For many photographers, the decision to launch a photography business is a gradual one. It often stems from a passion for photography and a couple of surprise paid opportunities. Perhaps you were asked to shoot your friend’s wedding and then before you knew it, you were getting referral clients, blurting out prices, and making money off of what once was just a hobby.
If you stumbled into photography as a business, you probably didn’t prepare for it ahead of time as you would any other business. The legal and business aspects are often a secondary thought for photographers. More often than not, talent leads, and the rest of it falls into place as needed.
Even if you don’t yet have business cards, a website, or a marketing strategy in place, one of the first and most critical things you should do as a photographer is to take action to protect yourself legally. The sad truth, is that we live in a world where lawsuits are as common as the term, “Can I speak to your manager?”.
You may not feel like you need insurance, but if you leave your tripod out where a guest trips and twists their ankle, take a picture with a flash that causes a guest to fumble and spill red wine on the bride, or get your apartment broken into and lose thousands of dollars worth of camera gear, you’ll wish you had covered yourself.
Trust us when we say: you don't want to learn this the hard way.
As with any other type of insurance, not all insurance is created equal. From hobbyists to side hustles, to full-time photography businesses with a team of employees, there are plenty of different insurance plans that can be combined to fit the specific needs of your business.
General Homeowner or Renter Insurance
Using General Homeowner or Renter Insurance for equipment coverage is a great option for hobby photographers. This type of insurance can give you peace of mind over most types of theft and damage. If you are a homeowner, you can list your photography equipment under your Homeowner Insurance policy. If your home catches fire, or floods, and your equipment is ruined, you will be covered. If you are a renter, you are not covered under a homeowner’s policy but can take out a Renter Insurance policy to cover your equipment.
For homeowners and renters, if you choose this insurance option, make sure you list the cost of your equipment at its replacement value so that you are fully covered to purchase replacements at full value in the case of accident or theft. It’s also important to note this will not cover you if you are a registered business.
Professional Liability Insurance
Also referred to as Errors and Omissions Insurance, Professional Liability Insurance can help you in a lawsuit if your business is accused of:
- Making a mistake
- An undelivered service
If a client is dissatisfied with your services for any of these reasons, they may sue you. Perhaps you’ve failed to deliver certain shots from their wedding that were previously agreed upon, your flight to the wedding was delayed and you missed the ceremony, or you experience a total loss of photo data after the event. For any of these reasons, a client can refuse to pay their invoice and sue you.
This insurance option is appropriate for photographers that make a living off of photography; if photography is your primary source of income, and you are positioned as an expert service. Professional Liability Insurance also gives business owners the opportunity to work with top-tier clients that require liability insurance.
Business Owner Insurance
A combination of General Liability Insurance and Property Insurance, Business Owner Insurance will cover any equipment you use for your business. This includes photo and video cameras, computers, and any additional equipment that is needed to run your business. It also covers:
- Business properties: For example, a brick and mortar studio space.
- Business interruption: This could be caused by a general catastrophe or red tape. In this case, the use of a temporary space may be covered by this policy.
- Liability protection: This is true for you and your employees. This includes damage to equipment, physical damage to your employees or a client, or errors in service.
*It’s important to note that this insurance does not cover car insurance, professional liability, or health and disability for employees.
It may seem paranoid, but even a careless trip over a doorstop or photo booth prop can lead to a lawsuit. When choosing the right insurance policy for you, consider your environment. If you often work in a potentially hazardous environment or if you own a physical building or studio space, General Liability insurance is a smart option.
General Liability insurance also protects against property damage, like a child dropping your laptop in the ocean during a family photo shoot, or your employee spilling coffee all over your client’s designer shoes. General liability insurance also covers any data loss due to a hard drive wipeout, or slander from gossip getting back to the client. This seems like as good a time as any to say: Don’t speak ill of your clients. Slander is no joke, and insurance doesn’t cover your own ruined reputation.
Commercial Automobile Insurance
Commercial Automobile Insurance is a must for photographers that own a company vehicle. If you are driving the business vehicle and you get into an accident, the second party can sue you and your company.
For coverage of your employees, if they drive the company car or a rental car on behalf of your company, you can get Hired Automobile Insurance. This protects your employees in the case of an accident while driving a car that they do not own.
Additional types of insurance:
- Property Insurance: Covers any owned or rented property against damage to the building.
- Life Insurance: Protects your family from business-related expenses in the event of your death.
- Disability Insurance: Insures the photographer in the case of lost earnings due to accident or disability.
Insurance can have your back when your equipment is damaged or stolen; it can also protect you against lawsuits. Many photographers chose to take out one or more insurance policies to protect themselves against any unforeseen circumstances that could cause a financial burden or business interruption.
One simple lawsuit can bankrupt your business if you are not protected, so if you have questions about taking out an insurance policy, it’s best to talk to a professional. An insurance agent can put your mind at ease by helping you find the option that is best for protecting you and your photography business.