Why Photography Insurance Should Matter to You

The aperture blades of a Nikon 50mm F/1.4 camera lens.

When you're starting out as a photographer insurance seems like one of the least glamorous ways to spend what little money you may have, but it's probably one of the most important investments you can make.  My entire budget (a word I use loosely in these contexts) bought me one single entry-level camera, a small bag to carry it in, and a few misguided accessory purchases that I probably bought because some other amateur posted a blog and I eagerly lapped up his or her, "wisdom."  When most of us get into photography our budgets are incredibly tight.  That camera kit was all I had.  If some schmuck decided to crack my window and walk away with it, I wouldn't have had the money to spend on replacing it.

Thank God that never happened.  Then one day down the road someone changed my path for me.  Someone at some point made me an offer to take photos for money, and I accepted.  Does that make me a, "professional?"  I personally don't think so, but the definition of what makes a professional is a whole other ball of wax; let's just say that in the eyes of most insurance companies it certainly does.  So at that very point, the very second the money changed hands, I gave my residential insurance a reason to no longer extend coverage to my equipment.  That's the point where I should have asked a few questions. 

If you don't already have photography insurance, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

1. Can you afford to lose your equipment?

When I started I had relatively good chunk of money caught up in a single camera.  In my experience not too many people only spend to the halfway point of their budget on their first camera.  So if you don't have spare cash to replace it all if it's lost, then that's a problem.   You may want to ask yourself if the risk of losing your camera out weighs the costs of your premium and deductible.  I personally couldn't afford to replace my equipment if it were stolen, but I could definitely cover my deductible.  If you're counting on your equipment to earn a living, you should think hard on if you can afford to risk it.

2. Can you afford to lose your home?

I'm not talking about a scenario where your camera fails and the bride and groom take you to the cleaners (though that does happen).  I'm talking about the many other reasons you could be sued.  If your flash overheats and touches a curtain and starts a fire, if a piece of your equipment falls on something or someone, if you damage rented gear or a part of the venue, etc. 

Don't think that just because you've been in the field for a while that nothing can go wrong, it's not just something that happens to beginners.  When I purchased my Profoto gear I initially bought an OCF Beauty Dish and paired it with a D2 1000w.  Thankfully I watched a more recent video Profoto made and came to learn that the OCF line isn't rated for the heat of the D2's modelling lights, so now I can only use that particular beauty dish with one of my Profoto B1 500w's.  I've been in the game for a number of years, this was just something that didn't really pop out in the user manuals, and it's something that absolutely could have caused a fire. 

3. Is it Worth Getting the Job?

Insurance is a prerequisite for many high-end venues.  It's more than a request, some venues won't even let you in until you've proven you're adequately insured.  That being said, you don't want to show up to a gig just to find out that you aren't permitted to cover the job.  You likely won't be able to maintain the insurance dodge for long if you plan to work as a wedding photographer in a major city.  I've even been required to prove insurance in order to secure photography permits to shoot in most cities.  Not to mention renting equipment often requires coverage.  Is it worth risking your income and reputation because you didn't insure yourself?

4. What's Peace of Mind Worth to You?

Even having had answered the previous questions you may have resolved that it doesn't make sense to you for some reason.  Realize the true impact that may have on you.  I personally worked a number of jobs without insurance when I was starting out, and I was terrified, particularly when I worked without an assistant, that someone would try to take my gear or accidentally damage it.  Honestly I had more anxiety about my equipment growing legs and walking away than I did about actually shooting the jobs themselves.  If you're not 100% confident then perhaps it's time to stop and consider covering your butt.

Side Note

Firstly, I'm not sponsored by anyone; so when I recommend something it's entirely because I stand by them, not because I'm looking to get some sort of kick-back.  I wrote this because recently I changed photography insurance companies.  I'm not going to talk about who I left, that's not the reason I'm writing this.  It's more about why I left, and why I feel that the move makes sense.  My old company, though they are VERY well established and have a great reputation, was an American company.  I work in Canada, and that always left me feeling that somehow if I ever needed to make a claim that it might complicate the process or worse.  To that end I researched Canadian photography insurance companies and I came upon this article featuring a woman named Catalina Bloch who clearly has the background to understand wedding photography concerns.  Noting that the article was a bit older (2014) I reached out to her on Facebook to see which insurance company she presently recommends.  She strongly recommended Front Row Insurance as they have a packages that you can fill out online and be covered in minutes.  I followed her advice, and though I've yet to make a claim, I also have much more confidence in my coverage as it's a Canadian company with years of experience.  Their sign-up was ridiculously straight-forward and quick, their rates are completely reasonable, and their package options were very easy to understand.

Also, just as a bit of a shout-out to thank her for her recommendation, you should totally check out Catalina's photobooth business MDRN Photobooth, and keep her in mind for any weddings in the Ottawa area.