A friend is heading off to India on a fascinating assignment. Besides giving him advice on India, our conversation turned to the potential risks there. Inevitably, (and wisely) this led us to the question of insurance, particular in terms of cameras. I walked him through the various types of insurance I have. As I did that, I realized how often I mentioned the mistakes that I made over the years, as I figured out what to do in terms of insurance. Wanting to save him (and others) from the problems I encountered, I transformed that conversation into this blog entry.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Neither am I an insurance expert. However, I am a professional photographer with a good size investment in my gear and my business. I want to insure those things, and myself, against potential harm, as best I can.
Insurance for your actual cameras and gear is the starting point. What have I learned about that? After losing a lens in the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and destroying other gear in a car wreck in California, I learned how important it is to have that kind of coverage. A couple caveats to keep in mind. Do not assume your cameras are protected under any kind of home-owner’s or renter’s insurance policy you might have. They probably are not. Though you may think of yourself as an amateur, the moment an insurer figures out the gear is being used in any way that might be construed as professionally, they will either deny your claim or void the policy (or both.)
Specifically ask if the coverage is all-risk, or if it is not, determine which risks are NOT covered!! I have an all risk policy because I cannot imagine trying to avoid risk “A” while happily taking on risk “B.” Similarly, make sure it covers you worldwide. Make sure the coverage is for replacement value, allowing you to buy the same gear after a loss. Avoid policies that only pay for the depreciated value of the gear rather than full replacement costs.
Ironically, for most photographers, professionals or amateurs, gear insurance appears to be the biggest issue. In reality, the next three categories of insurance are as or even more important, because a loss involving, liability, errors and omissions, or a disability can be much more financially devastating.
All professionals should also have liability insurance. This covers you for any harm you might do on a job, no matter how “harm” is defined. If someone trips over your tripod or you drop a lens on someone’s foot, for example, you are covered. A good insurance agent will issue what is known as a “proof of coverage” to a potential client or to a location where you will be working, so they know in advance you are covered. They should do this on a day’s notice or less. With the litigious nature of our society, this is an important service that insurance agents provide.
Errors and omissions insurance is equally important. It covers errors and omissions in any contractual arrangement you make as a photographer. Any serious professional does all their work under some kind of contract. Agreeing to photograph a wedding is technically a contract. Doing a portrait shoot is also a contract, whether you have a formal, written contract or not. (Though you should always have a written contract for any assignments you undertake.) Errors and omissions insurance covers you in case something goes wrong in how you fulfill the contract you are supposed to be fulfilling. My insurance agent told me that, for example if you photograph a wedding and the bride hates the photos, she might in the worst case sue you for the cost of restaging the entire wedding. (He was telling this based on personal experience.) Whether or not the lawsuit is rational or not, you have to respond so errors and omissions insurance is important.
Disability insurance replaces your salary in case you are disabled and cannot work. The need for that kind of protection is not unique to photographers in any sense. But as self-employed workers, photographers are especially likely to need it. As self-employed it is also harder to get so it will take work to find it.
I have my insurance through the Tom C. Pickard & Co. insurance agency. They can be found at http://www.tcpinsurance.com/photographer.html
I know that all this is boring. It is also necessary. In our litigation-prone culture, one lawsuit could destroy you and your business, whether or not you think of yourself as a professional. I for one do not want that to happen so that’s why I spend so much time and effort keeping my insurance in order.