For Photographers: Insurance For Photographers.
Today we are sharing some HUGE advice for our fellow photographers! Years and years ago when we took the plunge into professional photography we sold Rick’s Jeep to buy our first two DSLRs and a few lenses, and since then we’ve always been blown away by the cost of anything photography related. It seems like if it has the word “photography” attached to it you know it’s going to be expensive. And so, one of the very first things we did when we started our business was to get both liability insurance and coverage for our gear. To be honest, we’re a little obsessive about insurance…we probably go a bit overboard because we literally insure everything. We’ve just always known that we never ever want to be in a situation where we experience a huge loss and regret not paying a small bit every month to cover it, even though we’ve never used it until recently.
So, we simply cannot emphasize how important this is and now, unfortunately, we’ve experienced a situation that validates our OCD!
A few weeks ago we were traveling through Oregon and by the time we stopped for the night we were exhausted. Tons of gear, 3 luggage bags, 2 babies, and 1 yellow lab later we somehow left my Kelly Moore camera bag sitting next to our car unattended for a few minutes in a dark hotel parking lot. And when we realized we didn’t have it with us and started looking for it we were incredibly confused. Was it in the trunk of my car? No. Well, then, we must have put it in the Jeep. Nope, not there either. But we just had it, I remember getting it out of the car! Is it in the lobby behind that big couch? Nope, not there either. Cue panic mode. Thankfully the hotel had surveillance footage of the parking lot, and sure enough, we watched ourselves walk away from the bag and just after we walked away another car pulled up, grabbed it, and took off. We were in disbelief. And then we started inventorying our gear and memory cards, and realized that we had lost a camera body, all of our prime lenses, a speed light, and a memory card containing photos from the day prior that were not yet backed up. Our stomachs literally sank into the floor. Over $10,000 of gear just gone in an instant, in one small bag. It’s scary that there can be so much value in one camera bag, and we were simply devastated. We knew (hoped) that our gear could be replaced, but at that point we were sure the memory card (and the photos on it) were lost forever.
We began the process of calling the cops to file a report as well as our insurance agent to file a claim, and in that moment we were so happy and relieved that we had coverage for the equipment that is our livelihood. So…here are the top 5 things that we learned in the process that we feel are important to share with you:
1 – Never ever leave your gear unattended. This is such an obvious one…of course you especially don’t want to leave anything unattended in a dark parking lot at midnight….but I will also admit that before this happened we would sometimes set our bags down during shoots, and then we’d get caught up in the moment and let them slip out of our peripheral vision while we were were working with our clients – and we know we aren’t the only ones, because we’ve heard stories of photographers setting their bags down while shooting a wedding and having a thief walk up and steal them while they were distracted. So just remember – you can lose your entire livelihood in just one bag – so keep it on your body at all times and never let it out of your sight.
2 – Having business insurance is non-negotiable. We never imagined that we would have a bag of gear stolen, and had it not been recovered, we would not have been able to replace all of the stolen items right away without insurance. When you’re running a business and you’ve got clients counting on you to capture their most treasured memories you simply need to protect yourself and your assets. There are plenty of companies that offer insurance for photographers, and it’s super easy and affordable.
3 - Keep records of all serial numbers. This is what saved us and led to our gear recovery. When you purchase new gear, be sure to record the serial numbers, and save them in multiple places. Your insurance policy should list them, and it should be updated as you add to your inventory, and you should keep your own separate records of them that are easily accessible. We have lists saved in both our email and in our cloud storage so they they are accessible at all times…and a list of the stolen gear and corresponding serial numbers are the first things that the cops asked us for. Thankfully we were able to access them that same evening and get them to the detective on the case – and he uploaded them into a database so that if they turned up they would be immediately flagged as stolen.
4 – Have photos of all of your gear and keep your receipts. When we filed our insurance claim, they wanted proof of ownership for the non-serial numbered items (such as my camera bag itself). Proof of ownership can come in many forms, but if you keep a photo on file of each of your business assets as well as your purchase receipts you should be covered. It’s always a good idea to save these in multiple places as well (again in your email and cloud storage) so you can quickly send them off, and once we sent receipts and photos of everything the insurance claim process went super smoothly.
5 – Be on the lookout for your gear online and in pawn shops. We were heartbroken when our gear was taken, and we had to leave Oregon the next morning, but we took the detective’s advice and before we left Rick went around to as many local pawn shops as we could find to check for our gear…and then in the week following we checked Craigslist in that area multiple times a day looking for a posting that matched our gear, which was simple to do from our phones while we were on the road. We were told that stolen electronics show up in one of these two places 90% of the time, because there aren’t a lot of other options for the thief to make a quick buck off their stolen goods, so we were religious about checking multiple times a day. And sure enough, about a week after it was stolen, just as we were finalizing our insurance claim, our bag showed up at a pawn shop!
When we received the call from the police department a week after it was stolen that our gear had been recovered we were absolutely shocked because by that time we were sure that we would never see it again, and we were just waiting on our insurance to send us final approval for funds to replace everything! But it turns out that because we were able to provide our serial numbers, and the detective entered them into their database, when a pawn shop bought them from the thief and they were immediately flagged in the system as stolen! After some paperwork and very expensive postage to ship everything across the country to us we had ALL of our gear back, including the most priceless item – the memory card with the photos we thought we had lost, and all of it was in perfect condition! So please, learn from our experience, and take the time to get insurance coverage if you don’t have it, record all of your serial numbers, and take photos of all of your gear and business assets immediately…because taking the 30 minutes to do this today could make the difference between the loss or recovery of the tools that are your livelihood. Love, R+A
Shooting with my trusty 100mm 2.8L Macro, 2 days after it was recovered…