Matt: Insurance

From reader/listener Andrew M.:

What kind of insurance, PAI, Health, Gear, etc do you carry ?
Do you have to carry a certain amount / kind of insurance ?
Is it mandated by the sport’s governing body or the venue ?
Is it required in order to be accredited ?
At what stage in your career did you start carrying insurance ?

Andrew titled his email “Very unsexy question” but short of the pictures themselves and cashing commercial checks, very little about this job is sexy.

Insurance on gear, like anything else valuable, is important. Since everyone has different amounts of gear and are in different professional situations, I’ll answer this by detailing my own history with insurance. You can determine your own needs and ask follow-up questions in the comments if you have them.

After a trip to New Orleans to document the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, where I felt as if I could be robbed of my gear at any moment, I decided that I needed specific insurance on my gear. In general, your possessions are covered by renter’s/homeowner’s insurance, and as long as you have receipts and the total value of your possessions is under the limits, you will for the most part be covered. I’m wary of companies that make their money NOT paying for things, and since insurance companies fall under this category, I didn’t want to solely rely on my renter’s insurance. My agent ended up selling me an inland marine rider which specifically covered my camera and computer gear (all listed by serial number) for a few hundred dollars per year.

The upsides of riders like this are price, convenience, and the fact that detailing all of the gear in advance tends to prevent complications if you need to make a claim. The downsides are the probability of your renter’s/homeowner’s premium going up if you make a claim on your rider, limits on what kinds of damage are covered (stolen gear would be covered, dropped gear might not), limits on value of gear covered, and limits on what you can do with the gear on the policy, and deductibles that are often high.

The rider made a lot of sense for me when I had a different day job and was attempting to break into professional photography. But as I spent more on gear (multiple D3 bodies) I started hitting the limits, and it got to the point when I bought my 400 that it was not allowed on my rider because it was over the limit for any one piece of gear. Around this time I started being published more, and even though I wasn’t a full-time professional photographer, I was informed that simply having bylines out there, that my claim could be denied for being a professional photographer using the gear for business uses.

Since the purpose of insurance is the security of knowing that you can replace your gear no matter what happens, and the rules and limits were stacked against me, I started researching stand-alone professional photographer’s insurance. I went with a policy written by the Thomas C. Pickard Agency backed by Fireman’s Fund. Their combination of rates, coverage, and service has been great for the years that I have been with them, though I have never made a claim. There are plenty of other choices including a solution available to National Press Photographers Association members. The key is to find a policy that covers what you need and doesn’t include a lot of things you don’t need. For example, similar policies might more heavily cover rental gear and if you don’t rent a lot of gear you’re paying for something you don’t need.

As far as liability/personal accident insurance, this will never come on an inland marine rider, but will certainly come on a dedicated professional photographer policy. This covers things like a light stand falling one someone and insuring them or starting a fire that causes a bunch of damage. For the vast majority of sports photographers, this isn’t a major concern, and no league/venue will require it for ordinary shooting. I have had to shot proof of liability insurance when setting up backboard remote cameras at basketball games, but never anywhere else. But if you basically shoot sports photojournalism and can get away without remotes and don’t shoot in the studio, the liability/accident insurance is mostly a luxury, but one that is built in to almost all professional policies.

How much does it cost? The standard plan is something like $800/year for $30,000 in camera gear plus allowances for computers and peripherals, plus the rental coverage and liability. $500 deductible is normal with lower premiums for incrementally higher deductibles. It’s important to ask about replacement value when specific pieces of gear are no longer made, i.e. you can’t buy a new D3 anymore, and the D4 is 20% more expensive.

Hopefully that answers everything, but if more related questions come up, ask them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer. If you have other questions you would like to see us answer, let us know.

Matt

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Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by supporting us on Patreon and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.

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3 thoughts on “Matt: Insurance

  1. Thanks for an excellent explanation and summary of insurance requirements. Permit me to add that many insurance companies distinguish between valuable personal property riders on homeowners/renters insurance and insurance written for a protection of business property. If you get paid for your pictures, they will likely consider you to be in business.

  2. For what it’s worth, when I researched camera insurance last winter for myself I also decided on using Tom Pickard Agency. It’s definitely comforting to know that if something happens to my gear I can get it all replaced with almost no questions asked and they know exactly what photographers need.

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