Do you need to tip your photographer?

September 12, 2015

Do you need to tip your wedding photographer?

The short answer is simple: no.  If you'd like to stop reading there and be on your merry way with a couple extra bucks in your pocket and no guilt, be my guest.  If you'd like to know more about ways you can show your appreciation to your photographer, please read on.

I was recently talking to fellow photographer about his upcoming wedding.   He and his fiancee have absolutely loved their photographer's work on their engagement photos as well as the process and he knows the wedding photos are going to be terrific.  In our conversation we got to the subject of tipping your photographer.  Since neither of us expect a tip nor do we often receive them, he wanted to know what to do. 

In our society the average tip you leave for a service is between 15-20% and when the service provided is dinner for $60, leaving an extra $12.50 doesn't feel like a huge burden.  (Always, always, always tip your wait staff, btw.)  But when the service provided is thousands of dollars, the idea of tacking on another fifth of the cost feels a little daunting.  So let me  put your mind at ease.  I have never once met a photographer who expected a tip, especially not an extra 20%.
However, little bits of gratitude go a long way in telling us you recognize our hard work and are thankful for it.  So I have compiled a list of some of the best gifts I have ever received from any couple.
5 - A tip, in an envelope, with my name on it. 

Like I said, you don't need to tip.  I do, however,  remember once receiving a beautiful envelope with a $100 bill in it.  My services start at $2400 so that wasn't near the 15% threshold but it was HUGE in my eyes.  The couple was on a very specific budget and to show that they had set aside extra for me spoke volumes as to what the value of my service was.
And the envelope?  I know it sounds silly, but the bride had found an envelope that matched her colors and hand written my name on it.  It didn't say "photographer," it didn't say "tip," it said my name.  For some people it might be trivial, but knowing my clients hired me and not just any photographer is a gift.

4 - Wine

I know this is kind of specific but I love good wine and usually my clients do as well.  We generally get to talking and excited about just how much fun it is to taste in Oregon and when the best times to go are.  We talk about brands and bottles we like and bond over something we both enjoy.

That being said, I once received a wooden box with three bottles from one of my favorite wineries and I was overjoyed and it gave me a chance to connect with them each time I shared one of those bottles at a meal or with friends and tell them how great my clients are.  In the same way, I've received a bottle of champagne at the end of the night from the couple because they wanted me to "celebrate with them" but, obviously, I don't consume alcohol while I'm working.  That was also remarkable because it showed that they were thankful I stayed through the night.

So maybe your photographer loves Lafco candles or Theo's chocolates or buying new socks at REI, any memento that reflects them as a person is overwhelmingly gratifying.   

3 - A shout out

Recently my friend, Tonie, wrote a blog post much like this one and talked about how much a public thank you meant to her.  When I read it, I was instantly reminded of the times couples personally thanked me during speeches and it brought tears to my eyes.   

As a photographer my job is to blend in most of the time but to be recognized and called out for doing a good job was absolutely humbling.

2 - Kind words

The moment I send a couple an emails that says "your blog post is up" or "your photos are done, here is your gallery" my heart goes in to hyper-drive.  I become a little neurotic when it comes to checking my email , wondering if the couple liked the photos.  My inner monologue goes a little bit like "I hope they love them, I loved them.  Uh oh, what if they don't love them?  What if they hate them?  What if they hate me?!?!"  Then my husband brings me back to reality and reminds me that I'm being kinda crazy.

Telling me you love the photos is a huge relief.  But telling me just how much you love them, which ones you loved, which ones you cried about, which ones caught you by surprise is like filling me up with love.  Then, gushing in the same way on social media is the kind of gift that is never forgotten.
1 - Referrals

The 100% best gift I have ever received were glowing referrals from couples.  If your friends get engaged and the first thing you say to them after "Congratulations" is "You should hire Ali Hormann Photography, she was amazing for us," I could just about kiss you.  It's not just because I love free advertising, it's because it says to me, if you had to do it all over again you'd still pick me.   I couldn't continue in this business without those votes of confidence.

So, if you're worried about tipping, take a deep breath and remember, the majority of us aren't in this business for a six-figure salary.  We love the art of what we do and the people we get to make memories with.  If you're grateful, say thank you.  The top three best gifts had nothing to do with money, so be generous with your kind words and social media tagging and referrals and it will feel like you tipped 1000%.


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