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Photographic Insurance

Once you have purchased your camera and accessories you may want to consider insuring your equipment. Initially ask yourself would you be able to afford to replace or repair your camera and equipment if it was stolen or accidentally damaged?

Over your life time you will probably not get back in claims more than 10% of what you pay in insurance premiums and if you a particularly unlucky individual perhaps this might stretch to 30%. Therefore if you merely put aside the money you would pay as a premium you could pay yourself out, with no hassle, small print or wriggles, and still end up with a bucket of money. Of course some risks may be larger than you wish to take, so in this case insurance may be something to consider. Having paid your premium however, there is no certainty that you will get all or any of your claim paid.

Whatever your view on insurance here we are going to look at the subject of photographic insurance and not only look at the equipment side, but also other insurance types you may need to consider depending on whether you're an amateur or professional photographer. Some consider insurance as essential for any camera equipment, no matter the value. The photographic insurance available in the marketplace today can give you a wide range of cover, ensuring against your equipment being damaged, stolen or lost, as well as different specialist types of cover. It is not just reserved for travelling abroad, but also any kind of activities that involve you using your equipment,  replacement cover or paying for equipment to be repaired when damaged.

Photographers who earn a living, or a contribution to their household income, by undertaking professional work on behalf of clients, whether that be the odd wedding right through to commercial clients and working from a couple of days a year right up to full-time, will come across other types of insurance that my help protect their income such as public liability, professional indemnity, personal accident, employers liability, and travel insurance. When your income is dependent on your equipment you should do the best you can to look after it – not just by using it carefully, but may be also considering insuring it against the worst happening.


There is a range of cover available for Photographers, from amateur enthusiasts up to full-time professionals and differing types of cover that may or may not be of use. Whether you take out insurance is down to the choice of the individual and if that is what you want to do then there is a wealth of different packages available to you.

Before taking out your insurance it is important to check the coverage and inclusions of the policy to check what is included and that it covers what you require. If dealing with a company over the telephone or in a shop it may be difficult to get to the small print, but make sure you get them to set out what will and will not be covered, it is a FSA requirement that they do so before you sign anything.   For this reason most outlets/insurers will offer a cooling off period (usually 7 to 14 days) and refund, as long as you haven't started your trip or made a claim. So it is important to read the small print/policy booklet as soon as you get it. However if you are searching for cover on the internet, most of the sites we visited did have links which took you off to the full policy small print document, usually in a PDF file that you can read online or download and read offline.

When checking your policy document particularly look out for the EXCLUSIONS, this is what they will NOT cover you for and will use as their wriggle when you come to make a claim. From the research I have done by looking at the fine print of policies, you should be aware of their exclusions that relate to 'the security' of the equipment, as some aspects of this may not be practical in your situation. They tend to have 3 security clauses, that are to do with when the property is away from the insured location, when at it's normal insured location and that which relates to when it is in a vehicle. Some of these like the 'insured location' clause also has different restrictions depending on the value of the equipment. So lets look at some of these:-

Away from the insured location - the equipment must not be left unattended, or must be inside a locked room or cupboard and security devices made operational. So you can't leave it in a hotel room, and when you go out or for a meal you probably need to take it with you.

At the insured location where the equipment insured is up to a value of £15,000 - the minimum security requirements is a 5 lever mortice deadlock conforming to BS3621, 5 lever padlock, or 4 lever locking device on all external doors. Must have key operated window locks to all accessible windows, locks of this standard should be fitted to the doors and windows of room(s) in which insured property is kept, and all security measures must be in operation when there is no adult present. So individual rooms within your home where you have equipment needs to have internal doors with locks up to this standard, and you may find even tougher requirements. In some policies we looked at a few years back, when considering insurance ourselves we found that with the value of equipment that we have we would need to have a security room or vault with a locked door and no window to get anywhere near their requirement.

In a vehicle - equipment should be stored in a locked luggage compartment, all doors, windows and other openings should be closed, securely locked and properly fastened, all security devices should be operational. When the equipment exceeds £10,000 aggregate or an individual item exceeds £3,000 the vehicle must be fitted with a Thatcham category 1 or 2 alarm/immobilizer (do you know if your vehicle has one). If an alarm is not factory fitted, then it has to have been installed by a member of the Vehicle Security Installation Board, and you should have a certificate to prove this. If your vehicle is an estate, hatchback, 4-wheel drive or similar a factory fitted cover must be in place or if it doesn't have one then the equipment should be out of sight and a Thatcham approved category 3 steering lock immobiliser should be fitted. There are other exclusions for vans, campervans and trailers.

There is no standard insurance cover across all photographic insurance providers, and we are not able here to list everything they each offer. What we can do is point out the base equipment insurance cover available and give a list of the other possibilities/additions you could choose from to get the cover you need.

For insuring your Photographic Equipment the type of cover you choose may include:-

  • Covering all your photographic equipment, lighting, computer and processing too.

  • Cover your equipment against 100% Theft, damage and accidental loss cover, including in transit risk (of sum insured or market value if less).

  • ‘New for Old’ cover (after total loss up to sum insured or new market value whichever is less).

  • Cover for equipment you need to “hire in” as a result of a claim and can help towards the cost of this as well.

  • You can also cover equipment that you borrow, hire or are in charge of even if only for a short period of time, as well as customer’s property and props.

  • Choice of area covered, from UK only, UK and EU with 30 days worldwide or Full Worldwide.

Also standard in Photographic Equipment Policies can be:-

  • Personal Accident cover up to a value (typically covers against accidental injury whilst using the insured equipment entirely preventing any occupation as a result of one or more of the following death, permanent total disablement, total irrecoverable loss of limbs, sight or hearing).
  • Public Liability - Up to a value typically around a £1 million, but this can be increased (legal liability to a 3rd party for damages and costs arising out of a claim for death or bodily injury, or loss or damage to property caused by or through use of the insured item).

Extra extensions to the base cover can include:

  • Insuring your camera equipment whilst in an unattended vehicle. (Protects you whilst on the road, this covers your equipment whilst transported in a vehicle. This does not cover your equipment whilst in transit unless it is kept in a purpose designed equipment case). This can be included with some policies.
  • Unlimited worldwide cover.

For Professional Photographer Cover it might also include or be extended to cover:

  • Professionals Insurance which provides you with Public Liability, including up to 50 man days cover for temporary staff and Personal Accident for death and capital benefits as standard.
  • Employers Liability - with £10m cover as standard.
  • Business equipment cover - Up to £10,000 Business equipment cover, with a single article limit of £2,500 - this ensures the essentials including laptops and PDAs are covered.
  • Professional Indemnity- with cover limits of £250,000, £500,000 or £1,000,000.

Typical Costs

Pricing is also not generalised although they do tend to work to, and produce guides based on, up to a £value. As with all insurance there is an excess applied to all sections of the cover, for the base cover price, typically £100. So for the first £100 of loss you will not get anything back. If you are prepared to take a little more of the risk yourself, and increase the excess then the premium you pay will be reduced, but you will have to decide what value of risk you are prepared to take (remember you are unlikely to get the full cost you encounter covered in any event).  Many of the companies also offer monthly and annual policies and will have different values of cover.

Some example annual premiums to cover an 'All risk' policy - this means covers both at insured premises, and away from base, but does not include unattended vehicle cover, or unlimited worldwide cover.

Sum Insured Typical Equipment covered Amateur Cover Professional Cover
£250   24.90 34.50
£1500 Nikon D300 + 18-200VR lens 42.20 51.90
£4000 Nikon D3 + 18-200VR lens + SB-800 flash 88.70 115.70
£10,000   203.30 270.00

For the D300 + 18-200 VR lens if you wanted unlimited worldwide cover, to cover you whilst you're travelling abroad then the premium would increase by 40% to £59.08 for the Amateur cover and £72.66 for Professional Cover.

Public Liability

So why might you want to have Public Liability cover, well this covers your liability to members of the public. This could be a simple accident such as someone falling over a tripod to being “bumped” with a long lens right through to more serious issues that could leave people scarred or disabled for life. Courts take a generous payout view of some accidents now, and with the growth of the “where there is blame there is a claim” culture, you may want to arrange suitable cover, but of course if you didn't have the cover and you don't appear wealthy then no one is likely to waste vast sums through the legal system trying to extract payment from you.  Packages are available offering £1 million, £2 million and £5 million Public Liability cover, and the amount of cover you need will depend on what you are doing routinely. If you are working in hotels, restaurants, for a Local Authority or in a shopping centre then the chances are you will be asked for the £5 million option. As with anything, the more cover you require the more expensive it becomes, but £2 million seems to be a popular starting point and you can always extend to £5 million for short term cover.  If you undertake work in airports, in the air, underwater or on the ground by the side of rails or track side at motor events then you may need the high limit and expect to pay slightly more as Insurers regard these activities as a greater risk.

There are other ways to get this cover which can be cheaper, for example some years ago we were putting on a number of events around the country and many halls etc required that you had Public Liability insurance. This was quite expensive but we found by joining the Market Traders Association one of their member benefits was a group Public Liability Insurance that would cover all of our requirements, and the membership cost was a fraction of the quoted insurance premium.

Wedding Insurance for the photographer

There are some insurers offering specific wedding insurance cover. When taking pictures at a wedding you may feel that you should be protected as a photographer – not just for your own peace of mind with your equipment, Public Liability and Professional Indemnity but what if something goes wrong on the other side, what if the Bride or Groom doesn’t turn up, falls ill or are hospitalised. I have been told that you can get insurance cover to make up shortfalls, but I think you would have to look critically at this, as I know in other business areas, such as factoring where businesses get an advance and some cover against bad debts it only applies up to a limit on clients who do not hold a high credit rating.

Other Insurance Cover you may already have

What about insurance you may already have such as your household and car insurance, will the equipment be covered by these policies. It is sometimes expected that cover for photographic equipment is provided on a household policy – this is not always the case. If you don’t have it in writing from your Insurer, assume it is not, especially if you have equipment valued at £3,000 or above. We have heard of some people who have claimed the loss of individual cameras and/or lenses on their household insurance and being paid for their loss or damage and therefore being able to replace their equipment. Some comprehensive car insurance policies may include items transported in the vehicle insured, but you will need to check your policy and particularly look at values covered, photographic equipment is expensive and only a small number of items can carry a large replacement value.

Travel Insurance - is my equipment covered?

Many, when travelling abroad take out travel insurance to insure against accidents and illness whilst on our holidays. In relation to whether your camera equipment will be covered by this policy you will have to check the small print of the policy details. Most standard policies will carry 'possessions cover', including money and documents to specified limits. Policies will generally limit claims for single items – the limit can vary from as low as £250 up to £1000 or more. There is likely to be a similar limit on the total paid to replace valuables, such as cameras or jewellery. 

We have another article which specifically looks at Travel Insurance and what is covered. See here for more information.

Whether you decide to insure your equipment or not is a personal choice, and whether you are prepared or can afford to take the risk yourself. In many instances taking care or your equipment in relation to where you store it at base/home, never leave it unattended when away from base, not to use it in a manner which will damage or destroy it and becoming security and safety aware, will be enough.

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