Insurance and Permits

The LAW that very few Photographers actually follow...

Out here in the west, insurance is absolutely required if you want to perform as a professional.

I am sure in most areas of the east it is the same way.

Litigation is such a plague in our society now, everyobody is "SUE HAPPY!" so to be allowed to shoot on any property, even BLM, MUNICIPAL or STATE property, they require a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage with the entity that owns the property being named as the co-insured.

You, as a tourist can walk around in Las Vegas and take all the photos you want.

I, as a published professional cannot. I am required by law to have $1 million in liability coverage and apply for a FILM PERMIT.

City of Las Vegas Film Permit requirements... More Info Here!

Las Vegas is in Clark County, in some cases, I am required to obtain a County Permit and Clark County includes 8,000 square miles of OPEN DESERT around Las Vegas. More Info Here!

It is one of those laws that was for a good purpose, but went horribly wrong. Intended to govern and regulate the Motion Picture Industry when they shoot on City property, it now applies to any Commercial Photography and/or any Photographer deemed to be a Professional. Even if you are not shooting something for resale or a commercial assignment, if you are a professional photographer, have ever been published, the City and Law Enforcement here ASSUME as a professional, you will at some point, either publish or sell your images, so if they stop you and deem you to be professional, which is entirely at their discretion, often a conclusion made just because you have expensive equipment or a tripod, then you had better have insurance and a permit or be fined $1,000.

I have had several arguments with City Hall about this law, I asked... If I am standing next to a tourist on the Strip shooting the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, we both are using the same equipment, he is a doctor from Oregon... both shooting the same sign, is it illegal for me to take the photo without a permit?

The City Official/Clerk told me, "Yes! The Doctor is a tourist and is free to take all the photos he wants, but you have been published 1,189 times, therefore you have an established history as a professional, whether the photo you are taking at the time is commercial or not, we have to assume at some point once you obtain the photo, you may in the future decide to use it commercially or publish it, therefore you need a permit and to meet the insurance requirements. The Doctor does not." By publishing, they defined that as to inclue publishing on a web page and/or as part of a portfolio or gallery.

If I take a photo on FREMONT STREET which is managed by a private entity, The Fremont Street Experience LLC, I have to get TWO PERMITS, one from the City of Las Vegas that owns the property and another for FSE LLC and again, provide $1 million insurance, name each entity as co-insured, including the police department and fire department.

What most people do not realize is that virtually everywhere you go, every place you shoot that is not YOUR OWN PROPERTY, you as a professional are REQUIRED to have a FILM PERMIT and at LEAST $1 million in liability coverage. Most photogrpahers do not know, do not understand or do not bother, but in most cities, most corporate properties and ALL BLM or FEDERALLY MANAGED LAND... you are REQUIRED to have $1 million coverage and a FILM PERMIT.

My son was 30 miles into the middle of the Mojave Desert, not a single sign of man anywhere in sight. They were taking turns photographing motorcycle stunts, wheelies etc... Along comes a Nevada Highway Patrol 4x4 vehicle, the cop asks them if they have a FILM PERMIT, my son says he does not. The officer told him he had to stop taking photos on BLM land and that if he continued he would be cited $1,000 or arrested. IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!!

YES! They not only require LARGE PRODUCTIONS have a permit, but professional still photographers or anything they deem having commercial potential, which includes publishing on a web page. More Info Here!

Believe me, I have spent hours on the phone arguing the silliness of some of the requirements and laws. But the enforcement officer who approaches you on BLM land has sole discretion to make the decision whether you qualify as a professional or the images have commercial potential.

On the property of EVERY HOTEL, CASINO IN VEGAS and I am sure everywhere else in America, they require $1 million of liability and a permit, some properties require $2 million in liability.

In California on every public beach and every City and County property, they require $1 to $2 million in liability and a film permit.

On STATE LAND, virtually every state requires at least $1 million in liability coverage and a film permit, for any professional photography or photography considered to have commercial value or potential as it was explained to me.

State of Nevada film permit requirements. YES IT APPLIES TO STILL PHOTOGRAPHERS! More Info Here!

In New York City, you can shoot as a professional and even commercially WITHOUT A PERMIT, as long as you do not use cables, tripods or light stands... as long as there are no cables between the photographer and the person holding the lights, meaning wirelessly tethered and nothing with legs, light stands, tripods etc are touching the ground, you do not have to have a permit. Use a tripod or light stand and you must obtain a film permit and have insurance... They call it THE TRIPOD LAW! The reason, tripods, stands and cables are trip hazards.

Okay, now to the NUTS AND BOLTS.... YES YOU SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST $1 Million in Liability Insurance and a minimum of TWICE THE COST of your current equipment inventory in inventory/equipment insurance. Replacing gear costs more than the original purchase.

Photographer Insurance Companies are listed below.

If you are a member of the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) which I was for 25 years... I am not a member any longer, I just lost interest and let the membership expire, never rejoined and at this point, probably won't... but they have an insurance package for members, you way want to check that out. More Info Here!

TCP INSURANCE CO. (My choice, but at the time I was not shopping around, needed insurance in a hurry, so I asked for a quote and went with them. Others may be cheaper, I have just never really shopped around. I may do some shopping when I have some time in July or August.)

HILL & USHER INSURANCE (This is Hill & Usher, they have been around and are used by many professionals I run into.)

R.V. Nuccio & Associates, Inc (I have heard of them, but do not know much about them.)

You won't know you actually NEED insurance until it is too late.

YEARS ago, I was shooting a wedding at Mt. Charleston Lodge and I hired a new assistant to help. While setting up a light, the assistant accidentally tripped over a curled cable which was attached to the Keyboard of one of the musicians and the keyboard fell on it's side, not a hard fall, it just kinda layed over slowly, NO DAMAGE WHATSOEVER, but the keyboard player came over and started yelling at my assistant.

I stepped in and told him first to stop yelling and talk to me. He kept telling me how the keyboard cost $5,000 and if it was damaged, I was going to have to buy him a NEW ONE. He probably paid $450 for that one at one of our couple of dozen Pawn Shops, always chocked full of band gear, but THE BEST BET IN VEGAS was that he was going to use this OPPORTUNITY to have me buy him the one he dreamed of owning, but could not afford.

I told him, "Fire it up and lets see if there is any damage, if so... I will take care of the repairs!" He plugged it in, no signs whatsoever of any damage... his dreams were crushed, but had even one key not functioned, he would have been dancing in the isle, submitting to me the highest invoice he could find for his NEW DREAM KEYBOARD. Without insurance... that could be a disaster, a lawsuit, a judgement and possibly an "Operating without liability insurance FINE!" in some jurisdictions.

MANY HOTELS, BUSINESSES, GOVERNMENT ENTITIES AND PROPERTIES do not allow you to work on their property without INSURANCE and a PERMIT. More and more convention facilities are requiring photographers to be insured now, we are seeing it even in wedding venues.