Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017

Photo Tours and Instruction - Not so easy

April 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

After retiring and seeing how truly great the photographic possibilities were in western North Carolina, I thought about starting a small photo tour business.  There are several very good photo tours and workshops already available operated by some great photographers.  But I still thought there would be room for me to get started.  I had originally wanted to run about three photo tours per year and fill in with more individual tours.  But it hasn't quite worked out like I hoped.

I created this website as well as a Facebook page.  Next, I started to think about the business end of it, i.e., potential revenue, expenses, legal and liability concerns. To help with potential liability issues, I met with an attorney to draft a pretty solid waiver of liability form.  Each participant would be required to sign this in advance of arriving for their tour.  Then it was time to think about logistics.  This is where things started to slip away.

Since I don't own a large van to transport people during a tour, I looked into renting a vehicle.  Simple enough, right.  Wrong.  If you were to personally rent a vehicle while on vacation, for example, your auto insurance policy would protect you in case of an accident.  But for commercial ventures, you have to have a commercial auto policy.  I also found out that my personal umbrella liability policy would not cover me during a commercial venture.

I contacted several insurance companies to look into getting the appropriate policies. To my surprise, no one wanted to take on this type of risk.  I learned that waivers of liability are largely insufficient in the event someone gets injured.  I did find one agent who thought he could place the coverage.  But after months of waiting and back and forth discussion, it fell through.  

The best way to protect my personal assets would be to form an LLC.  The initial cost is a bit high but then there's the ongoing renewal costs.  It would be easier to get insurance but it gets very expensive.  My personal car would have to become part of the LLC and be retitled.  Commercial auto insurance is 2-3 times the cost of regular auto insurance.  So the costs just kept mounting as did the hassle factor.  I just kept wondering how all the other photo tour operators managed this risk.  But their operations were likely much larger than what I anticipated and their revenue would be better able to cover these expenses.

In the end, I had to decide to rule out conducting formal photo tours.  Rather, I will provide individual instruction and tours but require that they drive their car.  I've done some of these and they work well.  I still require the waiver of liability and I try to manage risks but not going to any risky locations.  I also can exercise more control on people's movements to avoid severe injuries.

But please contact me if you'd like a great private photo tour and/or instruction.


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