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Most people wouldn’t think of tipping a small business owner if they were running a store, shop, or boutique. But for small business owners who provide services rather than selling commodities, tips are more of an accepted standard. Service-based businesses, like barbers, manicurists, rideshare drivers, and delivery workers, often depend on customer tips for sustainability.

For some professions within the service industry, however, whether to add a tip is more of a gray area. Customers often wonder whether a tip is appropriate, or if it’s rude not to include a tip. Photography is one of these professions, leaving many clients asking: Do you tip a  photographer? Thankfully, we can clear up the confusion!

You Should Tip a Photographer, and Here’s Why:

  • Whether you’ve scheduled a photo shoot for a large wedding or a simple holiday card, your photographer is capturing and preserving those moments for you in a way that is unlike any other. This takes a specialized level of expertise and artistic vision that should be appreciated through generosity.
  • Many photographers are self-employed, so they must develop their craft and client base while dealing with the pressures of creating a sustainable business. Photographers often manage the everyday tasks of running a business on their own, including accounting, marketing, scheduling, and more. It’s hard work, and it’s very difficult to remain profitable.
  • Photography is often seasonal work, making it difficult to predict and sustain a steady income. A tip can really make a difference for a photographer!
  • Tipping is an expression of gratitude and appreciation for someone who has provided a service. Photographers should be recognized and compensated for their specialized skills.

How Much to Tip a Photographer?

A good approach to tipping is to consider the service being provided and tip accordingly. This is based on a rough percentage of the cost of the service. For example, it’s considered customary and polite to leave a restaurant worker a tip that reflects 18-20% of the total bill. 

Sometimes a general dollar amount is appropriate as a tip, such as an extra five dollars per bag for baggage handlers. Let common sense guide your tipping: if the service requires difficult or heavy work, then the tip should reflect this.

Consider the Photographer’s Time and Effort

To some people, photography may not appear to be difficult or heavy work. But the work you see (taking pictures) is just a tiny fraction of the time and effort required by photographers. They are responsible for scheduling, organizing the equipment for each session, setting up and taking down for the shoot, culling and editing images, and a wide range of administrative and business tasks before, during, and after the shoot. When you consider how long you will have the images from your photoshoot to enjoy, a tip is money well spent.

Consider the Photographer’s Costs

Whether your photographer works as an independent freelancer or owns a small photography business, they are providing you with a service. To provide that service, they have incurred measurable costs for equipment, studio space, travel, insurance, and bookkeeping, as well as intangible costs related to the time, effort, and expertise required to provide beautiful, high-quality images.

These measurable and intangible costs lower a photographer’s profit margins more than clients would expect, even during peak photography seasons. With the onset of Coronavirus and months of subsequent shutdowns, stay-at-home mandates, and fear of exposure in public places, photography has been among the hardest-hit professions in the service industry. Photographers have experienced an interruption in business and bookings, creating a serious threat to their income and earnings.

The Bottom Line on How Much to Tip a Photographer

By definition, tipping is not mandatory. However, it’s a practice designed to honor and express appreciation for someone’s skill, talent, and service.

Photography is a specialized skill that requires extensive time and effort behind the scenes, as well as numerous costs like equipment, advertising, travel expenses, insurance, studio space, editing software, and beyond. It’s also a relatively seasonal business with low profit margins.

When you work with a talented photographer, your most meaningful memories are beautifully preserved and can be cherished for a lifetime. Priceless? Maybe. Worthy of a tip? Most definitely! Apply the practice of honoring and appreciating skilled, hard-working professionals and tip your photographer.

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