As the season begins, how should I make sure I am prepared to shoot weddings?

As spring begins to bloom the start of the wedding season is upon us and it is imperative that you are prepared for the months ahead. For some people, this will be the first year they have started shooting weddings, or indeed anything on a professional level, and it is important to get it right from the offset.

Firstly, decide if you're professional or not. This will have a bearing on the kind of insurance that you need. If you undertake ANY photography for money even expenses, especially weddings, then you are a professional - even if you only do a couple a year. It just means that as opposed to being a full time professional - you're a part time professional or semi pro as some people may call you!

Before you start trading

Decide on the name you're going to use to promote yourself. Once you have this, it will time to start planning advertising campaigns, wedding fairs, websites and the like but it is important you set up your Public Liability (PL) insurance first. This will help cover you against any "accidents" that may happen, or be caused by you, to members of the public. Make sure that any PL cover you take out has 3rd Party Property damage included with it - after all, if you spill red wine on a clients carpet or knock over their priceless statute you want to make sure you can make a claim. BEWARE: some "cheap" PL insurance does not cover this and you DO need it especially if there is a chance you are going to visit clients in their own home or shoot there.

Ready to go

The advertising is underway, the website is running and you've booked to go to a couple of wedding fairs and you have a couple of weddings confirmed for later in the year. Now is the time to decide what you want or need to insure. If you're shooting weddings then Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance is a must. This will help cover you if something goes wrong and you cannot produce the pictures to a professional standard. It will also help if the bride or groom decide the images are "not good enough" and want their money back! In the worst case scenario, if you're taken to court it will help pay legal fees and any judgement that could be made against you up to the sum insured - useful if a judge decides you have to restage the whole wedding and shoot it again!

Then there is your equipment. Probably the least important thing you insure as the PL and PI are more important as the costs can be greater, you should decide if you want to cover it. It is worth remembering you could add this on as an extension to your home insurance, but home insurance usually takes weeks to sort out claims so a professional policy might be better as it is quicker and can allow hire equipment to keep you working! The other big advantage is it won't affect any no claims discount you have earned as a result of being claim free at home.

Check the cover properly. Does it allow you to go abroad? Is there accidental damage cover? Does it allow you to use it for work? Make sure you also check the excesses - whilst it is lovely to have "no" excess - this usually means that items under a certain value are not covered which is useless if you have a claim! Also, it is important to look at the unattended vehicle cover too. After all, if there is no cover after 6pm at night it isn't going to be very useful if you are shaking hands with the bride and groom at 8pm whilst someone is stealing your gear from the car!

I have all the insurance I need

That is great! You have your PL and PI and your equipment is covered as well - so you're ready to go! Just check that your Insurance Providers aren't insisting that you use "their" contract for weddings and they have qualified all the little points you needed answering and you should be good to go! If you're not happy with a response, or the question is a fairly big "what if" get the Insurance Provider to put it in writing to you - even if it is just a quick email. That way, if the worst happens you already have the decision, or the way they would handle it, in writing in case they try and make a different decision!

Is there a way to limit potential losses

If you want to have a good go at limiting potential losses then it is important that your clients are as "risk aware" as you are. A good way to support this is to get them to buy wedding insurance. Perhaps, before the season begins, you could consider offering a discount on your fee for couples that can show you a valid wedding insurance certificate. This will make the couple-to-be much more aware of what could go wrong on the day and will mean they are actively looking out for those signs to try and arrest them before they occur. This will mean you are less likely to have a claim against you under PL and PI Insurance.

It is probably also a good idea to get your camera serviced and the lens cleaned in advance of the wedding too. Make sure you pack a back up camera just in case and ALWAYS store your cards separate from your cameras - that way, if the cameras are stolen you still have the images from the wedding you have just shot! Don't forget to back up your PC or Mac too - they can breakdown and wipe images as well.

Once you have all this sorted out it is time to concentrate on running your business. With your marketing underway the bookings should be starting to come in and you can be safe in the knowledge that if anything goes wrong your Insurance Providers will be ready to lend a hand.

Call us on 020 3633 2280 for more advice or if you have a specific question.

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