You have insurance to cover damage to, loss of, or theft of your photography equipment, or do you? We have all heard the words of warning, look both ways before you cross the street, don’t talk to strangers, and read the fine print. Maybe for photographers it should be read the fine print before you sell a print. Recently a friend of mine (who, for the purposes of this post we’ll call Bill), learned about insurance and the fine print found in policies in an unfortunate way. Bill had his home broken into and some of his expensive photography equipment stolen. Having someone violate your home is hard enough, but the loss of valuable items is like salt in a wound. Finding out that the insurance you purchased and thought protected your loss doesn’t have you covered, might take you to a different state of mind and not in a good way. Read the fine print.
It turns out that Bill, like many of us, insured his valuables on his homeowner’s insurance policy. Being careful types, we as photographers often take the time and go to the expense to declare our gear and take out additional coverage (a rider or addendum to the insurance to cover the specific property) to protect us from loss. However, we really don’t know how good (or bad) our insurance is until we need a claim paid. We assume that as good, conscientious citizens, if we pay our premiums, our property is protected. After the theft, Bill got over the initial emotions (violation, fright, shock, anger, etc) of being a victim and made a claim with his insurance that he thought would reimburse him for his loss.
Surprises can be fun, such as when receiving a gift or having a good friend show up unexpectedly. Unfortunately, to my friend’s surprise, he found out that the claims adjuster did a quick web search and saw that Bill has advertised prints for sale. Because he sells a few prints a year, his gear is now considered “commercial” equipment and as such, not covered by his homeowner’s insurance policy which is intended to cover “personal” property. Bill countered with the claim adjuster, “But I’ve rarely sold a print”. To which the adjuster countered, “It doesn’t matter, even if you just attempt to sell a print, it becomes considered commercial or professional and is no longer covered”. Hmmm, so the $1 you earned from the stock agency that just sold one copy of your print, could now void your insurance. Sadly, I have heard of this scenario being played out more than once.
This is a painful, expensive lesson that is better learned before there is a loss. Please, if you sell or even advertise your prints for sale, check your policy and make sure your coverage is appropriate. I am sure your insurance company will be happy to convert your coverage to a commercial policy if needed, but it will likely be at a higher cost. There are alternatives available, check with your insurance agent as well as some professional groups or associations such as NANPA or PPA which offer insurance options for their members. Another thing to consider, and is a whole other topic, is the need for liability insurance to protect you in case someone trips over a light stand or power cord, etc. Some of the policies available from these organizations also offer liability insurance.
Your insurance agent can help, but be your own advocate and read the actual policy for “coverages” and “exclusions”. Usually, the policy will state specifically what is and what isn’t covered. In addition to coverage amounts, deductibles and limits, you should find out if the policy will cover you should you travel out of the country.
Check the replacement value. Will they pay you the original purchase price or the cost to replace it? Is there a depreciation schedule? Is there a formula that is used to determine the benefits paid? I once hired a small firm to help with a move I was making. They showed up late and exhausted from two previous moves that day and it was clear that they didn’t care about the job or my furniture. Immediately, they dropped a piece and broke the corner off. I asked them about insurance and they said, yep, they were covered, 50 cents a pound. At that point I told them that they were finished and could leave. While I knew that they were insured when I hired them, I didn’t ask what the insurance specifically covered or how it paid. A 100 pound piece of furniture that cost $1500 would hardly be replaced for $50 based on their insurance!
These are just a few things to consider as you review your insurance and make sure that your policy actually has you covered based on your needs. This public service announcement was brought to you by the folks here at Photography Life in the hope that we can help prevent an unwelcome surprise.
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Check out www.FilmEmporium.com. I got my insurance though them. Hassle free and reasonably priced.
I have been shooting wedding videos for about 8 years now. Having insurance has really lifted a weight off my shoulders. I would highly recommend looking into the following sites as they have great information about this subject.
I make pictures and sell and license my work, and I have separate professional photographic insurance to cover all my expensive gear. But we were refused ordinary household insurance – at any fee – by Admiral, because the camera gear existed on the premises, even though we were not asking them to cover it.
Gary, wow! That is a different spin that I have usually heard. Good luck, my friend.
Yes me too, not a problem I had had before: it arose because I have merged households with my partner as she was renewing her policy. Tesco got our business, in the event (I have no other connection with them). She said, “I explicitly raised with the guy the issue of your camera gear when he asked the “business stock” question, and he said if it’s covered by another policy, they don’t need to take it into consideration.” – which is what I had previously experienced. I thought people would be interested to know about it though.
Thanks Gary and glad you got it resolved.
Just wanted to throw in my $0.02. This issue has been on my mind for a while and recently I was able to get around to calling my insurance agent. I have a Personal Articles policy through State Farm and while I was told on the phone that unless you’re a “commercial” photographer there’s nothing to worry about. I don’t consider myself that type of photographer, but it still didn’t sit right with me so I checked the text in my policy. Sure enough, it basically says that the camera equipment being covered cannot be used to make money with. I sell a few prints here and there with the gear being covered so called my agent back. She made some phone calls and what I feared was true: if you sell anything with the cameras being insured you are not covered. She said that in case something happened and you needed to make a claim, to just tell the insurance company that you were out taking photos for fun. However, I’m pretty confident that would not fly with an adjustor given the fine print in the personal articles policy.
So in conclusion? Guess I’m going shopping for insurance! :(
Sean, I have heard a similar story from my agent who insists it isn’t a concern. Sadly, what is in writing is what the company will stand by most likely.
So, this happened to “a friend of yours”, eh? Funny how it’s always a nameless friend. I’ve heard this story many times over the years involving different professions.
If “Bill” had his gear stolen and he wants to help people by sharing his story then why is it being told buy a third party with “Bill” hiding his identity? What does “Bill” have to lose by telling his story? He’s already lost his gear and his claim was denied, right? The insurance company can’t take any legal action against him for telling the truth.
“Bill” isn’t real is he?
And what is your expertise in the field, Tom? You just go around giving people legal advice about their insurance? I’ll admit you you know how to strike a nerve with a scare-tactic “article”. I bet it gets a lot of people reposting it and the website gets a lot of clicks.
Good job on driving traffic to the site, but I call BS on the story.
Of course I don’t wish to use someone’s real name. One might imagine that not everyone appreciates or wants their name published – even those that post comments. Besides, would listing the person’s name make a difference to the point of the story? It is hard to see how…
I offered no legal advice, but raised an important issue that could potentially affect many of our readers. I merely suggested they take a few cautionary steps to reduce their financial exposure. While you may not appreciate the concern, as you can see from the comments, others were glad to be notified of this concern.
Expressing genuine concerns regarding equipment insurance can hardly be labeled as a “scare tactic.” And with respect to driving traffic to our site, regular readers indicate that the diversity of topics we cover is precisely why Photography Life is one of their favorite sites.
As for the story being false? Nope, it’s all real.
When I bought my Nikon D800 plus some lenses and was doing some traveling, I asked my insurer if it could be covered under my renter’ policy and was told only up to $1,000 for all electronic equipment.
I then did a fairly extensive search of who would cover in all situations (travel, theft, disaster, etc) both my camera equipment and my computer. I ended up with PPA’s insurance and I read the fine print to make sure that it covers all that I need.
I have kept copies of all my receipts and serial numbers, as well as giving copies of all to my best friend to hold with a copy of my policy, so that if I am out and about she can help me quickly make a report if necessary.
In the past, I had my apartment broken into so I now make it hard for a burglar to find my stuffs through a variety of methods. I do similar when traveling and am a big fan of Pacsafe bags.
Thanks Ms. Jen. I am curious if any of our readers have filed a claim with any association/group insurance plan such as thru PPA, and if so, how was the claim handled?
That is a good question, of which I don’t personally know the answer as I have not had to file a claim yet.
Has any of the readers here filed a claim on the PPA equipment insurance?
Good heads up… I have been wondering about it. I have personal property coverage with all my camera gear listed individually. I have even thought of getting a commercial insurance. But have heard from some that if you have commercial insurance then it covers loss that happens only on commercial shoots; so technically if you were lose/break your equipment while doing “personal” shoot, they wouldn’t cover. You are doomed if you do, you are doomed if you don’t kindda situation. Not sure whether it means that one has to get a personal property policy as well as a commercial policy from the same agent/insurer to have everything covered for sure.
Having said that, I once dropped Nikon D4, D800, 600mm and 70-200mm incurring about $1500 damages, which my policy covered without much questions.
Senthil, glad you had a good outcome from an unfortunate occurrence. Not all insurance companies are bad, it is just good that we be aware in advance of situations that might come back to haunt us. Thanks for your comments.
Can u please clarify a few details about the insurance? Do you have the option to insure your items against theft from a location shooting? I’m asking because in Greece,where I live, you only get the option to insure them in studio. If things get stolen on location you get no coverage.
George, it sounds like things might be different in Greece, so you need to check locally. To answer your question as it pertains to here in the States, the insurance (if it covers commercial use) would typically insure you at the location. But again, you need to check the specific policy.
I just learned this (thankfully not the hard way): a very respected US insurance company will not provide coverage for international location shoots. If you travel outside the US, be sure to insist that your agent check with the underwriters. I was told by my agent that I was completely covered, and it was only after I was out of the country that I received the email from the agent stating “As it turns out, we are not able to provide coverage for international travel. I’m sorry, I thought we were.”
This was a State Farm business policy with an additional Inland Marine asset policy for my equipment.
Thankfully, nothing happened to my $30k worth of gear on this trip.
I asked my insurance agent what their definition of “professional” was and he said even if a friend asks you over to their home to take a few photos of their kids (even if you did it for free), they considered you a professional and that would require a “business” policy. Kind of a rip-off if you ask me.
Sarah all I can say to that is WOW! That really seems to be a stretch. There is nothing commercial about that – no advertising a service, no fees, no contract. That would be the equivalent of my parents telling me to bring the camera and take photos at a birthday party. I can’t think that, that definition would hold up if challenged. I would hope that your agent is wrong on that one.