Business + Marketing

Is Your Photo Business Ready to Face a Natural Disaster?

December 6, 2018

By Erin Costa

Photo © Erin Costa

Updated 10/13/2022

Even though I grew up experiencing massive storms, Hurricane Florence, which ravaged North Carolina this past September, has taught me so many lessons and made me rethink everything. When it comes to protecting your photo business (or any business) for such a storm, it helps to be prepared in advance. I was out of the country at the time, leaving my studio to be hurricane- prepped by my assistants, Cassie and Jordan; we communicated by text while I was in Greece. Not ideal, wouldn’t you say? Thankfully, we sustained minimal damage (unlike so many others in our area) and I am so grateful for everything the girls did to get ready for the storm. Here are eight tips for ensuring your business is prepared.



1. Double- and triple-check your business insurance policy.

Don’t have business insurance? Please, go out right now and get it. Protecting your photo business is so important these days as big storms continue to be on the rise in certain regions. Once a storm is en route, you will not be able to get insurance in your area. If you aren’t sure where to get business insurance, reach out to your home/renter’s insurance provider and see if they offer it. You can also reach out to local colleagues or check out companies like Hiscox, Hill and Usher and even USAA. Don’t forget to find out:

• how much you are covered for in the event of damages.
• what your deductible is.
• if your policy covers you in case of flood damage (many do not).
• what exactly is covered under your policy.

2. If you rent a studio like we do, is your landlord responsible for any internal damage or is that up to you?

Now is the time to dust off that lease and find out or have a talk with your landlord.

3. Keep a running spreadsheet of anything of value in your studio.

Last year we updated ours, and we will be double-checking that again in the wake of this storm. Everything from our TVs (include make, model and serial numbers when you can), computers, speakers, furniture, lights, sample albums, products and more—add anything that will cost you a substantial sum to replace on your list. If you are able to, take photos and include them in the same folder as your list so it’s accessible. Make sure anyone that works with you has access to the list.

4. Keep an updated spreadsheet of your camera gear (include make, model, serial numbers).

Include all cameras, flashes, triggers, constant lights, camera bags, etc. Again, if you can, take photos of your gear and store them with your list. Having this handy will make an insurance claim go as smoothly as possible in the event of loss.

5. Create a comprehensive disaster plan for your studio.

Include all procedures for securing your studio, equipment and studio valuables. Who will do what? Include phone numbers of emergency contacts and notify clients if there will be a prolonged absence (such as evacuation) that will delay any of their deliverables.

6. Store any hard drives in a water-resistant safe.

We removed our working drives, and we keep our small portable ones with us at all times, but our older drives were moved into a fire- and water-resistant safe during the storm, away from the other drives. We also keep a backup of images online.

7. Maintain a rainy-day fund in case of emergency.

After Hurricane Florence came through, we lost several shoots and weddings, resulting in a loss of thousands of dollars in income. This is nothing compared to what so many have lost, but local government may be able to provide some assistance for loss of income. Locally, we could apply for relief due to our county being declared a disaster zone, but you must supply your P&L and other documentation, so have that information handy.

8. Protecting Your Photo Business: Be involved in your local community—be truly involved.

Get to know your neighbors, join the local Chamber of Commerce and link up with networking groups. I know, this seems daunting and possibly overwhelming in the midst of the everyday mile-long to-do list of a small- business owner but again, protecting your photo business in advance as much as you can is crucial. And the people in your community will rally behind you should something happen, as you should for them. I’ve seen it over and over again in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Erin Costa is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based out of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Related: Safety First and Foremost

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