All you need to know about photography and camera insurance

Feature photo:Lucas Favre licensed under CC0

Photography is an expensive business, often requiring you to invest in high-cost equipment — so when it comes to buying insurance for your camera and photography gear, it can be hard to stomach an additional expense. But if something does go wrong, it’s likely you’ll be even more out of pocket in the long run. It’s always worth protecting your gear. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to insuring your photography and camera equipment.

What insurance do I need as a professional photographer?

The size and nature of your business determine what photography insurance you need, and at which price. In the U.S., for example, an individual can register themselves either as a sole proprietor or limited liability company (LLC).

No matter if the photography gear is under your name or your company’s, if it’s used to make money, you’ll need Business Property coverage. This protects your technical/photography gear, as well as studio furnishings like desks and chairs, and — in some cases — your office premises.

General liability coverage is another must-have, whether you’re photographing weddings or models in your studio. It could help pay for medical/legal costs in case of an accident (including consultations), or cover the replacement charge for any damaged items. Large clients will only hire you if you meet a minimum amount of coverage, so there’s really no option (or reason!) to avoid liability coverage.

Other common insurance types include:

  • Business Interruption coverage – replaces your income in case of fire or any other disaster.
  • Inland Marine Insurance – for when your property is stolen or damaged on location or in transit.
  • Auto Liability – for example, if someone breaks your car window and steals all your lighting equipment.
  • Studio Employee Compensation – pays medical bills and lost wages for work-related illness or injury.

Can I get insurance for my camera and photography gear as an amateur/hobbyist?

If you’re not making money from your photography, you can instead take advantage of the personal articles policy of your home contents insurance, which, in many cases, will specifically insure photography gear from theft and accidental damage, even if you travel. Depending on how many additional items you add and the size of any claims you end up making, this could affect your premium rate. Note that a home contents policy won’t cover maintenance and any wear and tear. Plus, if you take photographs or sell work as an LLC, then your gear cannot be insured under a personal property or umbrella plan, even if it’s used for business only a fraction of the time.

What’s the best insurance plan for my camera and photography gear?

Photography trade associations offer countless benefits to their members, and one of the most popular is insurance. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), for example, is partnered with various photography insurance companies and programs. It’s not only for photography gear: the ASMP offers access to various forms of business liability and health plans for individuals, groups, and freelancers. For a yearly fee, this is obviously more affordable than other insurance options. You also get to enjoy various other perks such as photography festival/show discounts, portfolio listings, and free guides.

Specialty photography insurance

If you’re working in the field of sports, wildlife, or travel photography, insurance becomes a little more complicated. It’s not all about the risk to your equipment either: Football fans could trip up on your equipment. You might ruin a major play whilst trying to get a shot. An animal is startled by your flash and stampedes into your car — believe it or not, insurance companies specifically insure against these things! Sports and wildlife photography are seasonal vocations, and many insurance companies will cover you for set periods of time, rather than annually.

Similarly, if you’re looking for insurance for camera drones or aerial photography, be aware that there may be additional premiums to pay. New regulations and the risk of damage and/or injury make drones more expensive to insure. One photographer is currently facing fines and jail time for crashing his camera drone into the Seattle Space Needle, and another was just convicted for accidentally knocking a woman unconscious with his drone. Remember: Even if a liability program covers all your business operations, you still need aviation risks checked off if you operate a drone.

Can I get insurance to cover my second-hand photography equipment?

Purchasing pre-used cameras and lenses can ease the burden on your business budget. Thankfully, it’s possible to get insurance for second-hand cameras and photography gear, even if the original seller didn’t give you any proof of purchase. The terms will vary between insurers: Some may ask for a list of the used gear, the nominal value of each item, and some proof of ownership, for example. If the second-hand item is stolen or accidentally broken, then the insurer will usually pay out the market value, so you should try and insure your used kit for a sensible replacement value.

What about insurance for rented photography gear?

Most lens rental companies offer insurance at the time of rental. However, you should always read the terms & conditions carefully. Will they pay the full replacement value? Do they cover loss/theft as well as damage? Will you have to put the full cost of the rented equipment on your credit card as a hold? Even if the company doesn’t offer insurance, you can purchase short-term rental equipment coverage — the price will depend on factors such as whether you intend to use the item on or off-premises if the damage happens in another country, or if “loss of use” income is included.

What if I write off a camera or piece of photography equipment?

Typically, photography insurance covers the full cost of a repair, including shipping, parts, and labor. However, when your camera or lens is a write-off, some will source a replacement for you. To ensure a successful claim, you should keep records or photographs of the purchase price, date of purchase, and serial numbers. However, don’t expect your insurer to replace a lens, flash or camera that’s no longer in service. When choosing insurance, ensure you’re paying for “replacement value”, “day value” or some similar term. If so, you should be entitled to an item of similar specification.

It’s also worth noting that a standard equipment policy won’t cover the depreciation of a camera or lens. An “indemnity policy” will assess the ongoing condition of your gear, and match any replacement to its last usable state.

How else can I protect my photography business and equipment?

Contracts

These add an extra level of liability protection and can cover additional areas such as copyright and licensing. Be sure to draft any document under your jurisdiction’s contract & photography laws.

Warranties

Most photography gear comes with a warranty of between one and 10 years. Keep that little card with your purchase, and you could save a lot of money and insurance-induced headaches.

Backup equipment

If your entire photography setup is tragically lost, some insurers cover the downtime. However, if you don’t want that job opportunity or client to slip away, make sure you’ve got a second shooting bag that you can access when needed.

Apps & gadgets

There’s a bunch of brilliant life hacks to help you avoid disaster. GPS trackers, alarm systems and even Registering with the Copyright Office are all forms of personal prevention.

Software and data security

Photography projects aren’t likely targets for a DDoS attack, but data phishing and malware intrusions can be a very real threat to any virtually-dependent business. Answer the invitation from a cyber hacker, and both yours and your client’s photos will be exposed. Some insurers are starting to eliminate coverage for cyber attacks in their policies, and companies are buying up “Cyber liability” to cover the costs of data breaches.

Without photography insurance, common sense is the best defense. Weak passwords and pre-loaded “dummy” passwords in cameras and other devices were the main blame for The KrebsonSecurity fiasco. More and more photography devices are shipped with Wifi capabilities, so take due diligence and protect your data with:

  • Strong passwords – We’re our own worst enemy when it comes to cybersecurity. Take time to develop a robust password scheme.
  • “Zero knowledge” cloud services – These sites (Wuala, Tresorit) encrypt your data, making them safer than mainstream services.
  • Photo encryption – One day, major manufacturers will embrace camera encryption. Until then, rely on these superb encryption apps.
  • Direct sharing – Why not just hand your client their photos on a USB stick?

Protect your images from copyright infringement

Don’t forget to protect your images too! A free Pixsy account lets you recover lost income from stolen images.

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Do you have any wisdom regarding photography insurance? Or perhaps a remarkable story about how amazing/useless your insurer turned out to be? If so, get in touch via the Pixsy Facebook and Twitter.

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