What types of insurance do photographers need?
Early in my freelance photography career, I didn’t have health insurance. I thought I couldn’t afford it. This was pre-Obamacare, when true health insurance (not just catastrophic coverage) was super expensive and covered practically nothing, and you could be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions. I was young and healthy enough that I’d be fine. Until I wasn’t. Luckily, I found a free health clinic that helped me with an injury (not before humiliating me, though, with all kinds of questions about my life and career choices up to that point).
Luck can’t get us through all life’s unexpected health and financial circumstances, though. Now, as an older and slightly wiser person, I know I need insurance to protect my life, my stuff and my ability to earn money.
As with any type of consumer product, it’s important to research insurance companies, read their reviews and even talk to current customers to find out how that company is working out for them. Researching and buying insurance may seem like the most mundane life admin task you can imagine doing. But it’s also an important thing to do to because:
You might lose or break your camera gear or it might be stolen.
GEAR INSURANCE covers you in case of damage, loss or theft of your camera equipment. As with most other types of insurance, you pay a monthly or annual premium and pay the deductible when you make a claim (see below for insurance definitions). Anything over the deductible amount is covered by the insurance company.
You may wonder, “Why do I need this insurance if my homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers camera gear?” Because in most cases in the United States, if you use your camera gear to earn money, your gear isn’t covered under homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
You might make a professional mistake (real or perceived) and be sued.
PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY (ERRORS & OMISSIONS) INSURANCE covers you in case a client is unhappy with your work or if a client believes you’ve broken the terms of your agreement with them.
Here’s a potential scenario: together with the client, you create a shot list. When you upload all your photographs, the client says you didn’t provide some of the pictures on the shot list. Even if you believe the shots are there, if the client doesn’t, they may want to sue you. Professional liability insurance covers you in this scenario. In fact, some clients may not hire you unless you have this insurance.
You might injure yourself and not be able to work for a while.
PERSONAL DISABILITY INSURANCE provides you with income in case you are incapacitated by an illness or an injury. There’s generally a waiting period before benefits kick in; the longer the waiting period, the lower your monthly premium. Short-term disability policies cover you for up to one or two years, depending on the policy, and long-term policies cover you for many years or even the rest of your life, again depending on the policy.
You might fall sick and need a doctor.
HEALTH INSURANCE covers some of your medical costs for regular doctor visits and medical emergencies. Health care is expensive in the United States, as many Americans know from experience. “Relative to the size of its economy, the U.S. spends a much greater amount on health care” than other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, according to data from Peterson-KFF, two nonprofits that monitor the U.S. healthcare system’s performance.
The unfortunate fact in the United States is that Americans are in $140 billion worth of medical debt, according to data from July 2021. Many people even declare bankruptcy due to medical debt. A recent Gallup poll showed that 50% of Americans worry a medical event could lead to bankruptcy.
Having health insurance isn’t a guarantee against expensive medical bills. But it does mean you’re likely to pay less for care than if you were uninsured.
You might unexpectedly die.
LIFE INSURANCE provides tax-free income for your family and loved ones when you die. I know, I know — in American culture we really don’t like to talk about death. But this is important: the money from your life insurance policy means that those grieving your passing don’t have the added burden of worrying about how to pay for your funeral or how to pay off your debts, like credit cards, mortgages and car loans.
For those who depend on your income for living expenses, life insurance means they’ll have money to pay their bills and maintain their current lifestyle without fretting about income. Depending on the life insurance policy, there may even be enough money to help pay for a child’s education, start a business or invest in the stock market.
Most importantly, you and your loved ones will have peace of mind that their financial situation will be fine after you’re gone.
Premium – This is the amount of money you pay each month for your insurance policy.
Deductible – This is the amount of money you pay when you make an insurance claim before your insurance company starts to share in the costs.
Be sure to listen to the Creative + Moneywise podcast episode all about insurance. It features photographers Karen Kasmauski and Stacey Vaeth talking about their experiences with various types of insurance. I promise it’s interesting!