Be Ready: A Photographer’s Guide to Documenting Your Belongings for Insurance

It’s Summer in Sydney, which means we have increased threats of extreme weather. Unfortunately we are constantly at threat of bush fires, floods, storms and more. Only three weeks ago, my own life was turned upside down by a freak hailstorm, with hail larger than tennis balls landing in my suburb. I had two cars written off and my home has leaks, broken doors and ceilings and much more.

Now the long process of dealing with the insurance companies have begun for those of us who have had damaged property. Often when you have to make a claim, the insurance company will ask for copies  of receipts or pictures of the items lost as proof that you actually had them. So I thought that I would write this Guide to Documenting Your Belongings for Insurance with useful tips.

The best way to document everything is by preparing a Home Inventory List. Adding photos to your inventory is an excellent way to show that you had the items and the condition they were in prior to the loss. It can also be a great way to determine if you have adequate insurance coverage.

Man Writing Document Dinning Table Concept

What Is a Home Inventory List?

A home inventory list is a list of the items or personal belongings you have in your home. The list can be categorised by room, type of item or other relevant criteria and if you can, the following information:

  • Make, Model or Serial number if applicable

  • Description of the item

  • Where the item was purchased from

  • Date of purchase 

  • Receipts or photos of receipts

  • Value of items, appraisals or cost at the time of purchase

Here are some tips to help you take your own home inventory:

  1. You don’t need professional photos. Your digital camera (or phone) will work just fine. The most important thing is that you take the photos with as much detail as possible and include where it’s located in your home.

  2. How to store the photos: If you print these photos out, document where the item is in your home and what it is, if it’s not obvious from the photo. If you plan to store the photos digitally, you can organise them into folders and name each photo what the item is (with the scanned/photographed receipt), and then store the photos on your computer or in the cloud.

  3. How to light your photos: If using your flash, point it away from mirrors and other reflective surfaces (such as stainless steel.) Open glass doors before you take the photo to prevent reflections

  4. Jewellery photo tips: When photographing your jewellery, take photos of each piece individually on a flat surface (your dining table is perfect) and shoot from above. Use a white piece of paper or cloth under gems or dark jewellery. Use black materiel under light toned items. Avoid using a flash and place the table near your window to allow plenty of light to illuminate the object.

  5. Details: When photographing china/crockery, take photos of the pattern name/manufacturer’s mark, along with a detailed picture of the pattern. Photograph the whole set together and make notes of what is included (i.e: Royal Doulton dinner set 16 piece)

  6. Don’t miss anything: If items have model numbers or serial numbers, take photos of those.

  7. Blur: If your photos are blurry or wobbly, stabilise your body and arms against an object (such as a table) or use a tripod or gorilla pod. Remember too that photos can become blurred if you do not have enough light in the room, the camera will shoot at a slower shutter speed to allow more light to hit the sensor. Turn on more lights, open blinds fully or move your item to a brighter place in the home.

  8. Don’t forget to take photos of receipts too to prove the price and date purchased.

  9. Put it in an app: There are a few inventory apps that you can download, but Sortly is great and it is available on Android and iOS.

  10. Use video. This is probably the easiest and quickest method. Walk through your house or apartment videoing and describing the contents and location and the purchase price.

  11. Don’t forget to list the camera/phone that you have been using as part of your inventory.

  12. Update it: Whenever you make new purchases, update your inventory and take new photos.

If you have any questions about how to take photos of your belongings or of your home, feel free to GET IN TOUCH with Tara Ward Photography.