Woes of Getting Camera Gear Coverage as a Hobbyist

At the beginning of January, I did something that I had been meaning to do for quite some time. I contacted my insurance agent to get coverage for my camera gear. I realized that over the last 3 years, I had accumulated a total sum of equipment that would not be covered under my home owners policy. I decided to go for a State Farm Personal items policy, as I do not have a photography business, therefore, I wouldn’t need commercial coverage. I compiled my list of equipment and sent it in to my agent and paid the inital sum to bind the policy back on January 4th. I checked back at the beginning of the week to see what the status was, as I had not yet received my full terms etc. in the mail. The rep at the office looked into it, and asked me again if I was a professional photographer. I said no, that I am a hobbyist who happens to like really nice equipment.

The State Farm underwriters searched for me online and saw my name showing up on various websites related to conventions etc, and saw my watermarked images and assumed that I was a paid professional. Apparently a website and a watermark will lead underwriters to believe that you don’t get to qualify for a personal items policy as you are considered a freelance photographer at that point. I reiterated that I have to pay to go to all of the events that I shoot, but at this point their hands were tied. They say that this leads to too much exposure, which invalidates the personal items policy which puts me in a unique loophole on the personal items side of the house.

I said fine, and asked for a quote for a commercial policy at that point. They agent eventually had to talk between both a commercial and personal policy underwriter at the same time and figure out what to do. The things that I wanted to be sure of is that if I did a commercial policy, that my gear would be covered if I am not shooting commercial work, as I don’t shoot commercially. This is a loophole on the commercial side that if you are on vacation or shooting personally, then if your gear is damaged or lost, it is not covered.

This is when I was told that I pretty much couldn’t be insured by them as if they wrote a policy on either side, it would pretty much lead to me not being covered if something did happen to my equipment. This is a pain, but at the same time, my agent was nice enough to refer me to another company who is currently working on a quote for me, so I will update this after I hear back. I am kind of on a time crunch, as I have a trip planned to Reelfoot lake at the end of the month to try and get some pictures of the migrating bald eagles that nest there during the winter. I will be travelling on a boat to a duck blind, and I have this fear of something happening and seeing my gear sink to the bottom of a lake, so I want to be sure my gear is covered before then.

The big things to draw from this are:

  • If you shoot events, or make money of any sort from your photography, and are under a personal items policy, from what I understand, your coverage can be denied if you ever have to go and file a claim.
  • Insurance underwriters have a very different definition of pro vs hobbyist photographer.
  • If you have business insurance and are on vacation with your gear and it is damaged, there is a very good chance that it won’t be covered.
  • Apparently no one insures your gear if you happen to be on a cruise ship. (I asked this as my family cruises often, and that is a special circumstance according to insurance coverage that I am glad I learned about now instead of later.)

I would suggest that if you have your equipment insured on its own policy, you break out the fine print and make sure that you are truly covered for all scenarios, or see if you need to change to a different type of policy.

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3 Responses to “Woes of Getting Camera Gear Coverage as a Hobbyist”

  • It seems like a no brainer that they would have a combo package for “pro-sumer” type users. Basically take half the price of a professional plan and half the price of a hobbyist plan and you got your new plan coverage. I hope the new quote works out for you. Only other option would be to have two plans, one professional and one hobbyist. Ick.

  • Interesting. At what level should someone look into getting coverage? And what are the deductibles and coverage like? Most of the times I’ve had a camera problem, it’s been cheaper to replace than to repair, but I would guess that if you have $800 lenses instead of $300 lenses or a $5000 body that things are different.

  • As to when to get coverage, that would be up to the individual, but even if the deductible ends up being 500 dollars, that is less than half the value of any of my lenses or camera bodies, so I would still benefit. From what I understand, most home owners coverage covers theft or fire. If anything else happens, then you are pretty much out of luck. I am also insuring my large studio lights, my hard drives that are just for image backup and storage, etc. Since I take this equipment with me to shoot at conventions etc, I feel that I need it covered for when it is not in my house, as that is when I would likely have issues with damage, theft etc.

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