Accidents are inevitable in all facets of our lives. Owning an expensive camera accompanied with an assortment of lenses is a liability that all photographers must confront. Leading nearly thirty workshops per year for the past five years, I’ve seen just about every camera accident that you can think of. I’ve seen tripods blow over, cameras drop into rivers and lenses roll off of cliffs. Remember Murphy’s Law, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. In this article I will discuss how to insure your camera gear so you can spend more time shooting and less time worrying about your camera.
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES
I’ve destroyed and lost my fair share of camera gear. No matter how careful you are, you’re playing a numbers game. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. I once flew a drone into a sandstone wall two weeks after purchasing it. I’ve dropped a lens off of a thirty foot cliff. My camera has seen more than one salty wave splash, and I once left my entire camera bag in a parking lot. (oops) Luckily, the bag was returned before I had to make an insurance claim but at least I had peace of mind that kept me relatively calm at time where I was missing around $15,000 worth of gear.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE PURCHASING A POLICY
The purpose of this article is to inform photographers about the different types of insurance policies on the market while noting a few important situations to look out for. While I have done my best to give you the most accurate information available, it is your responsibility to research any insurance policy that you purchase. Talk to an agent and read the fine print. Find out what the deducible is and what their depreciation rate is for electronics and computers. Most importantly, make sure that you policy covers items that are not within your home. I strongly recommend purchasing a policy that will protect your gear in foreign countries as well since the chances of something going wrong increases greatly when you are that far from home.
TYPES OF CAMERA INSURANCE
HOME OWNER’S / RENTERS
The most common type of insurance for personal items is homeowner’s and renter’s insurance that can be purchased from a variety of providers including State Farm. This type of insurance is relatively cheap and easy to obtain and is for non professionals only. If you are making money off of your craft this policy will not cover you and you risk loosing out on your claim if the insurance company happens to find out that you’re selling prints, soliciting portraits, or licensing your work.
Home owner’s and renter’s insurance often has a high deductible in addition to a relatively high depreciation value. Most insurance policies have an electronics depreciation rate at around 10% per year. This means if you drop your $3,500 camera into the ocean and it is four years old, you’ll only receive $2,100. That leave’s you to pay $1,400 plus the deductible which will likely be $500 or more. So now you’re only getting $1,600 for that $3,500 camera. As you can see, a single item claim can be quite painful with this sort of policy. Additionally, it is important to note that computers usually depreciate at a rate of 25% per year. Yikes!
While the home owner’s policy is far from perfect, it is affordable and offers at least a little bit of protection. Limited insurance is still better than no insurance at all.
A personal articles insurance policy offers photographer’s much more protection than a basic home owner’s or renter’s policy. Under this policy photographer’s can schedule their equipment which will ensure that they get the full replacement value of their gear without any depreciation. Most personal article polices still carry a deductible though, so make sure you know how much it is. Scheduled equipment polices are offered from a variety of insurance providers including State Farm and are relatively inexpensive for the amount of coverage that they offer. Just like your homeowner’s policy, most generic personal articles polices will not cover professional photographers. Lastly, I can speak from experience that if you make a large claim with Stare Farm they will more than likely drop you, so the policy is sort of one time use.
PROFESSIONAL UNSCHEDULED POLICIES
If you are a professional photographer or even make a small income from photography you’ll want to get a professional policy. The most popular insurance policy provider is Professional Photographer’s of America. You can get $35 off your membership by clicking the link above and doing a search for Mike Wardynski.
Professional policies are more expensive than traditional insurance polices but they are the only policy that will protect you if you’re making money off of your photography. I use PPA to insure all of my gear and have never had a problem with any of my claims. PPA is a membership organization that offer’s $15,000 of unscheduled photography insurance for all of its members with a reasonable deductible of $250 for the first claim in a calendar year. Once you become a PPA member it is very important to turn on your insurance policy. This can be done by logging in and going to My Protection > My Photo Care.
PROFESSIONAL SCHEDULED POLICIES
PPA also offer’s a scheduled articles policy called Photo Care Plus. Just like the policy above, you must first become a member of PPA and turn on your Photo Care insurance. Use any of the PPA links above and search for Mike Wardynski to save $35 on your policy. Once you become a member you can sign up for The Photo Care Plus policy which gives you full purchase value protection without depreciation. The policy comes with a reduced deductible for multiple claims in the same calendar year as well. The additional cost of the scheduled policy will be determined by the total value of gear that you have scheduled.
Adding items to your scheduled Photo Care Plus policy is as easy as sending an email with the item, serial number, and purchase price. Some insurance companies require that you bring your gear into a physical location or have your gear assessed when adding a scheduled item. There is no need for any of that with PPA, but it is very important to keep track of all of your gear receipts in an organized fashion in case you need to make a claim. In a pinch, other proofs of purchase can be used in a claim such as the original box that the item came in.
In addition to insurance coverage, PPA offers a free monthly magazine, photography resources, online courses and more.