Tips on How to Protect Your Photo Gear From Theft

Until something is missing, we often don’t seem to step up our security for our gear. That’s when we go into frantic mode. Granted, I’ve never had something stolen though I almost did. For those of you looking to protect your investment, here are some tips on how to protect your gear.

Lock Your Bag

No seriously, get a lock. Locking up your bag may perhaps be the best thing that you could do to ensure that unwanted attention doesn’t go snooping into it. Not only is this important for photographers with expensive gear, but also for people like me that test gear under Non-Disclosure Agreements. If you’re one of those, you’ll know how important the legalities are.

A friend of mine was at the gym recently and had his camera in his bag that he left in his locker. His lock was destroyed and his bag was rummaged. If he had an extra lock on the bag, perhaps the theft might have been delayed.

Because of this, the safest bags tend to be backpack types. Messenger bags are great for being discrete and for quick access, but with that you need to ensure that no one is following you.

My new personal favorite is the BJX SLR sling that was a gift from Pentax. It’s smaller and forces me to only carry what I need: therefore making me do more with less. When I’m on a really big shoot, I carry the Domke F2 and usually have an assistant. You can check out my reviews of both bags here and here.

Do an Equipment Check

This should go without saying, but I know a lot of people don’t do this. Check your bag and take careful note of the equipment you put in there. SD cards, cameras, lenses, etc should all be taken account of.

Only Carry What You Absolutely Need

On top of that, try not to bring extra gear. Sure, a backup camera is quite a bit of help but if you don’t really need it (like if it’s a small gig) then leave it at home. As a general rule of practice, it is always a great idea to bring a backup camera. I’ve had my Canon 5D Mark IIsensor be dirty on a shoot before and I wished that my 7Dwas on me. To quickly remedy the situation, bring a sensor cleaner like the Arctic Butterfly and you’ll be fine.

Memorize How You Put Your Gear In

Putting your gear into specific slots and in specific ways will always alert you as to whether or not someone was in your bag. For example, my Gary Fong Lightspherealways goes in one particular slot while my Collapsiblegoes in another. My 5D Mk II is always in a special way as well.

If You’re in NYC, Tag Your Items With the Police

One day while on the subway, a thief tried to steal my phone. I ran after him and when the police caught him and we were both at the precinct, they offered me the option of tagging my items with UV ink. This way if anything is stolen and recovered, the items can be traced back to me and returned. Each person gets a unique number upon registration and that number sticks with you and your items.

Always Keep Your Bag Closed

Photographers of all walks tend to open their gear bag and keep it open for faster access to items. Do this at your own risk. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had my bag open while shooting an event and have felt someone going through my bag. Luckily, no one has.

What tips would you add?

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.