Risk of thefts always weighs heavily on the minds of photographers, considering the amount most of us end up spending on the gear. Cameras and lenses are also an attractive target to thieves. So, here is a list of precautions that may prevent thefts to some extent.
Carrying camera while traveling.
Do not give your camera away in the checked-in baggage. Carry it along with you in the cabin. (Traveling with Photography Equipment) All the photographers whom I have met at various exotic travel destinations have always had their camera and lenses with them all the time. Taking the camera bag to the washroom is also not taking things too far. It is perfectly normal and highly recommended. Don’t ever leave your camera unattended.
For camera bags, I recommend using sling bags or shoulder bags which are hung diagonally, across the neck and shoulder. These are not that easy to snatch.
Proximity sensors / GPS sensors
These are the latest in theft prevention. Proximity sensors are small devices that usually work on bluetooth technology. These are paired up with smart phones and whenever the sensor is beyond the reach of the phone, the phone gives out a warning. The GPS sensors are more advanced and cost many times more than the simple bluetooth based proximity sensors. The GPS sensors use a mobile SIM card to connect to internet and send location data to phone. These can be traced even if the bag gets stolen and taken to some far off location. Both these sensors are very small devices and can be easily attached to cameras or hidden in the camera bag. RFID chips are also available in the markets which can be hidden away within the camera itself. These however require specialized
readers at times. Most of these solutions double up as alarms as well as location sensors. Whatever solution you opt for, hide it well.
Establish your ownership
This may not prevent theft but can be useful in case the theft does happen and the items are somehow recovered.
Use luggage tags with your name, on your camera bag. Avoid including your address or passport number but do mention your phone number on the tag.
Register your photography equipment at the manufacturer’s site. Some photographers try not to register their equipment in the hope of availing free after-sales service for slightly longer duration but this habit does not really help from what I have observed. It is better to get the equipment registered at the site if this provision is available.
Make your own markings on the camera and lens body which can be easily identified but are not obvious to any person who does not know where to look. This may bring down the resale value a little but is very helpful. A simple method without actually spoiling the finish is to use a UV ink marker. The markings are clearly visible only under UV light and sometimes faintly in sunlight when carefully looked for. Disadvantage is that these can get wiped out with time.
Camera insurance if available is a good option especially if the equipment is very expensive. Unfortunately this is not available in many countries and terms and conditions do not cover every possible mishap. The insurance premiums are also high.
Do not be conspicuous
These are common precautions which people keep forgetting. Dress conventionally and in a manner which does not attract attention. Study the people around you and dress in a manner which is far subtle. Avoid bright colors like red, orange or yellow. Do not be flamboyant.
Move around as if you belong to the place. If you look like a stranger, everyone will treat you as a stranger. Thieves will definitely be more interested in you. So try to blend into the place. The thief is more likely to be sizing you up, not your equipment. If you look and act like you might be a journalist they may be less inclined to mug you, than if you look like a tourist.
When it comes to camera bags, I always recommend using camera inserts in regular bags, which are ideally hung diagonally. Dedicated camera bags look like camera bags. These always attract attention and can be an easy target in most places. Though any bag, even if it doesn’t look like a camera bag, can become a potential target for theft, the moment a camera is kept into it or taken out of it.
As the saying has it, common sense is not so common! Avoid areas and situations which you would not visit otherwise. Hanging around outside a night club with your camera late into the night is a sureshot invitation to getting mugged.
Change your camera strap too. If you are using the strap that has ‘Steal Me’ (read as Nikon or Canon) written all over it, chances are that someone might already be planning to steal it. (Camera Straps)
Do not walk around with the camera hanging around your neck, looking like a tourist. Store the camera safely in your bag when you don’t intend to use it for long.
Often the thieves work in pairs where one distracts and the other one steals. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Do not be so lost in talking that you forget all about your camera.
(A musician in a subway. Photographs can be found in the most unlikely of places. A little but of care and awareness can help safeguard the hefty investments in photography while providing enough opportunities to enjoy it.)
A little bit of preparation, precautions and effort can go a long way in preventing loss of your expensive photography equipment. If this article scares you, take a few deep breaths and remember that the world has a greater number of good people than the bad ones.