I recently suffered through a flood at my studio that caused many thousands of dollars in damage and many months of headaches. Thankfully, though, we didn’t lose any expensive camera equipment, and the computers, furniture and structures we did lose were covered by insurance. It got me thinking, though, about how many of us photographers are sure we’ve properly insured our gear.
If you’re employed as a photographer, whether self-employed or working as part of a larger company, you’re likely to have commercial insurance that specifically covers your tools and equipment. In fact, if you’re a professional photographer and you damage your equipment, your homeowners or renters insurance policy often specifically excludes those tools used for your business. That’s right: If you earn at least 50% of your income as a photographer, your personal policies don’t cover business needs. So it’s even more important to cross your T’s and dot your I’s and purchase business insurance that also includes liability, medical payment coverage and even insurance against the loss of income that can be incurred with an insured loss. If you don’t already have it, consider investigating photography-specific business insurance offered through professional organizations such as ASMP, APA, PPA and NPPA.
For a hobbyist or semi-professional photographer, a homeowners or renters insurance policy is likely going to provide basic coverage for camera equipment. The problem with relying on the homeowners policy is the deductible. It’s likely that you’ve got a $500 or $1,000 deductible, or even a “1% of the value of the home” policy. Whatever the amount of the deductible, that’s the amount that will be “deducted” for any reimbursement provided for ruined camera equipment. A $1,000 deductible may be tolerable if you lose $25,000 worth of gear, but not so ideal if you lose a single lens. Also, simply breaking a lens isn’t likely to be covered by a homeowners policy. That policy covers your camera against the same losses as all other contents in your house—fire, wind, theft—not just because you’re clumsy.
To add your camera equipment to a homeowners or renters insurance policy, you’ll want to create a rider that specifically addresses the equipment, covering it beyond the standard contents of your home. Riders cost a small percentage of the value insured, and protect equipment against all sorts of things a regular homeowners or renters policy will not. In fact, a rider typically covers against any kind of loss in any location—except for specific exclusions outlined in the policy. When covering photography equipment with a rider, you’ll simply provide your agent with a list of items to be covered, their serial numbers, purchase dates and prices, as well as an estimate of their current value. Most policies will provide for replacement cost based on the value at the time of the loss, which unfortunately means a DSLR that cost $3,500 three years ago may only bring $1,500 in replacement cost today.
The above also holds true with a different type of policy known as Inland Marine Insurance. This type of policy was developed specifically for businesses that need to cover moveable equipment. These days, it can be purchased by individuals or businesses to cover things like camera equipment that doesn’t always stay in a home or office. While it accomplishes much the same thing as a homeowners rider, it’s a separate policy with a different, potentially lower, deductible.
The bottom line is, don’t assume that because you have a basic homeowners or renters insurance policy that your photography equipment—particularly if it’s very expensive or if you use it for business—is covered. I’m certainly no insurance agent, so I invite anyone with expertise to weigh in and help their fellow photographers via the comments below.