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Ask An Expert: Photo Gear Insurance

April 20, 2010

Here’s another great “Ask An Expert” question I received in email a week or so ago.  This one’s about gear, but not in the usual “which lens should I buy” kinda way.  Let’s get down to the business of insuring all the pricey gear.

The Question:

How important is it to get your gear insured, and what’s the best method of going about it/best company to do it with to prevent getting screwed over?

My Response:

Unless you are confident that you will never, ever drop a lens, knock over a tripod, have your gear stolen or leave your camera bag on the tailgate of your truck as you drive off in search of Mexican food after a sunset shoot I think insuring your gear is pretty much something you just have to do.  I’m a klutz.  I’m also not sitting on a bank account overflowing with money.  Hence, I insure all my gear because if it is stolen or boneheadedly broken I really would like to be able to replace it without taking out a home equity loan.

There are some variables to consider when shopping for insurance on camera gear that is primarily used outdoors.  If you make money as a photographer your search for insurance gets a little bit trickier because most homeowner’s/renter’s policies will not cover your gear.  To find out if this applies to you, speak to your insurance agent.

If you’re like me and you need your equipment covered not only in the event of theft or fire, but also in the event of stupidity, you should look into what is commonly called an “inland marine policy”.  This type of insurance policy covers most accidental damage.  For example, I once set up my tripod on the bank of the Colorado River with a Canon 1Ds MKII and 24-105mm lens attached, with a Singh-Ray polarizing filter on the front of the lens.  It was windy.  The sand was wet.  The rock was hard.  I turned around to retrieve something from my pack, a gust of wind kicked up and my tripod fell over.  Because the Gods of Good Luck hate me, the lens landed face down on the one rock on this beach.  It completely shattered the filter, stripped out the filter threads on the lens, broke the lens hood and scratched the front lens element badly.  I cried.  I cursed.  I probably kicked a few things and stormed off with my broken gear in hand as the sunset painted sandstone cliffs in vibrant shades of orange and red.  I called my insurance company the next day.  After completing some paperwork and providing copies of receipts for the damaged gear as well as a couple photos I had a check in hand within 2 weeks.  I have a $500 deductible so I still had to come out of pocket a little bit but it’s much easier to scrape up $500 than $1,500.

If you only need your gear covered in the event of theft and you don’t use your camera equipment as part of your job, you may be covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.  However, this insurance will not cover stupidity.  Or mistakes.

If you’re wondering where to start shopping for camera gear insurance a good starting point is NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association).  Members can purchase comprehensive insurance at very reasonable rates through two different insurance agencies.  Get a quote from both to ensure you’re getting the best deal.  My gear is insured through American Family Insurance as part of my business liability insurance.  I’ve been with AmFam for 4 years and the experience has been great.  I’ve only had to make one claim (see Colorado River incident previously mentioned) but it went smoothly.  And, I’ve received great customer service from them when I’ve needed their help on various non-claim issues.

You would be wise to contact your current insurance agent to ask for his or her advice, too.  Describe what kind of insurance you’re seeking, answer whatever questions they throw at you and chances are good they’ll point you in the right direction.

I hope this helps!  As always, I’m always interested in hearing what has worked and what hasn’t worked for other photographers.  Please leave your thoughts, suggestions and experiences in the comments section and help a brutha, or sista, out.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2010 9:57 pm

    Great advice! I never really thought about insurance for camera gear, until I realized my camera stuff is almost worth as much as my car, haha… For only $5/month, it’s well worth that extra feeling of security 🙂

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