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  • Writer's pictureMia

Cheat Sheet for Tipping Photographers (Wedding, Engagement, Family, Portrait…)

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

We see people asking the question “Do you tip a photographer?” quite often.

It’s the type of question you are probably wondering about because you are currently working with (or planning to work with) a photographer yourself.

This might be for a big event like a wedding. Or, it could be that you are just getting some professional headshots done so you can update your LinkedIn page. Or maybe, just maybe, you are having someone take family pictures, so you can finally update that hanging print in your living room.

Whatever your reason is for hiring a photographer, it’s good to want to know if a tip is expected.

To help you identify when you should give a tip, we’ve decided to look at a few scenarios to help you. With the range of photography services out there – tipping might be more common for some, and less for others.

General Tipping Etiquette 101

Before we talk about the specifics of tipping photographers, we wanted to quickly go over some general tipping rules.

Tipping is less a formal practice, and more of one that is found to be acceptable or unacceptable based on culture.

In the United States, tipping for many different services is very common. In fact, some jobs like restaurant servers are paid a very low wage by their employers because their main income will be derived from tips. In other parts of the world, this is less common and, in places like Japan, tipping can even be seen as offensive. The Wikipedia on gratuity is an interesting read for those interested in what is normal in different countries.

Going beyond what is culturally expected, tipping is also a way to recognize someone for providing an excellent service.

When we tip people for anything, this is always at the front of our minds.

If we receive a really great service, we tend to give a tip. Even a couple bucks can go a long way to help someone out.

When it comes to tipping photographers in general, tipping isn’t mandatory.

However, your tips can be a tangible compliment to your photographer for their hard work and efforts – much of which you may not even see when you are getting your pictures taken!

Do you tip a self-employed photographer?

These days, many photographers are self-employed.

We know this lifestyle well since we started our own wedding photography business.

One thing this experience has shown us is just how much hard work goes into creating a business that can be sustainable while having clients in mind. It is very tiring, but worth it!

This perspective generally leads us to want to tip self-employed photographers more than those just working for a corporation or already established studio. The reason for this is because we know a couple extra bucks can go a long way.

Of course, it’s not mandatory and will depend on the specifics of the photography service being provided.

Do you tip a photographer for engagement photos?

Tipping for engagement photos is not necessary. But, we would most likely give a tip if we felt the service being provided was “above-and-beyond.”

A lot of engagement sessions tend to run around 1-2 hours and are usually held at one location. If your photographer is accepting the headache of going to multiple places, making phone calls to check for permit requirements or if you can shoot at a private location (like a restaurant), and so on – tipping would definitely be appreciated.

Do you tip a wedding photographer?

The client/photographer relationship with a wedding photographer is a lot more intimate than most other photography services. It’s for this reason that we always recommend tipping.

Really consider what your wedding photographer is doing as a part of their service for you. They will do things like:

  • Actually taking pictures (no brainer here!)

  • Editing the photos

  • Contacting the venue and other wedding vendors for information

  • Help you put together a wedding timeline

  • Provides support when you get stressed out from wedding planning

  • Make themselves available regularly via email, phone, and in person meetings

  • Give guidance on wedding details, things to wear, etc.

  • Coordinate things on the wedding day (this is especially true when there is no wedding planner on site!!)

  • Effectively handle stress of the wedding day that comes from pressure from family/friends at the event

The list goes on…

No doubt, many of these things are just “part of the job”, but as a service being provided on one of the most important days of a person’s life – a good photographer will elevate things, while a bad one can drag down the whole event.

Do you tip a photo booth attendant?

Photo booth attendants may be hired by a photographer, photo booth company, or DJ/entertainment company. These attendants are essentially the face of the company in a way similar to how a cashier ends up representing a grocery store you shop at. You need to interact with this person to have your photo taken.

Unlike most photography jobs, this person may not actually be taking a single picture. A lot of photo booths are set up, so you can take photos of yourself with the click of a button and following some on-screen prompts.

Because of the nature of the job and how you’ll probably be interacting with the photo booth pretty minimally, we wouldn’t think tipping to be necessary at all. Of course, if you happen to see someone drunkenly being nasty towards the booth attendant as might happen at an event or two, money can sometimes be a simple way to cheer someone up and make their day.

Do you tip a photographer for headshots?

Headshot photography is usually a much more formal interaction between a client and photographer. These often take place in a studio, and the photographer prices these so there is a lot of room for upselling prints, high resolution downloads, and other things.

Because of how portrait photography like this is structured, we don’t see tipping as a necessary thing. Of course, the same rules apply – if you really got a lot out of the service or felt they want above-and-beyond, then a few bucks tip won’t hurt anyone!

Do you tip a photographer for mini sessions?

Some photographers use mini-sessions as a special offer for people to get their pictures taken at a low cost. These are most often done around holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Generally, a successful mini-session will see a photographer doing a limited amount of work for each client and making decent money through volume. It’s generally an affordable way for people to get pictures taken – especially when working with a photographer that is normally very expensive.

For mini-sessions, we don’t think tipping is necessary. But, as seems to be the theme here, if you feel the service is really extraordinary – go ahead!

Do you tip a photographer for family photos?

Family photography really comes in two major forms:

  • Studio portraits taken at a local studio, JCPenney, Wal-Mart, etc.

  • Candid portraits taken in a natural environment (usually by non-corporate type photographers)

The studio portraits found in the big box store photography sections do not require tipping. While the rates are usually low for the actual photo session, these studios make a lot more from you through upselling prints. The employees hired at these locations are also being paid a reasonable wage, making tipping unnecessary.

For more candid family photos, this often takes a little more effort from the photographer. Getting families to interact with each other in an organic way is huge, and it translates into the photos for sure.

In this area, we also do not find tipping to be required in any way, but we could see ourselves tipping someone for those types of photos. After subjecting the photographer to all the dad jokes, you might feel the same.

Do you tip a boudoir photographer?

Boudoir photography is the most intimate type of shoot you could have.

This type of photography really requires a lot of trust between the client and photographer.

When you have a successful boudoir shoot, it will feel relieving and even empowering when the photographer has been truly professional through the whole process.

Because of the nature of this type of photography, we are all for tipping! A great boudoir photographer should really be commended for a job well done because it’s so much more than just “taking photos.” These photographers need to build trust, and if they do anything remotely wrong, the whole session could go south in an instant.

Do you tip a real estate photographer?

Generally, real estate photographers will be hired by an agency to take photos of their home listings. These companies are not going to be tipping, for sure.

If you happen to be listing a home yourself, tipping is not a necessity in this industry.

Tipping a photographer is never a necessity, but will no doubt be a welcomed thing if you really like the service being provided and want to show some extra financial support.

Whether you decide to tip is entirely a personal decision.

No matter your choice, one of the most significant ways you can support your photographer is to leave positive reviews online. Our reviews on Facebook, The Knot, Wedding Wire, and other platforms contribute greatly to our continued success. It shows new potential clients that the photographer is reputable, and it helps them feel more at ease to reach out and schedule a photography session of their own.

To hear our real clients testimonials at:
Follow us on Instagram:@pka_photo
Phone number: +1 (619) 948-2826
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