I get panicked messages from junior photographers all the time. They just got their first paid photo shoot! Yippee! But wait, the client is asking for a Certificate Of Insurance to prove they have business insurance, but guess what? The photographer doesn’t have any. Now what?
This particular photographer messaged me at 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon and her shoot was that Monday. So now she had to scramble to find insurance or turn down the job.
We are continuing our conversation about the business of photography. One of the most important things when setting up your business properly is getting photography business insurance. I know, I know, it’s not sexy, but it’s very important.
You’ve gotta spend time on this and do your research. This post will teach you how to do that.
In my post about the business of photography, we talked about what you need to consider when starting your food photography business. I mentioned getting business insurance there as well.
If you think you can be a food photographer and not get insurance, you are a liability to your clients, and your crew. This is not an option people. You have to get business insurance!
When I was starting my business many years ago, right after figuring out the name of my company, I got photography business insurance. Every business must have General Liability Insurance. Photographers need that too and a few other types of insurance as well.
I’m going to share with you the most common insurance needs and endorsements for photographers. Endorsements are extra add-ons for additional protection with your policy. This is how you create the policy that is perfect for you.
A good insurance company will help you figure out what you need to get you covered with your photography business. One policy IS NOT SUITED for everyone. Everyone’s situation is different and you need to talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have what you need.
The following list is based on the insurance company that I am using, Tom C. Pickard and Co. I’ve been with them for many years. They are not endorsing, sponsoring, or paying me to write this post. They are based in California and can only underwrite policies in the United States.
#1 General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance – broad definition: protects a company should they get in a lawsuit from property damage or injuries caused by you or your employees (food stylists, or assistants).
Photographers need to be very careful when looking for this type of insurance. You need to make sure that you are covered if something were to happen during a photoshoot.
You have to make sure that your general business liability insurance is written for a photography business. We will usually end up paying more for this unfortunately. Apparently, photography has a higher risk than other businesses.
Each company will define what is covered and not covered a bit differently, so again, make sure the language being used is for photographers and photo shoots.
It’s customary to get a policy with a $2M (per incident) policy with a $4M aggregate (total per year).
If you are renting photography studios, this is the bare minimum you need and it is required. Many ad agencies and other types of clients will ask for proof of this, and require the same.
2. Insurance For Your Equipment – Both What You Own, And What You Rent From Others
Does that image of the falling camera make you a little uncomfortable? Yeah, me too. Enter Equipment Insurance.
Equipment insurance is based on how much gear ya got, and how much stuff you might be renting from equipment rental houses. With the company I use, I have to give them an equipment schedule. This lists everything I want covered, with the serial number and the replacement costs.
This is very important. You must be insured for the replacement cost of the item, not what the perceived value is, or what you paid for it originally.
I have several cameras that are no longer made. To replace them, would be thousands of dollars. So I list that as such.
Also, with most insurance companies of this nature, if they require an equipment schedule from you, what ever you don’t list, will not be covered.
Now, let’s talk about equipment you might rent. When you are starting out and you want to get some jobs with ad agencies or bigger clients, you might have to rent a lot of gear, like lighting equipment. Your insurance company might need this to be a separate endorsement just for rented equipment. Other companies include this in their photo equipment insurance.
I shoot for large companies so sometimes I have to shoot with two sets. I own a lot of gear but sometimes my rented equipment could be $25,000 – $50,000. I use high end digital backs, and then I need to rent extra lights sometimes. For really big shooters who do car jobs – they could be renting up to $150,000 worth of gear and need to be insured for that. You get the idea.
3. Short Term Rental Equipment
This is an option where you just pay an additional amount for a short term to cover your rented gear. So if you are just starting out, this could be an option because you aren’t going to be renting $25K worth of gear regularly, you can just get a short term policy to cover your bigger jobs.
4. Errors and Omission for Photographers
With my insurance company, this is protection against lawsuits from copyright infringement, false advertising, defamation that comes from one of your images, and a few more issues. For other companies, this could cover very different things, so again, get a proposal from your agent and see what is covered and what isn’t.
5. Computer and Office Equipment
Every company is different in what they cover with your computer and office equipment, so ask your agent about this. My insurance company has a separate list of my office equipment, and equipment that I take on location because my office equipment never leaves, and my location equipment does.
6. Workman’s Compensation Insurance for Photo Employees
My insurance agent (Tom C. Pickard) said it best:
“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 Google research.”
And I will add to that – please ask your attorney about this for your state. A very good friend of mine is married to a workman’s comp attorney. In the state of California, basically if anyone get’s hurt on your set, they are your employees. This is always a heated debate and photographers are getting busted all the time for this. They are not counting their crew as employees.
Even if your assistant and food stylist have a business license and have business insurance, the state can still say they are your employee.
Workman’s comp is very expensive unfortunately.
One great way to comply with this is to use a payroll company for your crew that includes workman’s comp insurance with your payroll of that person.
Major motion pictures do this. Everyone on that production is payrolled through a company that also has workman’s comp insurance. So if anyone gets hurt, they are covered. It’s great.
I use a payroll company that does the same thing. Just know, it’s pricey. So for my assistants that are $350 a day, add 25% on top of their day rate – they cost me $462.50 and I bill that to the client. When you are starting out, this is a great solution to making sure your crew is covered.
7. Hired and Non-Owned Auto Liability for Photography
This is really important. This is for anyone on your crew who gets in a car accident while working on your job. You can be liable for this because they can say they wouldn’t have been in that accident if they weren’t working for you that day. This also covers vehicles that you rent for the job, like a larger van for equipment, or vehicles that need to be in the photo shoot.
8. Props, sets, and wardrobe
Different companies call this different things so I just wanted to list it to make sure that you ask your agent about this, so that you are covered. It’s for things that you rent for your shoot. For example, I used to shoot electronics in the early 90’s. One of my clients was Bose Electronics. I had to rent a $12,000 fancy wood table for a photoshoot for an ad. So I was covered for that.
9. Cyber Insurance Liability For Your Website
If you are selling products on your website and collecting customer’s information, then this is a huge consideration. If you get hacked, you could be liable for something. Unfortunately because this is such a new type of insurance, most agents are not well educated in this yet. So ask about it and see what they say to you.
10. 3rd Party Property Damage
This is for when you are renting a house or other type of real estate for a shoot on location, and will be required from the location company.
I have to rent houses sometimes for jobs. For example, I had a job with a high end grocery store client and we did a photoshoot in a kitchen of a very fancy home in Brentwood California. It costs us $2500 for the day and they had all kinds of fancy marble all over that kitchen. So I was glad I was insured in case anything happened there.
11. Reshoot Coverage
This is a must these days. If you have any tech issues after you shoot a job that destroys the files, this will cover a reshoot when it’s your fault.
This comes from the story of the computer drive dying on set and the photographer loses all the images from the day. It has happened to friends of mine.
From their stories, I learned real quick, and I back up my shoots every few minutes during a job – no joke. This is a big deal, and most insurance companies don’t offer this – but mine does.
Most Ad Agencies and Design Firms Require This
You must know that if you want to start shooting for ad agencies, and getting the bigger clients where you are making $2500 – $7500 a day, YOU ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE INSURANCE, just to be considered to work with them.
Your client will usually tell you what they require and if you don’t have it, you don’t get the job.
If you are thinking, “Well, I’m just shooting for little restaurants, I don’t need all this!” YOU ARE DEAD WRONG!
Here’s a little story for ya. Let’s say you are shooting in a restaurant with a tripod. Johnny, the local track star who is getting a full scholarship to an amazing university, just tripped on your tripod and broke his ankle. Now he can’t run.
Maybe the university no longer wants to give him that scholarship. Guess what, now you are at risk for a huge lawsuit. Get it??
It’s just not worth the risk and my friends, it’s the cost of being in business.
If are you not charging enough to cover these costs, YOU ARE UNDER CHARGING. I cover how to figure out what to charge in this post. So you need to charge enough to cover all these costs plus your fee.
Get Insurance Quotes From Several Agencies
You do have a few options for photography insurance, but again, I am only familiar with Tom C. Pickard.
Here are the other insurance companies that claim they offer photography insurance. I have no idea what they offer, so you need to make sure that you are covered with all that you do with your business by talking to their agents.
- Tom C. Pickard (the company I use – this is the only one I have personal experience with)
The following have been mentioned on several photography blog sites as having photography business insurance, but when I got quotes from a few of them, they did NOT have all the endorsements I mentioned above.
- Hiscox – Do your due diligence here and make sure they have the special endorsements for photogs that you want
- Next – I’ve never heard of them, but they came up in a google search – so do your due diligence
- Professional Photographers of America have a small policy that is included with membership – but please call them to see what you get for that. The starter policy only covers your equipment – please verify that.
- The American Photographic Arts has an insurance policy – again, I am not familiar with this one but might be worth getting a quote from to compare.
- Insureon – same story, never heard of them, but might be worth getting a quote from.
- Hill and Usher – never heard of these guys either, but apparently they insure a lot of media professionals
I do find that a lot of the bigger insurance companies just don’t offer the endorsements that we need to be fully covered with photography. So there are other companies claiming they have photography insurance policies, but you just gotta make sure you are covered for what you are doing.
When an agent tells you that you don’t need a certain endorsement – that most likely means they don’t offer it.
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