Back in the early 90s, I was stationed in San Diego, California with the Navy. Being an avid scuba diver, I would often take off with a buddy and do a little beach diving to photograph sea life in the kelp beds.

On one particular trip, my dive buddy and I returned to my truck after our first dive to discover the back of my truck had been broken into. All of our secondary dive equipment, dive bags, and extra tanks were stolen. I was heart broken.

So, what does this have to do with photography you may be asking. Other than the obvious, I was doing underwater photography. Actually, I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I have never forgotten the lesson and still use it to this day.

Never advertise your hobbies on your car!

In talking with the police and filing the report, one thing they pointed out was, I was advertising what I had in my truck. I had cute little bumper stickers and license plate frames telling the entire world how proud I was to be a scuba diver. It was extremely easy for the thieves to find my truck and know that I was going to be gone for about an hour.

Today, I do not put any bumper stickers or license plate frames on my vehicles advertising my hobbies. Those neat little stickers saying, “I Love Nikon” or “I Love Canon” or “I’d Rather Be Taking Pictures” just scream “Free Camera Gear”. The bad elements in the world know we usually leave extra camera gear in our cars and we tend to wander away for hours at a time.

I’ve recently read that one of the latest threats to our camera gear’s safety are thieves who, after identifying you as a photographer, will follow you until you stop at a convenience store or a local restaurant and then break-in and steal your photo gear in a matter of seconds.

Here are a few tips to make life a little more difficult for would-be thieves.

1. Do not put cute photo related bumper stickers and license plate frames on your car.

2. Do not leave your camera gear laying out in plain sight. Put the gear in your trunk, throw a jacket over the top of it, or only take enough gear that you can carry with you.

3. Keep your head on a swivel. In other words, be aware of what’s going on around you.

If you have any similar experiences or some suggestions to share, please post a comment below.

4 thoughts on “Your Photo Gear May Be A Target For Theft

  1. Wes, here is a 4th tip for people who have invested a lot of money in their camera gear. I do not do Property insurance myself but I have friends who do. There is something called a Personal Articles Floater that can be used to insure the value of your privately own photography equipment. I would not recommend it for professional photographers but I think it will serve the purpose for serious photogs. My advice is to ask the same insurance agent who helps with their home or renters insurance. That way, if your camera gear gets stolen, you will get the money to buy replacement gear.

  2. Thanks for the input Tim. I know insurance is something most of us would rather live without, but it does come in darn handy from time to time. And with digital cameras and lenses reaching up into the $5000 to $10,000 range, insurance is definitely a sound investment.

  3. Unfortunately, living in Buenos Aires, I need to go further : I don’t even use a camera bag, but a silly linen bag (in which I put a little bag which just fits my camera and protects it from bumping or dropping). When I see a possible shot, I look around, take my camera out, shoot and immediately put it back. I changed the NIKON XXX strap for a nameless/plain one, and I usually use a fix 50mm lens : most people/possible thieves prefer to steal a camera that costs 1/5th of mine, only because the lens is bigger and it ‘looks’ more expensive…
    This might seem exaggerated, but stealing cameras is very common here, a few months ago a french photographer was killed while being robbed of his precious tool. This is probably the only part of Argentina I don’t like : not being able to shoot whatever/whenever!

  4. @katti
    Thank you for the comment Katti. I fully understand your plight. Spending 20 years in the Navy, I was in many a foreign port. Some, I could freely throw a full camera bag over my shoulder and spend the entire day shooting without the fear of theft. Others, I only carried the bare essentials, stayed as low profile as I could, and was always on alert.


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