It isn't fearmongering to say that one mistake, and not even necessarily your own, can bankrupt your photography business if you're uninsured. So Fstoppers have teamed up with Insurance Canopy who have created Full Frame Photography Insurance to go over the issue and offer some insight.
A few years ago I had a shoot arranged at a beautiful and listed manor house in England that was both structurally borderline invaluable, but furnished with high-end, antique artifacts and art works. A week of the shoot, but before I arrived they called me in a bit of a panic; they needed to see my insurance documents. I printed them out and brought them with me, but I had to ask: why were they so worked up? Well, some years prior a photographer shot an event at this old and ornate property. Somebody tripped over an unsecured wire, and not only got hurt, but damaged the property. They weren't keen to divulge any more details, but from the sounds of it, the number of zeros in the quotation to fix everything was several more than any photographer is going to have lying around. What's worse, the photographer was uninsured.
Make of that story what you will, but some Googling can quickly reveal horror stories. It's rare that anything substantial goes wrong on a shoot, and when we think of insurance we usually consider dropping a lens, or a light falling over. However, the risks photographers face run further and deeper than those. In fact, you could argue that those are the kindest risks. I asked Insurance Canopy to give me an overview of the sort of problems that can occur that insurance will help, or even save you from.
Risks Photographers Face
Injury Obtained During the Photoshoot
Photographers often ask clients to pose or move a certain way to capture a great shot. What if someone injured themselves while you were directing their pose? Let’s say, a client follows your instruction and they end up injuring their arm. A suit could be filed against you for directing them to move in such a way.
Injury Obtained During an Offsite Photoshoot.
Family photos that are taken at picture-perfect locations can lead to injuries. For example, a family might be interested in taking a photo near a river in the woods. What if one of their children got too close to the bank and fell in the river while you were taking their picture? Furthermore, what if they sustained a broken arm as the result and a suit was filed against you?
Damage to Studio Property or an Offsite Location
If you’re a photographer who rents studio space to capture a specific look for your client, you run the risk of damaging property that is not your own. A recent claim example includes a young child who was posed on a ladder. The ladder tipped and damaged the studio equipment and a lawsuit was filed against the photographer.Many mistakenly believe that their homeowner's insurance policy will have them covered, but that's not always the case. In fact, Full Frame Insurance told me that if you derive 50% or more of your income from professional photography services, or you use your camera equipment in your business, your homeowner's policy will not cover you.
What Should Your Photography Insurance Policy Cover?
For me, one of the trickiest parts of complex insurances policies is making sure that no only everything of mine is covered, but that it is covered for the full amount. Then, you need to look at the coverage for liability like discussed in the risks section. This is where you have to treat yourself — a photographer — as a business, or risk damaging not only your career, but your livelihood.
This is the obvious one and by far the most common and the most discussed. I don't know a single photographer who hasn't had a moment of jet black panic as a piece of equipment gets a call from the void and tried to end itself. I once worked at an abandoned RAF base and needed some powerful lights to photograph in the basement of one of the buildings. I bought one especially for the job and on the first day using it, I opened the door to reveal the dark staircase into the abyss (there was no electricity), and my brand new light decided that if I wasn't going to secure it to the light stand perfectly it'd teach me a lesson. I had to stand there helplessly while this fresh out of the box purchase bounced down a flight of 20 concrete stairs and out of sight in to a damp basement. Luckily my insurance covered this mistake. I know photographers who have had their cameras damaged by rain, lenses fall out of a camera bag and smash on rocks, and so on.
A good equipment policy will cover your cameras, lenses, lights and accessories, on, and off premises, and during transport. Read Full Frame's guide here.
I needn't rehash the horror stories here, but general liability insurance is what covers you for causing injuries to yourself or others, property damage, and related accidents. If you thought that shiny new lens would be expensive to replace, don't Google how much some liability settlements end up costing the business owner!
It's important to take note of the policy's cover limits for liability as they will vary depending on what happened. For example, a medical expense includes $5,000 for immediate costs such as ambulance or hospital bills, regardless of fault. However, if you are at fault for bodily injury or property damage there is $1,000,000 of coverage beyond the $5,000. Read more on what these policies cover here.
Event Policies Versus Annual Policies
One deterrent for a lot of photographers on the fence about having a standalone insurance policy for their work is the regularity with which they shoot. A busy fashion photographer might have multiple shoots per week, but a hobbyist or part-time freelancer might have a few per year. For that reason, there is often a separation of policies, which is the case with Full Frame Insurance too, so I got them to break down the difference for me:
This is for a photographer or business that holds multiple sessions and shoots per year and wants to be fully covered at all times. This will include everything from weddings to landscapes, and even covers you when you travel abroad. It is most certainly the cheaper option if you shoot more than a few shoots per year, and offers options like adding short-term rental equipment on top throughout the policy. You can learn more about it here.
For hobbyists who might only shoot a few events per year, this short-term policy is probably the better option. It offers general liability coverage for 1-3 consecutive days and you can add additional insured people for $5 each too. To read more on event policies, click here.
Although this post is made in conjunction with Full Frame Insurance, the takeaway message is this: go with whichever provider you wish, just make sure you're insured. It's a relatively small expense to offset risks ranging from inconvenient, to life altering. When I started speaking with Insurance Canopy, the creators of Full Frame Insurance, I was and still am already insured elsewhere. I shop around every year so I have a fairly good feel for pricing and Full Frame is very competitive. Their purchasing process is also more streamlined than most, with the application process taking less than 10 minutes and instant coverage once purchased.
Prices for event insurance start at $59, and annual insurance starts at $99. Don't be put off by the words "starts at", for most photographers, those base prices will be the final amount!