Housings have a simple goal in mind: To keep your camera separated from the water. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, it’s a manufacturing defect that causes water damage to your imaging gear. But most likely, the source of the problem is the user—you.
Many underwater photographers have been devastated by the loss of a camera or strobe due to flooding. A small hair or grain of sand can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. It’s usually not a matter of “if” your housing will flood, but “when” it will. As such, it makes sense to consider enrolling your underwater imaging gear in an insurance plan.
Why You Need Insurance for Your Underwater Camera Gear
Insurance is required by law in so many aspects of life, like cars, homes, and health. But there is no law saying you need to have insurance for your underwater camera gear.
And unless you’re a professional or advanced amateur with $10,000-plus in expensive cameras, housings, and lighting, paying monthly to insure your gear might seem like a stretch—especially when you only go on a few dive trips per year, at best.
While the majority of non-professional topside shooters probably don’t have separate camera insurance, underwater photographers are at a much higher risk of catastrophic damage to our imaging equipment. After all, we aren’t just snapping selfies in the park: We are snapping shots of snapping sharks 100 feet underwater. There’s a lot more risk inherently involved.
When something happens to your camera or strobe, it’s most likely not going to be a quick repair at a local camera store. Flooding often destroys the camera past repair. And you can’t just go out and get another camera that fits your budget at the time: Remember, nearly all housings are specific to the camera model. That means you will have to replace the camera with the same model.
In short, whether your setup is worth only $500 and used three times a year or $50,000 and in the water every day, flooding will happen at some point—and having insurance makes it a lot less stressful to get back to taking awesome underwater images.
Camera fall overboard? Make sure your insurance policy covers loss and theft as well as water damage or other physical damage
Options for Insuring Your Underwater Camera Gear
Ok, so we’ve convinced you to at least consider insuring your underwater camera gear. But there are several options when it comes to choosing which insurance is right for you. Essentially, there are two primary ways to insure your underwater camera.
i. Dive Photo Equipment Insurance: Several companies offer dedicated insurance for your imaging gear. We recommend H2O Insurance, a service provided in partnership with Divers Alert Network (DAN). Note, however, that this requires a DAN membership—which you should have!—and that you are a resident of the U.S. It offers water damage coverage on all imaging gear and provides replacement money through a convenient online claim process. You can also insure other dive-related gear like BCDs, regulators, mask, fins, tanks, or dive computers.
ii. Home Insurance: The second option for insuring your underwater camera gear is to include it in existing home insurance. Of course, doing so may incur an increase in your monthly premium; however, many insurance companies will cover your gear under “all perils”—be it flood, theft, lost luggage, or almost anything you can think of.
How to Choose Underwater Camera Insurance
Determining which of these two types of insurance—or even the provider within the category—differs from person to person. If you don’t own a home or your renter’s insurance doesn’t cover underwater camera gear, you will need to use a dive-specific equipment insurance.
But let’s say you have multiple options from multiple insurers. In that case, here are four factors to consider when shopping around:
1. What’s Covered: First and foremost, it’s important to know what is covered under the insurance policy. Ideally, you want everything to be covered—from floods to theft. This is more common under homeowner’s insurance policies. But some policies may only cover defects and not floods caused by user error. Some dive equipment insurers have specific events that are not covered, such as losing the camera on a dive or having it fall off the boat.
2. Impacts on Insurance Rates: If you opt to include your underwater camera gear on your homeowner’s policy, make sure to ask your agent how filing a claim will impact your premium or insurance status. For example, you don’t want filing a claim for a $5,000 camera to dramatically impact what you pay for insurance on home that is worth much more.
3. Replacement Method: Also make sure to ask your insurer how your gear will be replaced. Will it be by directly replacing the gear? This could take a some time. Or, can they send a check or wire transfer instantly if you need to replace the camera while traveling.
4. Cost: The elephant in the room—cost. The only way to find out how much insuring your underwater photo gear is going to cost is by asking around. Depending on your current homeowner’s insurance, adding a $10,000 camera system may barely raise your premium. Dive equipment insurers may charge upwards of $800 a year for this. But you also need to inquire about the deductible for replacing the gear: You don’t really save if you are paying less in monthly premiums but have to fork out a 20 percent deductible for ruined gear.
Insurance isn’t the sexiest part of underwater photography. We’d rather be photographing fish on a great dive than worrying about providing insurance companies with serial numbers and cost estimates.
But when something goes wrong, you want to know that finances won’t keep you out of the water for too long. Taking the time to research insurance options, filling out paperwork, and paying monthly premiums is a small price to pay to keep diving and keep shooting when the worst happens to your gear.
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