NOTE: I am not a licensed insurance agent but have interviewed three for this post. Please note this disclaimer.
These comments are advisory in nature and not a guarantee in coverage – please refer to your policy for specific coverage’s and exclusions.
It will eventually happen to many of us. Our gear will be lost, stolen or damaged and insurance is often the only protection we can find against that tragic event.
When you do lose your gear, you’ll certainly have that sick feeling in your stomach, followed by panic, rage and ultimately resolve.
If you’re NOT a professional, (this means you have never tried to sell your photos and don’t have a stock photo website, or other portfolio from which you try to sell, or a commercial enterprise, etc.) and have less than $10,000 worth of camera gear, MOST homeowners and/or renters policies will cover theft of your precious cameras. Note that you can’t insure your images under such a policy for their replacement value, i.e., if you shot them on film and paid $4.00 to have print made, you’ll get the cost of the film and the print, but not the cost of making the image, or the lost potential income it represents.
These policies will cover your gear, but not at face value. Instead, they’ll give you “market value” for your lost gear. This means that your nearly new Brand X camera, once stolen, is probably going to bring 80% (or less.) You’ll have to come up with the rest out of pocket or buy used and hope you can find one that cheaply.
To see if you are covered at all, ask your agent to put in writing what your status is.
If you’re a professional, (If you are trying to sell your work or are already successfully doing so you will need a business owner’s policy (AKA BOP.) Please note that if you have more than $10,000 worth of gear, you should consider buying separate gear insurance. Most homeowners/renters policies won’t cover you. The policy you need can come in the form of simple business insurance or something more specific like gear insurance.
In many cases, a BOP will give you full coverage, i.e, replacement cost coverage. This sort of insurance also often includes errors and omissions and liability insurance for your business that you cannot get with your homeowner’s policy.
But even a BOP has excursions as do all insurance policies.
A Business Owners Policy (BOP) for a home-based photographer has some limitations and exclusions:
1) The covered territory is – US and its territories, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
2) Property not covered while in the mail (United States Postal Service).
3) Property not covered while waterborne – however, we cover property while aboard vessels on inland waterways when the waterborne transportation is incidental to the land portion of the journey;
4) Property not covered from a flood, surface water, waves (including tidal wave and tsunami), tides, tidal water, overflow of any body of water, or spray from any of these, all whether or not driven by wind (including storm surge).
5) Property theft from any unattended vehicle unless at the time of theft its windows, doors and compartments were closed and locked and there are visible signs that the theft was the result of forced entry. But this exclusion does not apply to property in the custody of a carrier for hire.
6) Personal Property not covered off-premises – if it is at a premises you own, lease that is not listed as a premises on the policy.
In order to cover these (and other exclusions) you will need an Inland Marine – Commercial Articles Policy which does not have these exclusions. I strongly recommend you add this coverage if you haven’t already. The cost is approximately $100 per year for $20,000 of coverage. If you have a PPA National Membership you may have this coverage already (but not a BOP policy.)
While the Inland Marine won’t cover face value, it often has a lower deductible than the BOP and that can help lessen the pain.
Now if you’re not sure whether or not you need insurance, here are some scenarios that would be covered under the kinds of policies I suggest, but NOT under most homeowner’s policies.
1. Someone breaks into your studio and steals your gear
2. You screw up a once in a lifetime wedding shot
3. Fire destroys the roof of your studio and you can’t take bookings while the roof is being repaired
4. You are on your way back from a shoot and you get into a car accident that damages your gear
5. You are sued because someone visiting your office to look at your portfolio slips and falls
6. A pipe bursts and leaks all over your office destroying critical documents
You can get insurance for any of the above and more.
I went for decades without a loss but a couple of years ago, I suffered from a real doozy. I am grateful that I had coverage and that my agent got me paid right away. You can’t protect against every bad thing in the universe but you can prepare for it.
NOTE: My personal agent, Howard Burkholz from Allstate helped me prepare this article. He specializes in insurance for photographers and got me a price on better coverage than I got through PPA or NANPA for less money. Tell him I sent you and he’ll fix you up. He can be reached at: