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Photography

Are You Ready for the Worst? Insuring Your Photo & Video Kit

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This post is part of a series called Freelance Photography.
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Insuring yourself and your kit is essential these days. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or an amateur, no doubt you’ll need some level of cover. This article covers the various types of insurance you may need as a photographer or videographer and will hopefully help you decide what’s best for you and your situation. 

Before we begin, bear in mind that all references here are made to law and practice in the United Kingdom. The coverage you need is generally the same in most places, but laws do vary from one jurisdiction to another. Check the laws where you live and consult your insurance broker to make sure you’re properly insured. Also, any information here is aside from any warranties you may have for your kit.

Storm clouds
Insurance is like a good umbrella: you hope you don't need it, and when the storm comes it's too late to get one.

1. Insurance for Your Things

Theft

You can often cover your camera and kit by naming them on your home insurance policy. This means if your gear is stolen due to someone breaking into your house, you pay an excess and get a replacement. The excess can often be as much as some cameras are worth though, so beware false economy. Also, the company will often only pay you what the camera is worth now, as opposed to replacing like for like.

Likewise your car insurance will usually cover you if your kit was stolen from your car. This tends to only be if nothing’s on show, so your kit should be kept in the boot or covered by a blanket on the seats at all times.

Using a bespoke photography insurance company, whether at a professional or amateur level of cover, you pay for a separate policy and you’re covered for the things we mentioned above but usually with an extra level of protection. For example, if I was to put down my kit bag and walk away briefly to take a shot and someone ran up and stole the bag, I’m covered for that, whereas on the home insurance, it would be very unlikely as it would be due to my own negligence. This kind of coverage varies, but mine is around £250 for a year with a fairly low excess, to give you an idea.

Accidental Damage

You drop your camera or lens and it breaks. Something your house insurance doesn’t usually cover without an add-on and increased excess. If you crack your £300 lens it’s hardly worth you paying £250 to get it repaired through your insurance. You’d probably just buy a new one and start a warranty again or take it independently to have it repaired. It’s here when the lower excess that comes with a specific photography insurance policy is really worth it. Also, you can sometimes get an allowance to rent a lens while yours is being repaired, something I’ll touch on next.

Replacements

If the unthinkable happens, how do you get a replacement? Insurance companies notoriously take forever to sort out claims so if you use your car or home insurance, this could take a while. Whilst the same might be true for a bespoke policy, many will have included an equipment allowance for rental of kit so, if your camera is your job, you won’t be completely stuck until you get a new one.

Earlier I mentioned that with home insurance policies it’s usually a case of getting what the camera is worth now, rather than a replacement. With a specific camera insurance policy you’ll often get a replacement like for like, or of equivalent specification if your camera is no longer the current model.

What is Covered?

It’s so easy to think of photographers' insurance as just cameras and lenses. When taking out a policy you’ll often be asked to make an inventory in the event that you need to claim. Don’t forget to include things like batteries, memory cards, camera bags, speedlights, tripods, filters and computers and their various accessories. Providing you’ve backed up your work and done everything you’re supposed to do, some companies will give you a data recovery service for free or a small fee, should your computer suddenly stop working.

Flooded landscape
When bad things happen and you're flooded with demands a good insurance policy is a life-raft when you need it most.

2. Insurance for Yourself and Others

Public Liability

Many people think this is only for professionals but that isn’t so. Even an amateur or hobbyist level of cover on a bespoke policy will have a certain amount of liability cover. This is usually a lot less than you’d need if you were a professional, though.

So, what is public liability? If you cause accident or injury to others, you could be sued. If you’re photographing at a posh stately home and you knock over an antique vase, you could be sued. This is why you need public liability. Liability insurance is a must if you’re working professionally in photography. You might think "oh I only do a couple of weddings a year to supplement my income, I don't really need it" but imagine if at one of those weddings your tripod falls onto a child and breaks an arm. If you’re found at fault you could be sued and if you’re not insured then this would come out of your own pocket, legal expenses and all.

Depending on how you’re working or photographing, the level of cover will vary. This is something you can usually test out when putting in details to get a quote. For example, working with local councils where I live requires a minimum of £5 million liability. This is a lot more than is usually needed. Some companies (including the one I’m with) allow you to have a lower limit for your usual day-to-day work and then increased coverage on the odd occasion that you need it. If that work is fairly regular, though, or for a prolonged period, then your insurance company may charge you to add on the extra cover.

Professional Indemnity

This is the one that many people skip on because they maybe don’t understand what it fully covers. Basically, indemnity covers the cost of defending any disputes or allegations that may be made against you, but it’s also more than that. Again using a wedding as an example, say all your images (and their backups) somehow got destroyed or even that the client just didn’t like the pictures. They may want to sue you to get their money back, plus compensation.

Professional indemnity will cover you in the first instance by fielding the complaint. If it’s become legal and solicitors are involved, the cover should pay for that too. This takes the pressure off you having to deal with the situation personally. Usually when you take out these policies, the company will provide you with paperwork to have clients sign or they’ll legally check over your own contract to make sure it’s sound. If things progress beyond that and the clients are awarded a pay out, it won't come from your own pocket.

Employer’s Liability

Another one that tends to be overlooked, particularly when people think they aren't an employer. If you have an unpaid assistant or someone who’s on work experience you need employer's liability. If they injure anyone, the responsibility is with you. If they injure themselves, the responsibility is also with you and they could even sue you. If you have a second shooter with you, make sure they’re insured themselves too, but still have your own cover, just in case. Adding this on to your policy doesn’t tend to cost very much, for me it was about £5.

Coverage Abroad

cover abroad
Check to see if your coverage includes travelling abroad [Image: Public Domain - Pixabay]

When you travel, normal travel insurance doesn’t cover much and separate travel insurance for your kit costs a lot. When taking out an insurance policy, check to see if they cover you outside of your home country and find out exactly what the cover is. I have a month’s cover outside of the UK per year, which is great peace of mind whether I’m working abroad or even just on holiday and wanting to take some kit along. If you are covered, be sure to check whether your insurance company needs your travel dates beforehand in order for you to be covered.

3. Where to Get Insurance

Start with the insurance policies you already have. Can you add your equipment to your home and auto insurance? This is usually a quick and straightforward process. When considering your options, use comparison sites to help you get the best deals and don't be afraid of talking to someone on the phone and asking them to explain anything you don't understand. 

For more specialised insurance look to local or national professional associations. These are good to join for a variety of reasons, but insurance is one of the best. Most associations offer their members a discounted group rate on insurance and have good information about the policies you may need. Also look for workshops or seminars held by your association on the particulars of insurance in your local region.

Lastly, specialized insurance brokers who are familiar who the needs of photographers and videographers can help you find a bespoke solution for your needs. These professionals can be tremendously helpful and insightful. The peace of mind that comes with knowing you are completely covered is likely worth the added expense. They may even save you money.

Conclusion

Whether your are hobbyist or professional it’s always best to be insured, both for your kit and for yourself. Insurance is mostly paying for peace of mind but when you consider the implications of lost, stolen, and damaged kit, or being sued, then it’s money well spent. Here are some key points from this article to bear in mind when choosing insurance.

  • Home and car insurance will have low level coverage and usually a high excess
  • Try to get replacement coverage that is like for like
  • Public liability is essential but get the amount of cover that’s right for you
  • Remember to include accessories and extras such as your computer when compiling your insurance inventory
  • If you have an assistant or second shooter, have employer’s liability
  • Check to see if you’re covered abroad—even if you don’t use it professionally you can use it when you holiday

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