If you have dreams of being a travel photographer, one question you may ask yourself is, “how can I prevent my gear from being stolen?” It’s a good question, and sadly, one you need to ask. Beyond the beauty and the glory, the true travel photographer will find themselves in countries where they’ll need to pay attention to their gear. Locals can ease their economic struggles with a stolen camera and lens. So, in this article, I will teach aspiring travel photographers how to prevent their beloved gear from being stolen.
A Note to The Travel Photographer
I’m writing this article as a photographer who has traveled the world full time for almost four years. From Asia to Latin America, I have found myself in some places where taking extra care of your belongings is a must. But here’s a note to any travel photographer who may be eager to judge certain nations and the people who make them.
Economic hardship in certain countries is vastly different from the struggles in developed nations. So, when someone enters their zone, Fujifilm, Leica, or Sony in their hand, they don’t steal it because they have nothing better to do. They do it because the money they receive from selling it is life-changing. So, we should never judge, and we should do our best not to be angry if we’re ever in the unfortunate situation where someone steals our photography gear. But hopefully, that won’t happen, and it’s likely that it won’t if you follow the below steps.
Don’t be The Overly Brave Travel Photographer
The new, fearless travel photographer may have the urge to go here, there, and everywhere. I get it. I was the same when I bought my first one-way ticket. But let me tell you, I was foolish, naive at best. There are certain zones in certain cities you just don’t want to end up in. Not only could you lose your photography gear, you could also lose your life. So if someone says “stay away,” make sure you listen to them. The consequences are not worth it.
The Smart Travel Photographer Takes a Guide
As a street photographer, it’s in my blood to go my own way. I don’t have the time (nor the patience) to go at someone else’s pace. However, I have to put my instincts to one side when I’m away from home and traveling to new lands. Not only can a guide help you navigate away from the no-go zones, but they can also act as an added layer of protection against potential thieves. It doesn’t mean you can’t slightly wander away from the pack, but at least you’re not isolated on your own.
Put Your Camera Away When You’re Not Using it
Keeping a camera around your shoulder or neck is convenient. You can grab it and shoot easily while on the go. But sometimes, it’s best to put it away in your camera bag when you’re not using it. Remember, traveling around with a camera makes you a walking advertisement. The fewer people see it, the less chance of someone snatching it.
Carry a Point and Shoot
If you have the luxury of affording a second camera, I advise you to invest in an entry-level compact camera. Two reasons: Firstly, if someone does try and rob you, you can hand over your point and shoot and tell them that’s all you have. Theives like to act quickly. If you give them a $400 system, that will likely be all they need. That way, you can keep your expensive camera (if it’s in your bag!) Secondly, if you fancy doing some street photography, a point-and-shoot is often all you need. So you can leave your main camera at home and keep it safe.
What Not to do
Above are some tips for the travel photographer who doesn’t want their gear stolen. Below I’ll share some things that you should avoid doing.
Putting Black Tape Over The Branding
An old-school way of keeping your camera gear less exposed is to put black sticky tape over the logos and branding. I can see why this was done back in the day, when cameras were not as recognizable. Today, however, it’s pretty pointless. Everyone knows cameras are expensive, regardless of the brand. So some black sticky tape isn’t going to stop someone from taking your gear. Plus, it spoils the aesthetic of your camera body, so it’s not worth doing.
Trying to Fight Back
Don’t be a hero. And don’t let your ego take over. You’re not a tough guy or girl, especially if knives and guns are involved. If someone wants to steal your camera gear, allow it, and never fight back. Life is cheap in many developing nations, and people will kill you without a second thought. I’ve witnessed it first hand, so don’t try to tell me I don’t know. If you want to continue being a travel photographer, ensure you leave the altercation without being harmed.
Before we end this piece, I’d like to note a couple of things. Firstly, while the risk of theft may be greater in certain countries, it can happen in developed nations too. Whether in London or New York, you always have to be mindful of having your gear taken from you. So be careful.
And lastly, while being robbed is a possibility, it’s rare. While I know photographers who have had their gear taken, thankfully, it’s never happened to me. So don’t always be scared of losing your gear. You can replace it if you have insurance. So, enjoy the process of exploring new lands and making amazing photographs.
How do you keep your gear safe? Let’s know in the comments below. Also, are you a travel photographer with awesome images? Why not use the form below to share your work with us? Thanks for reading.
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