Don't Shoot in the Dark
A Risk Management Guide for Self-Employed Photographers and Videographers

Chapter 1: Small Business Insurance Basics for Photographers and Videographers
Part 2: Do Freelancers Need Small Business Insurance?
General Liability Insurance for Freelance and Self-Employed Photographers and Videographers

General Liability Insurance is an essential coverage for most types of freelancers — especially those who work with the public. That's because General Liability Insurance protects you from the kinds of claims third parties (like your clients) commonly file against small businesses. These include claims of:

  • Bodily harm.
  • Property damage.
  • Personal / Advertising injury.

Several factors can increase your General Liability risk. Learn more about these factors below.

  • You rent or own an office / studio. Any time a member of the public can cross your business threshold, you're at risk for General Liability claim. That's because someone could get injured at your studio and blame it on your business. GLI is sometimes called "slip and fall" insurance for this reason. For example: You run a one-person baby portrait studio. One day, you're doing some test shots of a particularly crabby infant. The mother is trying to sooth the baby, who is lying on a raised platform. You turn around to adjust your lighting, and apparently, the mother had her back turned too. You hear a thud. The baby has fallen off the platform and needs to be sent to the hospital. The mother decides to sue you, claiming that the fall could have been prevented.
  • You work with clients. Most people associate GLI with damages you can see: property loss or physical injury. But photographers and videographers can be held liable for a client's "personal injuries," (aka non-physical injuries). This could be anything from copyright infringement to emotional injuries. For example: In its "Lawsuit of the Day New browser window icon." column, Above the Law New browser window icon. details a case in which a law school grad sued a portrait studio for using an unflattering image of him to promote the studio's retouching services. The "before" and "after" photo of his acne-ridden face was sent to many of his classmates by way of the portrait studio's email blast. The plaintiff claims he suffered from "extreme mental and emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, outrage and other mental anguish."
  • You shoot "on location." Many freelance photographers and videographers must go out into the world to work. It's a good thing, then, that GLI can follow you from your place of business to another location: a wedding venue, an office, your client's home. If you happen to accidently break something or injure someone while on someone else's property, you could be sued. For example: In its article "Butterfingered Photographers Being Sued for $300,000 by Art Collector New browser window icon.," PetaPixel New browser window icon. reports on a lawsuit involving a clumsy magazine photographer and a broken 2,630-year-old Nigerian Nok statue. The art collector subsequently sued the pants off the magazine the photographer worked for. Had the photographer been a freelancer, the liability would have been all his.
  • You run a home-based business. It's common for freelancers to work out of their homes — why spend extra money on office space when you have all the room you need on at home? Unfortunately, business-related mishaps that occur on personal property are generally excluded from your Homeowner's policy, even if you have a liability rider. For example: You run your videography business out of your home's basement. A bride-to-be arranges to stop by your house in order to drop off a deposit for your videography services. As she makes her way down the wooden stairs to your basement, she falls and breaks her arm. She sues, claiming that the varnished wood was slippery and the stairs should have been carpeted to prevent injuries.

$300,000 = Third-party liability claim when a photographer broke a piece of art.

As you may have gathered from these examples, lawsuits don't have to be "legitimate" to cost your business money. Some can file a claim against your business for the slightest of reasons. It may eventually get thrown out it court, but you'll still have to spend money on your legal defense until then. Luckily, General Liability Insurance can help you pay for a lawyer's bills AND other expenses, including…

  • Settlements.
  • Judgments.
  • Medical costs.
  • Other court-related fees.

Even frivolous lawsuits come with expensive legal fees.

It's not uncommon for photographers and videographers to be contractually required to carry General Liability Insurance. A client may require proof of insurance, as may the owner of the venue where you will be shooting.

Small businesses pay more than $130 billion each year in lawsuits New browser window icon.. Larger businesses pay only $30 billion.

Be sure to double-check your contracts. And for more information about proof of insurance, jump to "Certificates of Liability Insurance for Photographers and Videographers" below.

Next: Protect Your Equipment: Property Insurance for Photographers and Videographers

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