Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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We all have made investments in our camera equipment. From hundreds of dollars to $TEXAS, our gear isn't cheap.

  • How do we protect against theft, fires, water damage?
  • Accidental Damage?
  • What insurance options are available?
  • Is Home Owners/Renters insurance enough?
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

I won't name my insurance company, but I talked about this with my broker recently when I took an international trip. If you're a pro, get pro insurance, and that's a policy that will cover theft, fire, water, dropping, etc. You will need to find out how they define 'pro' (ie, is it the level of the equipment you have, or is it the percentage of your income from photography). If you're not, then a home owner's/renter's policy is enough, but that may vary from policy to policy. If you're not sure, check with your broker.

I'll also add: one friend of mine has pro event insurance, meaning that if her equipment fails during a wedding, the insurance will pay up to $50k to redo the wedding to get the shots. If that's the kind of insurance you need, I can ask her for more details. It's a bit much for me.

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+1. Redo the wedding. WOW, now that is some insurance. – Alan Jul 23 '10 at 20:54
Does the bride have to use the same groom the second time through? – coneslayer Apr 15 '11 at 0:46
If you are a professional you should also have Public Liability insurance, so your covered if someone breaks their back tripping on your tripod, because they didn't look where they were going. – Graeme Hutchison Dec 9 '11 at 7:08

One universal piece of advice is to have your serial numbers written down in some easily accessible place. I send them to myself using Gmail so that they're available from my mobile or any computer with internet access. I know that's a partial answer but the insurance is already location-specific.

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+1: good advice :) – Alan Jul 23 '10 at 20:29
And if you didn't do this, you can at least recover the body serials from the EXIF data. But save yourself the hassle and write them down first! – Paul McMillan Apr 14 '11 at 23:20
Or you could use a website like to store your serial numbers. – BioGeek Feb 1 at 17:33

If you make any money from your equipment then your home owners/renters will not cover it. You'll want to contact a broker if you make money from your equipment and have them get you a couple quotes to compare.

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The other thing to be careful of is a retroactive decision from your insurer that your gear is professional, even if you don't make money at it. I know someone who had a large quantity of gear that he was SURE was covered by his homeowners insurance policy (they had the serial numbers and purchase prices and told him it was covered). Some of it was stolen, and they denied his claim based on the fact that anyone with 15k worth of gear can't possibly be an amateur.

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My homeowner's policy specifically limits coverage for camera equipment to $1,000. Same thing for jewelry, firearms, furs, etc. For any specialty items above that limit I have to buy a separate rider. In the case of my photo gear, i prefer to use a separate policy issued by a company specializing in coverage for photographers. – Michael Clark Jun 6 '13 at 22:41

If you're purely a hobbyist, talk with your homeowner's or renter's insurance provider and you'll find they should be able to add a rider that covers your photo gear.

If you're a professional, the trade organizations such as the ASMP and PPA have arrangements with insurers who offer policies specific to photographers. In addition to equipment coverage, the professional policies can also include things like liability and errors & omissions insurance.

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When I talked to my insurance agent about this a few years ago, she strongly recommended against it, because while the cost of the rider wasn't high, insurance companies treat any claims against your policy as Black Marks On Your Record. Unlike auto insurance, the cost won't immediately spike, but you increase the risk of getting denied for renewal — and they pass the info on to other companies. So it's better to do it separately if you can. – mattdm Mar 25 '11 at 2:58

I added my cameras & lenses to a personal article insurance policy.

It covers theft, catastrophic damage, etc.

I had to provide the model, serial number, & purchase price to the insurance agent.

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As always, read the exclusions carefully. I have heard a case where a man accidentally dropped his camera while on a ship. The camera ended down in the sea, so it could not be retrieved. His camera insurance did not cover because there was no theft to report or damage to show. I think in many cases 'disappearing' is not covered...

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I use a specialist insurer who cover me in places the household won't (in the car, live side at airfields etc) and who fully understand the gear they are insuring (and will appreciate the subtle differences between certain bits of kit).

If you offer any prints for sale (even if you haven't sold any) this will often give Amateur or Household policies a get out clause for covering your gear as you intend to make money with it.

Proper insurers will often cover you for public liability and other such things which are worthwhile being covered for.

If you are only ever using your gear as an amateur your household policy will probably cover it but be sure to check with them specifically how you are covered when you are away from the house.

Regardless of pro or amateur: Photograph all your gear laid out so you can clearly see all of it and keep a spreadsheet detailing replacement costs and serial numbers (and for things like memory cards, quantity).

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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.

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