UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020
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There’s a large group of people who make their living as a photographer, videographer, or even both. Some operate as a sole proprietorship while others expand their business and hire additional people. Additionally, there are some that work out of their home and provide their services at other venues such as weddings or making videos for other businesses. Others own a studio where the photography takes place and might or might not offer their services at other locations.
When it comes to insurance, there are a couple of policies that all these different forms of businesses need to have in order to be protected. The most important coverage is commercial general liability policy. Most photographers and videographers also want to insure their business property, especially their cameras. These types of items are covered under a commercial property insurance policy. Those who use a vehicle in their business might need to acquire a commercial auto insurance policy.
Photographers and videographers should also consider buying an errors & omissions policy which will cover their professional liability (this is different than general liability which we’ll get to later). They can also consider buying a commercial umbrella policy, especially if they have both a commercial general liability and commercial auto insurance policy. Finally, if they have employees they will need to get a workers compensation policy.
A Look at the Insurance Policies Used By Photographers and Videographers
Commercial General Liability Insurance
This policy covers the photographer or videographer liability if their actions or work environment causes bodily injury to someone else or causes property damage. It also covers advertising injury claims. This type of policy would come into play if someone broke a bone by slipping and falling in a photography studio, got burned by a hot lamp, or if their equipment causes someone to fall and hurt themselves at a wedding. It also covers if the business is sued for copyright infringement by someone else in the same line of work.
The policy will cover the legal costs the photographer or videographer incurs as well as the settlement if there is one. It covers up to the per occurrence limit on the policy for any one claim and up to the aggregate limit if there is more than one claim during the annual policy period. Smaller businesses in this industry typically have $300,000 for both of these limits while larger studios can have $1,000,000 or more.
While this is typically a low-risk profession this policy is one of the most important ones for those in these professions. Also, many wedding venues require this policy in order to take photographs or videos on their property. They don’t want their own insurance involved if the photographer or videographer causes damages.
Commercial Property Insurance
The equipment used by a photographer or videographer tends to be expensive, especially cameras and lens. A commercial property insurance policy will protect this investment by covering the equipment if it is stolen, damaged in a fire, or is lost due to other perils. This type of policy also covers things like furniture in a studio. If there is a claim the business owner would pay the deductible on the policy and the insurance company will cover the rest of the cost.
There are two types of commercial property insurance policies with the first, replacement cost, a lot more common. A replacement cost policy will cover the cost of replacing the lost business property. The less common type of policy is actual cash value which only replaces the depreciated value of the equipment which will likely be nowhere near what it costs to replace it.
An optional coverage on commercial property insurance is business interruption. This covers the costs if a business is unable to operate due to something that occurred which is covered under the policy. It provides money to do things like pay property leases, electricity, and other business expenses until the business can be reopened.
Business Owner’s Policy
Most photographers and videographers opt to buy a business owner’s policy over buying separate general liability and business property insurance policies. This policy, aka BOP insurance, combines both policies and includes business interruption. This package is not only more convenient but it’s also less expensive than separate policies.
Commercial Auto Insurance
If the business owner just drives to weddings or similar places and uses the vehicle for both personal and professional use they should contact their personal lines insurance agent. It’s likely they can have their auto insurance policy endorsed for business use which will add some cost to the policy but it shouldn’t be a prohibitive increase in rates.
Some studios have a fleet of vehicles and/or employees that drive them. In this case they will need to buy a commercial auto insurance policy which covers this type of exposure. For the most part, these types of policies have the same coverages as a personal lines auto insurance policy and work in the same way.
Commercial Umbrella Policy
A commercial umbrella policy increases the limits of liability on the underlying general liability and commercial auto insurance policies if any. This provides at least an additional $1 million in coverage which can be increased in even $1 million increments.
Errors & Omissions
As a professional, a photographer or videographer should have an errors & omissions policy in order to cover their professional liability. This provides coverage if they make a large mistake that is outside the norm of their professional standards whether it be negligence or providing inadequate work. This could include something like accidentally destroying all of the wedding photos; it wasn’t shot in the agreed upon style, or forgetting to show up at the wedding at all. These events would likely result in a lawsuit which is where errors & omissions comes into play.
Anyone that hires employees needs to have workers compensation, especially as most states require it. This type of policy covers the worker if they are injured while on the job and covers all their medical bills and lost wages. Someone that operates as a sole proprietorship would have coverage for their medical bills under their own health insurance policy.
How Much It Costs To Insure This Type of Business
As mentioned, being a photographer or videographer is a low-risk business proposition. The median cost of a commercial general liability policy is about $425 for an annual policy. Bigger operations will, of course, have more exposure and cost more to insure than a sole proprietorship, for example. A sole photographer could pay just $350 a year for this important protection.
The commercial property insurance policy depends on the amount of property to insure but it should be relatively affordable as well. A sole proprietor could pay around $400 a year while a studio with all of the equipment, specialized pull down scenery, furniture, computers, and whatnot can expect to pay closer to $3,000 a year. A BOP will be less than the sum of these two policies separately as they are discounted as a package.
If a photographer or videographer needs to buy commercial auto insurance the rates will depend on where the business is located, the size of the fleet, what the specific vehicles are, and the drive records of everyone who operates them. This could range anywhere from a small business with two vehicles paying $1000 a year to a large business paying an order of magnitude more than that. A good way to keep the cost down is to obtain motor vehicle records before an employee is hired and weeding out those with tickets and especially at-fault accidents.
An errors & omissions policy for a photographer or videographer will range depending on what they do and, again, the size of the business as those with more exposure pose more risk. A sole photographer might be charged around $350 a year for a policy with a $300,000 liability limit.
The average photography studio will pay about $400 a year for a commercial umbrella policy with $1 million in coverage. This is, of course, on top of what they pay for their underlying general liability and commercial auto insurance policies.
Any employer needs workers compensation. A photography studio with an average amount of employs could pay anywhere from $950 a year to $2400 depending on what state they operate their business in.
Where to Buy a Policy for These Types of Businesses
Any agent that can sell commercial insurance will be able to insure a photographer, videographer, or a photography studio. This includes all of the well-known insurance companies that we all see in TV ads regularly. There are also specialty insurance companies that offer these types of policies which can be sold by those agents who do not work for any one particular insurance company. These agents either work as brokers or work with other companies that broker out the policies to a variety of insurance companies for quotes.