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Protecting Yourself From Risk as A Real Estate Photographer

Published: 14/04/2015
By: larry

Dean recently asked the question:

I don't recall any posts or discussions about insurance, specifically, for those who aren't covered by some form of liability as an agent. So, how is this addressed by both photographers and agent/photographers. My concern would be the new photographer who should secure some form of coverage, especially if they're shooting as an independent contractor. Your input and that of others about limits, ballpark figures, etc. would be great.

First of all my guess is (I'm not a lawyer) that if you are an agent/photographer the liability insurance you have through your broker does not cover you when you are in a home in the capacity of a photographer.

Also, listing agents typically are responsible for all contractors that they give access to a property that has a listing agreement signed. This is why for the 10 years I was agent member of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service in Seattle, there was a $5,000 fine by the NWMLS for leaving a contractor unattended in a listing.

As a photographer, along with general business liability insurance you need to have your equipment insured. You should be able to get a general business insurance policy that covers your business for liability and for loss of your equipment for somewhere between $500 to $1,200 a year depending on the details and extent of your coverage.

About 3 years ago, when discussing this subject, a high volume real estate photographer in the San Diego area gave some great advice that has kept his company out of trouble for 34,000+ shoots:

  1. Don't touch anything.
  2. Carry liability insurance.
  3. Require your contract photographers carry liability insurance.
  4. Have your customers sign a TOS that includes: "Client agrees to defend and hold Company and photographer harmless regarding any damage to property or furniture, including accusations of theft. In the event that photographer accidentally breaks or otherwise damages personal property while in the course of photographing the property, client agrees to reimburse seller for any and all expenses involved and will not demand reimbursement from Company or photographer." This is because according to a famous article in PDN liability insurance typically doesn't cover you if you break something,
  5. In all his client correspondence it's stated that photographers are not permitted to move anything.

Here are some contacts for business insurance brokers that specialize in coverage for Photographers:

Check out what works best for you and understand exclusions up front.

8 comments on “Protecting Yourself From Risk as A Real Estate Photographer”

  1. I love Thomas Pickard! Their customer service is great and they're incredibly responsive to needs and questions. The one time I had to file a claim (gear, not liability) it was resolved within a matter of days. Can't say enough great things about them!

  2. Members of Professional Photographers of America get free $15,000 of equipment insurance and Indemnification Trust (Malpractice Protection). Other insurance polices at low rates. PPA.com
    I've been a member since 1965.

  3. Rather than acting as a sole proprietor, I setup my business as an LLC. You can chat with a legal expert/lawyer for advice, but this level of liability protection seemed like a no brainer.

  4. The "Don't touch anything" guideline seems a bit paranoid. I have to move things all of the time from chairs to counter top items to get the best images I can. I ask the homeowner or occupant if there is anything that I shouldn't move or can't be moved to let me avoid anything with exceptional value. After I have explained how I make adjustments to "play to the camera", they have all been more than happy to let me move things and they are even impressed that I am putting that much attention to detail into the photos. There have been items people didn't want moved and I simply made a note and planned my composition accordingly.

    I believe agents have to carry insurance against damage so a good tactic is to rope them into being an assistant. It's worked for me on a couple of occasions and it makes the job go faster.

    Any business person should have an insurance policy that covers their activities. I do and have never had to use it in over 20 years. I am careful and not accident prone and neither am I paranoid that I'm going to ruin something expensive on a job.

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