ever expect one.
No photographer should ever use salesman-like tactics or cringey maneuvers to hint that you should tip them! That is really not cool and they should feel bad for guilt-tripping the clients that trusted them.
A professional, established vendor should already know and charge their worth.
Tipping a newcomer or a friendtographer, especially one that gave you an amazing deal, is really nice and will truly help their bottom line. Likewise a photographer that went to great, great lengths to help you. Beyond that, it’s your call.
Remember, tipping is a gesture. There are other gestures you can make that are also just… well, nice. Some gestures such as writing a review or sending referrals our way, are arguably even more valuable than a tip. Referrals might be worth several thousand dollars, especially as they have an exponential effect!
So to sum up, don’t feel any obligation to tip your wedding photographer. And please understand that they will not feel offended if you do not. (They will also not feel insulted if you do tip them!) Whether you choose to tip or not to tip, I hope the information in this photographer tipping guide was helpful!