Photography Insurance is for the Client

The White Stripes – Instinct Blues

Once when consulting with a prospective wedding client, I mentioned that I was insured through a photography business program.  The mother of the bride asked outright, “Why does that matter?”

I was taken aback.  It took me a minute to formulate an answer.  Even now it’s difficult for me to put it in words.

Photography insurance is like any other insurance.  You aren’t glad you have it until something goes wrong.  Hopefully something never goes wrong.  A good photographer is a paranoid photographer- anything that can go wrong will go wrong when you’re least expecting it.  But how do you explain that to a prospective client without making it seem like you’re a hazard factory at best, and inept at worst?

I backed up and explained my rationale for photography insurance, why it’s a part of my costs accrued.  Obviously this was a conversation that had turned to the fabulous topic of why photography is so expensive.  Other people have explained it more eloquently than I, and I can point to those articles, but that doesn’t help me sell to a client.  Even though I would think that it would be a comfort for them, like buying a car with an extended warranty built in.

Paula Abdul - Opposites Attract

So that’s what I did.  I talked about their investment in the wedding besides hiring a photographer.  A wedding is a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event.  You get one chance as a photographer to do it right.  There’s no retake.  You can’t call everyone back together to the same venue the next week and do it again.  For the wedding party, it’s a party.  Hopefully everything goes off with as little conflict as possible.  They pay money for the venue, the wardrobe, the food, the party.  That all is an investment.  So should photography be an investment.

For the photographer, it’s a nerve-wracking, exhausting process.  A good photographer is paranoid, carries backups of everything and once the wedding is over, makes sure that their memory cards with all the images are protected better than the President.  All photographers have read the horror stories of lost images and corrupted data with a cold chill.  Most of us likely don’t sleep until after we’ve uploaded and triple-backed up our images.  I tried going to sleep as soon as I got home after a wedding, figured I’d be able to start my backup process in the morning.  I had a nightmare of having my cameras stolen out of a broken window, and found myself up at 4:30 AM uploading my backups.  We build redundancies and protections into our workflow so we don’t lose one picture.  I have two separate on-site backup hard drives, one Readygear NAS 314 RAID backup server, and a cloud backup service through Crashplan.  All my pictures go to all three systems as soon as I download them.  Forever.  I still have all the raw images from my first wedding in 2007.  They aren’t going anywhere.  It’s cheaper to buy a terabyte than it is to re-shoot a wedding.

So I explain this to my client, and tell them that while I’ve never lost an image, I have to be prepared for the worst.  I knock on a lot of wood when I do this.  I tell them that photography insurance protects me from the worst of situations, but it also protects them.  If something goes wrong, the client is protected from the loss of investment of their time and money in both me and the other costs of a wedding.  If someone gets hurt during the course of a wedding and it has anything to do with me (fault or not) we’re all protected.  A wedding photographer without business insurance is like driving without a seatbelt, I say.  You’re fine a majority of the time, but the one time you have a wreck and you’re not wearing it… I don’t finish the analogy.

Of Monsters and Men - Dirty Paws

I then say something I say to every potential client, it’s one of two pieces of free advice I give whether or not they pick me for their event.  Make sure your photographer is insured, whoever you use.  Ask for the policy provider.  They need to be able to give you a company, even better if you can see a statement.  I carry a card with my insurance information on it.  My policy is through CNA and every encounter I've had with them has been more than pleasant. 

Fortunately I’ve never had to use my insurance to deal with a loss of images for a client.  Stolen gear?  Yes, but that’s another post for another day.  I hope I never have to use my insurance for a client event.  But for all my past clients and all my future ones, I’m glad I have it.  I sleep a little bit easier knowing I have it… as long as I get the pictures backed up first.

Photography Insurance is for the Photographer, too

This was a bad day. 

The Eagles – New Kid In Town


We’d only been inside twenty minutes, my dad and I.  We’d gotten back from visiting my grandmother out of state, and stopped off 10th street for a quick meal.  I parked in the deck, a lot that seemed safe.  I’m always careful.  Didn’t think twice about it. 

It was a smash and grab.  They must have just seen the backpacks in the trunk and gone for it.  No way to know that they’d scored a good payoff. 

Junip – Don’t Let It Pass

After the police had come and gone with the report and the serial numbers for everything stolen, I had to take stock.  I’d lost my secondary camera, prime portrait lens, a vintage film camera and its prime lens, my laptop and portable hard drive, other electronics and photography related gear.  In all, close to $3,300 gone if depreciation was accounted for.  Not including my dad’s work laptop and the $500+ in damage to my car. 

One of my first blog posts was an explanation of why photography business insurance is good for the client.  This is the story of why it’s good for the photographer.

My policy is through CNA.  By the time this happened, I’d had the policy over two years.  It was a comfort in my back pocket, something I never thought I’d have to use but it made me feel more safe and secure, worry less about my gear and got me out shooting more.  Smart backup policy meant that I didn’t have to worry about loss of data.  I constantly back everything up in triplicate, a complicated process I’d put in place early on in my business that is now as easy as uploading the data to any one of three computers that then quickly send the data to backups at the other two locations along with a private server in my house and an off-site cloud server run by Crashplan.  I was never happier to have those routines in place.  I didn’t lose any data.  There would have been no way to recreate it if I had.  Paranoia in this business is a good thing.

The Black Crowes – Twice As Hard

Within a day, CNA had contacted me back, had been in contact with the police, had copies of all the serial numbers from all my gear lost (because that’s what you have to do when running a photography business, keep records of everything you purchase and rent).  Within a week they’d cut a check to replace my lost materials.  Unlike me, they didn’t count depreciation and I was actually able to upgrade my equipment.  Within two weeks of the theft, I had a new rear windshield and an upgraded camera, lens, and laptop.  Without my insurance, it would have taken me a long time to recover, and I wouldn’t have been able to do weddings for a while until I could afford a new camera body. 

There are a few types of insurance a good photographer, especially if they work events or weddings, needs to have.  The first is multiple cameras.  That’s the most immediate kind of insurance there is.  If one breaks, you have another.  The next is a good contract that protects their client and themselves.  The third is insurance.  If I had lost that gear with a wedding on it… that thought alone would be painful.  But I would have been able to repay the couple for the financial burden lost.  Without the insurance?  The end of my career in photography period. 

The Jimmy Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower

If you’re a potential client looking for a good wedding photographer- whoever you meet with, make sure they have insurance.  If they don’t, don’t hire them.  No matter what they offer you. 

If you’re a photographer even glancing an eye towards weddings or events- buy insurance.  Just do it.  Don’t make excuses.  It’s worth the cost. 

Trust me.