Did you see this recent article on Petapixel about the photographer who had his case stolen from the overhead locker on a British Airways flight with $20,000's worth of kit in it? Well it was US photographer Sam Hurd who teaches workshops for us and is very much a seasoned traveller as well as one of the smartest people we've ever met. So if Sam could be robbed then any one of us could. In fact I've seen several tales now of photographers at weddings putting their bags down or in a venue safe place and then discovering that they've been nicked. There are so many people working at a wedding plus all the guests. If someone did want to steal, let's face it we are an easy target. We have a very portable and discreet little bag full of thousands of pounds worth of easy to sell items. So let's try to make it as hard as possible to fall victim to theft and think about what measures we can take to avoid being robbed as wedding photographers.
ENTER YOUR COPYRIGHT INFO INTO YOUR CAMERA
I've just bought a new DSLR and the first thing I did was input my full copyright info and change the generic filenames to ones that contain a short version of my name. Of course someone could overwrite these if they thought about it but criminals are not always the brightest and are mostly motivated by a quick buck. If someone bought my camera and posted their images online, I might be able to trace them.
So obvious but make sure you are well insured (yes Sam was) and that you have a current list of your kit lodged with whatever company you use, along with accurate serial numbers and current market values. It's easy to just do this once a year when you renew but what about those new bits of kit that you've bought in the meantime? Include your computers and digital storage and have a look at what your insurance company would do if your memory cards went with a wedding that hadn't yet been uploaded or if drives were stolen from your home.
Also list your kit with a site such as LENSTAG, a free global service that lists serial numbers of equipment for photographers and if any stolen kit appears online with its serial numbers then it will flag it. It's also a good place to check the numbers of any second hand kit that you are thinking of investing in. Similarly there is IMMOBILISE, for general mobile property registration and it is used by the UK police to search for the owners of recovered goods.
LOCK YOUR BAG
Some bags, especially the roller cases aimed at photographers who travel a lot are lockable. But there is nothing to stop you adding a small combination lock to any bag. It might just deter the more opportunistic thief. Now I know what it's like shooting a wedding, hours and hours on your feet and it's super busy. You don't always want to carry or drag your full kit bag around. If you are anything like me, you probably find a hiding place for it. I've left mine under catering tables or behind the DJ box and all sorts of places. How about bringing a small bike or retractable lock along to lock it to something immobile if you are the same as me?
USE A TRACKER
I have a small Tile Tracker well hidden in my camera bag. They work on bluetooth with an app on your phone so if someone picked up your bag and stashed it somewhere nearby, you could trace it. They can also set off an alarm so if someone did walk off a plane with your bag you could possibly soon locate them. Just don't also leave your phone in your bag!
BE SECURITY CONSCIOUS
And I mean everywhere. I don't post anywhere on social media about being out or away if there is nobody at home. I've seen photographers posting while on a night out then coming home to find they have been burgled. It's not that hard to find our addresses these days so while you are about it, what about keeping your gear locked up at home, hidden or in a safe? If your camera bag is a well known brand, cover up the logo with some tape so when out and about you are not making yourself a target. If you are getting on a plane or a train Sam's tip now is to place your bag in the overhead shelf across from you instead of above you so you can have eyes on it as much as possible. Be super vigilant as you go through security, I once had a lady pick up my laptop and start walking off with it, so secure all your gear before worrying about putting your shoes back on. Figure out how much your bag and its contents are worth, say it's £12,500. Well treat your bag like you are carrying around that much in cash. Suddenly it's not very likely that you would just leave it lying around while you nip to the loo.
KEEP MEMORY CARDS SEPARATELY
Let's face it, kit can be replaced and I'm betting that most of you are sensible enough to already be properly insured. However if your bag was taken with memory cards in it from a wedding you had just shot, how awful would you feel? The images from a wedding day cannot simply be replaced, so keep them apart from your kit. Thieves won't give two hoots about cards and probably dump them in a bin so don't let your precious reputation need up there too. One of my second shooters has a discreet bumbag that she wears with memory cards in it, you could stash them in your wallet or better still back up onto a hard drive during the meal and lock the drive in your car if you have it there.
These tips result from a discussion in our Facebook group after Sam's experience, so feel free to add your own tips or experiences in the comments. Sadly these incidents seem to be on the rise, so as a community let's respond by having each other's back.
All images by Sam Hurd who is returning to PHOTOGRAPHY FARM this July and as well as his brand new kit, he will also be bringing the phenomenal Jeff Newsom to teach their Epicalypse workshop.