Insurance 101: Insurance Coverage for Photographers
Most of us don’t give insurance coverage for our photographic equipment much thought – we automatically assume that it will be covered by our homeowners or renters insurance. The truth is, the risks associated with making a living as a paid photographer, whether you operate as a sole proprietor or as a corporation, extend far beyond replacing a stolen or damaged camera. As with any commercial enterprise, a photographer encounters significant risks each and every time customers choose his or her services. If you do not have insurance, your business will have to absorb the cost of loss (or lawsuit).
While you should always consult with an insurance agent to make sure you have all the coverages you need, here are some of the main things you need to consider and purchase when getting photography business insurance:
- General or Business Liability
General liability insurance coverage protects against any third-party claims for bodily injury or damage to property. This type of coverage is the one that is required by some venues or contracts to do business. Also, since a liability lawsuit can be a photographer’s most significant financial risk, general liability is the top coverage type for most photographers.
- Professional Liability (Errors and Omissions)
Sometimes referred to as “errors and omissions” coverage, professional liability insurance covers damages due to your failure to provide the services that you were contracted to do or if you make mistakes in providing the contracted services. These mistakes can be technical malfunctions of your equipment or your clients may just be unhappy with your work.
- Equipment Insurance (Owned & Rented)
Equipment insurance covers damage, loss or theft of your photography gear. When you’re frequently changing lenses and angles, it’s easy to imagine how your expensive equipment can be accidentally damaged and you can’t do business without your equipment. This coverage is a must for both professional photographers and for enthusiasts with extensive gear.
Other Coverage which should be considered (if it applies to your business):
- Computer Equipment Coverage
Not only should coverage be provided for your desktop and laptop computers, but your smartphone, tablet, hard drives, monitors and printers should be covered as well. Coverage should also include recovery of electronic data if you happen to drop and damage a hard drive. This coverage may not include recovery of data due to a virus/trojan.
- Business Personal Property (Office Contents & Furniture)
This photo coverage is intended for damage or theft to desks, chairs, tables, cabinets, LAN phones, office supplies etc. at your studio. A relatively low risk coverage compared to camera equipment, but it is a good coverage to have when running your business out of your studio.
- Workers’ Compensation for Photo Employees
Any assistant/employees working for your photography shoot will want compensation for any injuries sustained while on the job. It does not matter if you are paying them money or not. Do not rely on any photo assistants being considered an independent contractor. There are guidelines for each state on who is considered an independent contractor. Please do your research.
Workplace injuries among photographic employees are not as common or severe as they are in other industries; however, Workers’ Compensation Insurance is still a legal requirement even for those engaging in less dangerous occupations. Your employees have a right to paid medical treatment when they are injured, and the employer is liable for payment of medical and wage benefits arising from an injury. You should protect yourself with insurance, and the coverage is affordable. Workers’ Compensation Insurance requirements and provisions vary depending upon where you live.
- Cyber Liability for Photo Website
A business website is an essential tool for photography. Cyber Liability includes a lot of different coverages such as Website Publishing Liability, Security Breach Liability, Replacement or Restoration of Electronic Data, Extortion Threats, Business Income and Extra Expense, Public Relations Expense, Security Breach Expense, Business Income Extension, Laptop Replacement, Information Security Protection Coverage.
- Automobile Liability
Automobile coverage is vitally important. Many photographers choose to insure their automobiles under a personal insurance policy to avoid the sometimes high expense of commercial automobile coverage. This approach can pose problems. Personal insurance carriers determine their prices and coverage according to the nature of your vehicle use. Failure to properly represent commercial use can cause challenges to coverage. You should always indicate to your agent that you do, indeed, drive your automobile for business purposes. You should also carefully choose your limits to include protection for both your personal and business assets.
Commercial Automobile policies are beneficial because they are designed for commercial business and provide high limits and often can save premium when multiple vehicles are insured under the policy.
- Hired & Non-Owned Auto Liability
This is for vehicles your assistants/employees drive AND vehicles you rent for photo shoots. If the assistant or employee gets into an accident, then their insurance will usually pick-up as primary, and then any excess will be picked up by this coverage. Most photographers end up getting this insurance when a venue requires it along with other coverages like Auto Physical Damage.
If your business is incorporated and you use your own automobile, have employees, or frequently rent automobiles when you travel, this coverage is vitally important. Your employee’s routine trip to the photo lab or the bank could have serious financial repercussions for you and your business if your employee causes an accident with his or her own vehicle. Hired/Non-owned Automobile Liability is an easy addition to your Insurance policy, and with a standard limit of $1,000,000 will go far in protecting you against accident victims seeking “deeper pockets.” This coverage is secondary and in addition to General Liability Coverage.
When reviewing all of the different coverage types for photographers insurance, don’t be overwhelmed or too focused on price because it’s likely that you won’t need all of them. Most professional photographers, especially those that work on location and without a studio open to the public, will see premiums within the range of $250 to $600 per year. The cost will be driven by a few primary factors, such as the environment in which you work and the equipment you use. Photographers with studios open to the public and business owners with employees are most likely to exceed to $600 annual cost of insurance.
Other factors that can affect the cost of photographers insurance are deductibles and the coverage limits. Higher deductibles generally decrease the premium but will mean more out of pocket cost to you when you have claims. Lower coverage limits also place more financial risk on you but can also decrease the cost of your annual premium.
In almost every case with commercial insurance policies, the best way to buy photographers insurance is to combine coverages into a business owners policy. Most professional photographers will need general liability, professional liability and equipment insurance. A business owners policy can combine all three coverage types for a greater value than buying the coverages separately.