Insuring your Photo/Video Business - What to Consider

Insuring your Photo/Video Business - What to Consider

When you decide to get serious and make your photo/video hobby a source of income, one thing that you need to look into is insurance. With the abundance of different plans available it's easy to become overwhelmed as to what coverage is right for you, but hopefully this guide can make that decision easier.

Much of the following stems from my own experiences in selecting an insurance policy as a commercial photographer/studio owner (lease tenant), including knowledge I had previously and things that I hadn't considered prior to selecting my plan. It's always a good idea to consult multiple sources and conduct your own research before making an important decision like selecting the policy that's right for you; these are simply some basic guidelines to use as a tool in that decision making process.

1) Know your options

The first part of finding the right insurance plan is figuring out what's available. Your local insurance provider should offer a summary of their plans including your deductible, liability coverage, legal coverage, etc. on their websites, or in brochures available in their office. Another option is to ask for a consultation from an agent, but it's been my experience that these consultations turn into a sales pitch pretty quickly, so it's important to make it clear that you're not signing anything if you do go this route... it's easy to think a plan has everything you need when it's laid out for you in a few minutes only to realize later on that you're not covered for something you're required to do regularly in your work. Take a notebook or tablet, write down the details, and grab the rep's card before you leave.

If you still aren't sure, it might help to survey some other local professionals working in your industry. In my experience, most won't mind offering some suggestions or giving you the name of a good insurance rep.

2) Find out what coverage you need

You know you need to cover your equipment, but how much do you need for liability? One consideration is if you're opening a studio or leasing office space, most property managers require that you're insured in case of fire, flooding, etc. before you can move in, but even if you're working from home you still need to be covered for your client's property and equipment (your home insurance only covers you while you're at home). If you're shooting engagement portraits in the park, you're probably okay with a few thousand dollars, but if you're dragging your studio lights into a large commercial office space, a fire could put you on the hook for millions, and many large companies require a minimum amount of coverage before they'll hire you. A good insurance policy will not only cover you for damages (regardless of who's at fault), but legal consultation as well.

If you think you'll be traveling out of your province/state or country for work, many plans will offer international coverage for additional fees, this is usually something that you need to talk to the provider about.

3) Determine your budget

Sometimes your insurance needs will narrow your options down to one plan, but in the event that you have a few levels of coverage to choose from (or you have the option of paying extra for more in certain plans), you'll need to sit down and decide how much you're able to afford each month. You really can never have too much coverage, but many higher level plans also come with much higher deductibles, and you need to make sure that you can afford to replace any equipment valued under that minimum.

It doesn't hurt to look into professional photo/video organizations in your area, as some will offer discounts on certain plans that they endorse. I'm not a member of the Professional Photographers of Canada, but I know that should I decide to become one as I'll get a 20% discount on my premiums.

4) Prepare for the worst

In the event that you do have to make a claim, it's a good idea to have a list of all of your equipment including the purchase price, date of purchase, and serial numbers (a photo works best) already prepared. This really comes in handy for cases of theft, but in the event that your claim is questioned by the company, having this as proof can save you from being denied. This list is just as important of your client's files, and should be backed up accordingly, as well as sent to your insurance rep. Personally, I keep a copy of my list in Google Docs which I can quickly access and make changes to no matter where I am as long as I have an internet connection.

Many business plans will cover loss of income resulting from downtime due to a claim, but likely won't pay out if your client goes elsewhere because you can't accommodate them in the mean time, so don't think insurance is an excuse to not have backup equipment.

Of course, plans vary greatly depending on where you are and what you're doing, but in my experience these points are fairly universal. If you read anything that contradicts my experience or you'd like to share your positive or negative stories about an insurance plan/provider, please let us know it in the comments below!

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21 Comments

Tam Nguyen's picture

My iPhone is insured. I'm all set!

Jayson Carey's picture

Are you working for the Chicago Sun-Times?

Jaron Schneider's picture

HA.

Zach Sutton's picture

The top image of this post makes me cringe. I'm so glad I've never had to see that first hand.

As a former owner of the 14-24mm with that monster front element, I saw that picture in my nightmares. Yeesh...

I was really hoping for a direction or links to some good plans, not just what to look for.

James Robertson's picture

That's simply impossible, as I stated plans vary based on providers and regions, this site has an international reader base.

okay. I am just graduating college and not real sure where to start.

James Robertson's picture

Section 1 should give you some ideas.

Zach Sutton's picture

Call around.

James is really right about it varying from place to place. When I lived in Michigan, State Farm was the cheapest by far. I moved to New Mexico, and State Farm was the most expensive.

There are some groups that specialize in providing insurance for photographers, who have needs that are greatly different from other businesses. I'm based in CA and have used Hill & Usher (they will insure photographers throughout the United States) and I'm pleased with the breadth of their coverage although I've never had to file a claim. http://www.packagechoice.com

People should also look at professional organizations like Professional Photographers of America that offer basic coverage to members with membership or at reduced pricing.

Most home-owners insurance policies will cover it if its not a 'business' tool. You just need to check out your deductible and give them a call.

Yes. They cover 1500$ for "electronics" or some variations of this coverage.

you have 2 bodies and 3-4 lenses and 2 flashes? That normal coverage won't do.

Brandon Luckain's picture

I wonder how insurance works for used gear....not everyone can afford to buy new.

Nismode, it depends on the insurance company. My company provides for the replacement value of the equipment, new or used.

Right now my back up camera is my old Canon Rebel XSI. Would
it be worth insuring it with the rest of my equipment.

James Robertson's picture

Depends on your insurance deductible, a used XSi is what, $250? I'd say most business plans would have a minimum closer to $500 (mine is 1000) and then your premiums go up when you use it, so in that case I would think that it would be easier to just replace it out of pocket.

To look at it another way, how many times do you take the backup camera with you by it self? If often, then maybe it's not worth it, but let's say you have the camera in your back along with your $3000 body and $6000 worth of lenses and the equipment gets lost/stolen/catches fire/falls in the ocean etc. Your deductible is still going to be the same whether you have $9000 worth of gear to claim or $9250. If you don't have that camera also insured, instead of paying the $500 deductible (or whatever) and being done iwth it, you have to pay the $500 AND the $250 for the XSi out of pocket along with all those other small items you didn't insure.

I guess it really depends on how much your insurance goes up...maybe it IS a good strategy to insure your "can't live without" gear and take a chance with the less expensive items

DJ Jarak's picture

Excellent information.

I live in Florida and I have been shopping around for who offers the best coverage and neither Geico or State Farm offer coverage for a business. The offer only protection for personal items which means you ARE NOT getting paid and you only use your gear a hobby. If you insure your items under this policy and you go to file a claim and they find out you have been making money using the equipment they insured then the claim will be voided -- so be careful about that. The best I have found so far is ALLSTATE offers protection in the event it's stolen or lost and they replace 100% and it's $0 deductible on $10,000. This policy is not coverage for dropped or damaged gear. Basically I was told if I drop a lens I should just throw it in the ocean and file it as lost and I will get a check / or lens in the mail.

Do you think it would cover for say skate board filming with lens hits i really dout they would and my lens is only 380 so i dont think it would even be worth the time and effort to insure it