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Should I Tip Wedding Photographers?

John Paul

11 min read

May 21

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#tipping, #weddingphotographers, #weddingvideographers, #weddingvendors, #wisconsinweddingphotographer, #Milwaukeeweddingphotographer, #weddingblogs, #weddingplanning, #weddingadvice, When a couple books me directly to photograph their wedding, I charge a fee based on the package, which is all I expect. However, if they provide me additional sums, i.e. a one-time Gift,  in addition to my fee, I’m very happy to receive such generosity, but…  again it isn’t expected, nor am I trying to imply that it is. You have paid me sufficiently for me to be very happy. Thank you! I couldn't continue to do what I do if it weren't for you. That being said, when a couple books a photographer or videographer and or DJ through a typical "One Stop Wedding Shop", corporate wedding service agency, where they select a photographer, DJ, planner..  etc..  from their website, which features a number of professionals from a region, there is a common misconception that the fee the couples pay, is going directly to the talent, like it is when they find them via a wedding directory website such as WeddingWire, TheKnot, etc.. or a referral network. Those websites charge a monthly/ yearly fee to the photographers. Many have found my profile there too, and book me through their website, that I pay a lot of money every month to be seen. I advertise my services there, in hopes using their marketing to land direct bookings, vs a Corporate Studio, that employs hundreds of photographers, pays us a much smaller flat fee, who will likely take a booking if we happen to have the date available in our calendar. We would rather make “some money”…  than sitting around all day not making any money. It’s kind of a “Necessary Evil” to many of us out there…In addition to that, it is expected that the photographer receives a “Tip”…  or what I refer to as a “Gift”…  from the couple, that is typically handed to the photographer in an envelope before they leave, as an additional “Thank You”…


Typically, an agency/corporate studio photographer makes a flat fee of about 15-20% on average from the couple's booking amount, for their specific service. Some studios provide mileage reimbursement, however, typically if the job is within 50 to 100 miles of their starting location, we eat those miles, plus we are responsible for expenses like income taxes, external hard drives, computers, preparation time, electricity usage, phone call time, texting time, insurance for commercial work, PPA membership dues… etc..  Basically everything that I charge my full rate for, we still have to do pretty much the same communication and prep work to have a successful wedding, regardless of how we are booked, in addition to owning our own camera equipment. Apparently, there must be a common misconception that the equipment that we bring to a wedding is somehow owned by the studio. I've been asked this several times , regarding if I had a choice which camera gear I get to shoot with. This confusion is likely caused by the major newspapers who provide their employee/staff photographers with their equipment. Us wedding shooters are subcontracting freelance professional photographers. If something breaks, the cost of replacing it comes entirely out of my pocket. Hence why many of their pool photographers use IMO, substandard equipment to shoot weddings booked through agencies, or bring much less equipment to one of those weddings, while they spare no expense with direct bookings.  BTW, if you are very concerned over the overall cost of hiring wedding professionals, I can guarantee you that if you book your vendors directly, you will get not only better quality for your $, but you’ll probably end up paying less $ in the end, because of all the various fees and Printing related costs..  Some of them charge upwards of 25$ for 8x10 prints on (shitty) Glossy finish paper, in addition to getting your completed order done much faster! I can’t tell you how many times I have taken text messages or phone calls from their clients, who are upset with ME… for the delay in their photos, thinking that I am somehow responsible for delaying them…  or selling the photos to them with vast mark-up costs. I have typically 5 days from the day of the shoot to turn in my work, or I face fines for delaying them. From there, they get sent to a place in India.....not some in-house digital artist for additional processing and proofing, because American Workers cost more money, so they farm that out to some unknown company operating out of India, where the vast majority of the image retouching industry is located, right next door to those Scam Callers who everyone loves! Although they aren’t having that work in-house, they still are charging like they are!  (I can prove it!!) LOL... so don't blame me for some mix-up with your order being delivered to you from a couple in Germany.. The stories I've heard... smh...

I can tell you from many personal experiences of how let-down I feel when I have busted my butt all day long, in addition to answering phone calls, e-mails, text-messages, helping to plan the couple’s timeline, providing ideas for poses, etc…etc..  holding the door for people, running to fetch flowers from the head table, the extensive preparation I go through before the wedding to familiarize myself with a venue, or scout a park/location for wedding party photos…etc…  and leave with nothing more than a handshake, and of course: ”Thank you I appreciate this”.......     When I was a young, struggling photographer early on, I delivered pizza so I could buy equipment that I needed, and pay my bills.. Although there is no standard “Tip”..  for the delivery service, it is and always has been expected to Tip the driver delivering your food. When ever I heard someone say: “Thank you, I appreciate this”…  99% of the time I’d leave with the exact amount, and or have to provide exact change to the customer, regardless of how fast the delivery was, regardless if it was a sunny day, or a treacherous snowstorm, blinding thunderstorm, where I was standing outside their door getting soaked, & taking risks to deliver their food to some rather ungrateful people, using MY gas, My insurance MY car, My maintenance, and My time trying to make extra money while they get to enjoy their evening, with tasty food delivered hot & fresh to their door.  Thankfully most customers back then were very awesome to me..(Perhaps because I enjoyed saying”Pizza! Pizza!”..  because I worked for Little Caesars, and made people laugh when they came to the door)  However, on a daily basis, I’d get stiffed no matter what. (A little trade secret for you... IF we knew a regular customer who never tipped, we'd deliver their order last, or wait for a nearby order to combine it with. Can't say you didn't have that coming!) After getting burned on a few large orders, I learned to ask another crew member if they would like to take a large order to a school or an office building where there was some sort of party with 50 + people, who ordered a dozen or more pies, because 95% of those would make me spend a lot more of my valuable time packing, stacking, and making multiple runs…(literally running) with a stack of pies in my hands to and from my car..  only to get a Check for the Exact Amount. Meanwhile, some other crew members would get 2-3 deliveries in the amount of time, plus tips, while I spent time busting my butt for nothing more than my Minimum Wage.   I've heard some people rationalize this by saying that they are spending a bunch of money on the service, and that we should be happy getting such large orders to keep the doors open, and that tipping the delivery guy is irrelevant. If that is the case, does the same hold true when someone takes a large, extended family out to a restaurant, only to stiff the servers, because their food and beverages cost them a lot of money? Perhaps some think so... but I sure don't. Quite frankly, I don't know anyone who could justify that sort of thinking, unless they have some sort of antisocial personality disorder.....or something, because that to me, is just absurd. The servers don't make any more money, just because you are paying for a lot of other people. They still get the same base rate, (less than minimum wage) regardless if they are serving the needs of a big party or a party of four. The same concept is true when I shoot a wedding for an agency. I've heard from some customers how much they paid for the photography service. I don't make any more regardless of what package they order. We get the same base rate, and none more, but instead of going to work at a restaurant, where I only need to invest in a pair of shoes, and keep my uniform clean, I need to bring my own equipment, maintain that equipment, bring extra equipment along just in case something goes wrong with my main gear, insurance for that gear, and commercial liability insurance, in addition to paying all the taxes that aren't taken out of my check, plus my shoes and uniform for the service I provide. Regardless if the couple booking the wedding isn't told to consider gratuity for their photographers, videographers, DJs, etc.. regardless of how much you spend on the overall package, if it is customary to include gratuity. You shouldn't have to be asked if you happen to have an envelope that you may have forgotten to give to them...wink....wink... before they leave......just sayin..     Heck, when I first moved out, I picked up a job at a local Subway, where I made sandwiches for valued guests all day long, without ever getting a single tip, no matter how polite, and how quickly I handed them their food. Today, there is a Tip Jar on the counter, and a Tip Line in the credit card machine, asking for the amount that they want to tip, 10, 15, 20% or other amount... (that usually goes directly to the Owner of the store, who is making good money to begin with), for the same thing I was doing 35 years ago! Everyone knows by now that they are supposed to Tip for services…  You tip your Uber driver, your doordasher, your hairdresser, your babysitter, your waiter, your garbage man, your lawn care service professionals, carpet cleaner, flowers delivery driver, etc..etc…etc….. the guy on the street washing your windows while at a red light.....you tip them too, or the guy with the sign on the corner asking for change.. ....Why then would you expect that your wedding photographer or other professional vendors servicing your Big Event leave Empty-handed???  Sorry, but saying Thank You, I appreciate this,is not very fine & dandy, especially in this economy since the beginning of COVID……just so you know! Many of the studios have not increased their fees for us, in order to stay competitive to the consumer, so we depend on getting a generous gift, which for most, goes towards their gas & food. Providing a Meal... is not a Tip either.. That's in the contract of every single wedding photographer and or company/studio. You won't find a working professional who doesn't include a meal & meal break in their contract.     Prior to COVID, I had not had to raise my service fee for the last 20 years. That’s because inflation/ cost of living has gone up since COVID. Back when I first started out 30 years ago, I was happy to get $50.00 of extra spending money. Later, when I gained more experience, and invested more time & a LOT more money into the wedding planning, equipment, etc.. I was getting about 200 on average. After COVID clobbered us, the average gift for such a wedding has gone up to the 3-400 range. A $100.00 bill today, is about the equivalent of what 25$ was back in 1994. ...just sayin..    When I delivered pizza in the 1990’s I averaged 3-5 bucks. on a delivery. That made the job worth keeping. If I got stiffed 50% of the time, I’d quit, and work for a place where I would park my car in their lot, and work for 8 hours and go home, because of the investment of my time and money into my car, and additional insurance required to maintain such a job, let alone saving money to buy equipment that I would use to invest in my career, needed to be made from that delivery job, or forget it!   Sorry for breaking this to you, but I am “For Profit”. Like anyone else who works for a living, they are For Profit, even if they work for a Non-Profit company, their workers still need to earn a profitable income, unless they live at home with their parents, or are Trust Fund individuals who never have to work a single day in their lives, and are happy doing things as a hobby, for applauses, handshakes and accolades. That’s not me, or anyone else I know who works weddings, because weddings are a LOT of work.    I’ve talked with several talent professionals who take agency work, even though it pays much less, who tell me that the cash-filled envelopes are just not being handed out like they used to be, and have considered quitting taking on work from those “1-Stop Wedding Shops" ....."For all your needs on your Big Day all together under one roof/ website"..... We all have something in common: We don’t feel it is right to directly ask for anything extra. We don't have a "Tip Line" for us when you choose us.... or a tip jar on our person. We go home at the end of the night..  (myself included many times too!) with nothing more than the Flat Fee we get after all the work we put into their day.    Although I speak for myself, not everyone puts as much into their agency work as I do. In fact most tell me that they don't do anything above or beyond what is obligated of them. Regardless of who hires me, I give my all, all the time to my couples in planning their day, offering helpful tips, rather than just going by the schedule they have, without any input of my own, which often resolves timing issues, stress, etc. & performing my best while I am on the clock, in addition to all the editing, processing, and back-up of all of the images, plus uploading time…that all has to be done within a week if I want to get paid without pay reductions/fines for noncompliance. If wait staff were to walk home with their employee wage only, do you think they would continue showing up for work everyday too?  Heck, after a wait staff goes home at the end of their shift, they don’t have to do anymore work related to their job in the following days, but for us photographers & videographers, we still have a LOT of work to do.   If it is expected to provide a tip to a driver or a food company…then it certainly should be done with Professionals who work in the Wedding Service Industry. Isn’t that just a no-brainer..?    Yeah but…  you aren’t supposed to ask for tips, because that is wrong…  and impolite…..and unprofessional, and unethical, yadda yadda yadda…..So, does that mean you have a reason to be a jerk..? Because there is no tip-line on the sales receipt you sign for the service from the studio, when you place your order? Does that in itself mean that you shouldn’t expect to provide a gift to the people making your day amazing.? Maybe set aside some $ in advance, so you don't blow it all at the bar...? Oh BTW, most of us take Venmo, myself included too..! :-)     If there is any misunderstanding of who you are actually hiring, look at the Name of the Top of the Contract you sign. If it doesn’t read for example: "John Paul Greco Photography”…  but says something else, then you are expected to give the working professional a generous gif, especially IF they not only did a good job servicing you, but went above & beyond what was asked of them to do for you, your family, guests, & captured the shots you requested, eloquently, and beautifully, then yes, consider giving them a gift for what they did.    That being said….. IF you booked me for your wedding in the past through an agency/corporate studio, where I delivered amazing results, and happened to stumble upon my blog.......& perhaps you are feeling a little guilty for some reason…..  Feel free to contact me, I’ll be happy to provide you with my Venmo info!  :-)    


  Be kind to others, please. JP

John Paul

11 min read

May 21

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