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A Cautionary Tale for Photographers

A Cautionary Tale for Photographers

Do you have insurance? Do you need insurance? Is this something that you've thought about and then just not gone ahead and purchased? Photography is a hobby, so I'll be covered with my home insurance should anything go wrong. Is there something in the small print that won't cover your equipment at home or overseas?

If you are a professional photographer, you will have insurance that covers your equipment, public liability, and anything else written into the insurance for your particular business operations. But should you have it if it's simply your hobby?

Setting the Scene

On a recent outing with the Nikon Z 7II to do some long exposures, I also took my Fuji X-T5, which, to be honest, was a last-minute decision. I simply took it to capture the surrounding landscapes. The X-T5 is normally attached to my camera bag strap at my chest for easy access while out hiking. 

Along the way, I photographed a couple of spots on my way to the waterfall using the X-T5, mainly for reference and to look back on for future compositions. While heading down toward my final location, I spotted a burn which was in full flow and thought to myself, "While I'm here I'll grab a couple of long exposures on the X-T5." I set up the camera on the unextended tripod a couple of feet away from the burn and fired off a few shots as I watched the light move across the small hills above, contemplating blending them together for the final image.

After about five minutes I was done, so I turned to get my camera bag which was to the side of me. In my peripheral vision, I caught sight of my tripod and camera taking a headfirst dive into the burn. In under a second, I was in the burn fishing them both out, which is probably the fastest I've ever dived into water. I was drenched, but more importantly, so were the camera and my Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 lens. Sure, it's not the fire depicted in the header image, but water is just as damaging.

I had been shooting on my knees for the last five minutes or so with no movement and a very light wind at times, so how could this have happened? But that is really not the question in this case. The fact of the matter is that it did happen. The only equipment survivors of this were the Smallrig L-Bracket, a Neweer variable ND, the tripod, and my SD card, which I grabbed straight away and left to dry for a few days.

Yes, as you can guess, I was upset, but I would have been even more upset if I didn't have insurance, as the camera and lens were the only two photographic purchases I had made in the past year. That I suppose doesn't even matter either, it's the fact that I had insurance that made the whole episode bearable.


Minor drama aside, this kind of thing could happen to anybody and probably has happened to you in some form with your equipment, so we've all been there. But have we all been insured? My own insurance company was excellent in their handling of the whole episode, and I had my new camera in just over a week.

My insurance covers me for this type of incident, and I'm glad I took the time to invest in it. Each piece of equipment is listed, and any new piece is added when I purchase it. Does this affect the premium? Well, yes in some cases, but each time I call and work out the finer points of what and where.

Teaching photography at college is my main income, so my policy states that my equipment is not covered when in my main place of work, the college, but is covered outside of this and in foreign countries. This may seem odd to those who have insurance presently, but as policies for your equipment are mainly written for you, this was fair, as it also kept my premiums down. I also just use the college cameras, which keeps my gear safe.

What Insurance Provides

With so many photographic insurance companies out there, how do you choose? Get quotes from them all and compare the policies. See what you are covered for and where the limits are relative to your specific needs. Budget can also be a big factor in choosing the right provider. If this is a factor, read all your quotes again and give your preferred provider a call, as they may be able to guide you in what would be best for you, and perhaps at a lower rate. Speak to providers who are experienced serving photographers, as they ultimately will give you the best advice.

Things to Consider When Seeking Quotes and What Should Be Covered

There are other considerations to be made besides the list below, but as I'm aiming this article at mainly hobbyists so that your peace of mind is kept should anything go wrong (which I hope never does):

  • Theft and Loss: How is this covered?
  • Damage: What type of damage?
  • Coverage on and off-site: Are there any restrictions?
  • Depreciation: Old for new?
  • Public Liability: Does your photography involve working even part-time with the public?
  • Venue Requirements: Some venues will not permit you to photograph without coverage.
  • Insurance Excess: How much will you contribute towards replacement?

Always read the fine print. Yes, it can be tedious, but in the end, it's worth it, so you know where you stand. Here in the UK, some home insurance companies will cover electronic devices including cameras up to a certain value with your home policy. If you are relying on this as your main insurance, I'd recommend checking the value amount and ensuring your photographic equipment is covered, because you may find that in some cases it is not.

  The final image from the rescued SD card.


Would I recommend insurance for your equipment even as a hobbyist? The answer is a resounding yes, as you never know what could happen. Sure, looking at the negative side is no way to think, but that assurance that you are covered is definitely worth it. Your equipment costs a lot of money to replace, so why wouldn't you have it insured?

Gary McIntyre's picture

Gary McIntyre is a landscape photographer and digital artist based on the west coast of Scotland. As well as running photography workshops in the Glencoe region, providing online editing workshops, Gary also teaches photography and image editing at Ayrshire college.

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My insurance coverage is affordable and my deductible is $500, imagine if a backpack full of gear is damaged or stolen and it has to be replaced out of pocket. If you're a hobbies, you may have coverage on your homeowners or renters policy.

This was quite awhile ago but I had a full bag of gear stolen from my car - bodies, lenses, flash, etc., etc., and what wasn't covered by my homeowners insurance was covered by my auto insurance.

"personal articles policy" from State Farm is the way to go. No home/auto/renters insurance required and covers everything from dropping it to it being stolen, to leaving it somewhere. No deductible and they'll reimburse you for what you paid for it. It costs about $1/year per $100 of coverage, so covering $10,000 worth of gear would cost about $100/year.

I dropped a 70-200mm IS lens a few years back and it messed up the internals to where it wouldn't focus if tilted upwards. They quickly reimbursed me for the full MSRP and even let me keep it.

Another time, I left a $500 Canon 580EXII on a bus (or it fell out of a pocket), no luck recovering it and they paid in full.

My claims were over the course of several years, so it's not like I'm losing or dropping a bunch of stuff, but for the $150/year, the piece of mind was more than worth it as a hobbyist as a $1000 lens hurts to replace. For $10, having it covered against theft, loss and damage? Absolutely.

That is exactly the kind of insurance I have priced out, but never found any premium anywhere near as affordable as what you are paying.

There is a State Farm agent in the tiny rural community that I live in. When I get back home next month, I will stop in to see him at his office, show him your comment, and see if he can give me similar coverage for a similar rate.

Hopefully they will also be able to cover my iMac computers for the same rate of 1% per year.

Thank you.

Make sure to ask for "personal articles policy", most should be familiar with it but it's not one of the major policies they push (home/renters/auto)

If your local one isn't familiar with it, you can call another office and set up a policy over the phone/email. I haven't been into a state farm office, it's all been done electronically.

Cost should be around $1 per $100 of insurance (per year), no deductible and full payout if anything happens.

It's intended for stuff you can have on you, like a camera..phone..jewelry..laptop.. so they might not cover an iMac but would cover a MacBook. Doesn't hurt to ask though!

The insurance covers it no matter where it happens (it can happen at home, in a car, or while on you), but it's intended for items like that, that CAN be taken out with you

I tried to get insurance for my camera gear (~€25k) a couple of months ago. All of the insurance companies had no solution for gear over a year old. That's a problem for me since most of my gear is older than that.
What I learned from this: get insurance for every new piece of equipment thay I buy.
I live in Belgium.

I will never be able to afford to buy any camera or lens brand new, so I guess if I lived in Belgium I would never be able to get insurance on any of my gear, no matter how much I was able to pay for it.

At least once a year I look into getting insurance for my gear. I also look into getting liability insurance so that I can be a guide for hire and take paying clients out into nature on photoshoots.

Sadly, every time I talk to an insurance agent about my needs/wants, and get a quote, it is outrageously expensive - way way way beyond anything I can possibly afford.

I think insurance is a really great idea for those who can afford it. But for those living within much more modest means, it is an extreme luxury because of the outrageously high premiums. And trust me, I have checked with a lot of different companies and also checked with agents who work with multiple companies, and no one has offered a rate that is even close to being affordable for me.

It is a shame that they can and do charge so high a premium, and like every other type of insurance currently it's all rising. Public liability can be an expensive one on it's own never mind adding the equipment cover into that.

It's interesting to read from the comments here how much insurance differs and what can be covered depending on age, location, etc

I’ve been a member of PPA for a few years mainly because of their gear insurance.