So You Want to Keep your Camera Safe? Here's How - Digital Photography School
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So You Want to Keep your Camera Safe? Here’s How

So we got my girlfriend her first proper camera last week. A Nikon D5100 with a 35mm f1.8 prime lens; which is my recommendation for a modest budget. She’s super excited, not least because she’s got something to do now when I’m photographing!

New Photographer!


Barcelona is great but while there’s not much violence, it rivals Naples for petty theft.

I’ve learned a lot from photographing here, so I put together this guide about keeping your camera safe. My girlfriend and students have found it really useful so I thought I’d share it with you too.

1. Insure It

Some manufacturers have long warranties that are useful, but look for additional insurance against accidental damage and theft. Camera insurance is pretty reasonable now.  
Shop around and see what you can find. You might even be covered by your home insurance; worth checking.

2. Use the Camera Strap

Some people don’t. Do! It’s often saved my Nikon from a fall. Make sure it’s securely attached, and keep it wrapped twice around your wrist when you’re shooting.

Otherwise, wear the camera either across your body with the top nearest your hip, or on one shoulder with a rucksack worn over the top.

This keeps the lens closest to you and prevents theft, which is becoming more common.

The strap that came with your camera probably has a bright logo which only attracts thieves; keep it hidden or get a new strap.

Upstrap is good because they’re ‘sticky’, but avoid getting anything with buckles because they’re not safe.

3. Adopt the ’Backward Look’

When you leave anywhere, have a good look behind you before you go.

This has saved me hundreds in lost gear already! It’s surprisingly easy to forget a new camera when you’re in a rush.

4. Sand and Water Kills Cameras

Sand acts like grit, destroying from within. I normally don’t recommend a UV filter to protect your lens, but found one essential in the Sahara desert when storms sand-blasted the glass.

Sahara Sand Storms

Closer to home, I’ve had more than one camera die at the beach. Even a quick dip will put an end to the toughest dSLR, though the photos on the memory card will probably be okay. Surfing shops sell dry-bags that will protect your camera from water and sand.

5. Your Sensor Attracts Dust

This shows up as small black spots or lines when you use small apertures like f22.

Some try and shake it off, which helps a bit, but isn’t totally effective. Prevention is much better than cure.

You need special, overpriced tools to clean your sensor, and the process is a pain in the arse! Also, every time you clean the sensor you damage it a bit; and it’s all too easy to ruin it if you slip.

So avoid having to clean it by only changing lenses when necessary, keeping the camera held downwards when you do.

Try not to change lenses in dusty or windy environments. And don’t clean it when there’re only one or two tiny specks of dust in the photos. It’s pretty easy to airbrush them out; Photoshop is your friend.

Beach & Sea Sunset

6. Never lend your Camera

Unless they are happy to replace it if it breaks; which they won’t be! Accidents happen, and it’s not worth upsetting a friendship for.

It goes without saying that asking strangers to take photos of you risks having them run away with it.

If you must, choose someone who looks trustworthy; and who you could outrun!

7. Don’t let People in your Bubble

I actually opted for a Krav-Maga training course instead of camera insurance when I was travelling around Bosnia. This idea of personal space was one I learned there.

Downtown Sarajevo, Bosnia

Essentially, if no-one comes within a meter of you, it makes it much harder to have anything stolen.

Therefore, don’t accept random offers for ‘free hugs’ from strangers, nor let them get too close at all.

Either move away or tell them not to touch you. Watch Derren Brown’s videos about pick-pocketing to see how skilled people can be.

8. Scratch your Email Address on the Bottom and on the Battery

My girlfriend flat-out refused to engrave hers, so we settled on stickers! They’ll help honest souls return your camera to you, while an engraved name ruins resale value and makes it easier to trace so might help with theft. Email your serial number to yourself today.

So that’s it! Not the normal wow-factor but really essential to be aware of. I’ve taken my main camera everywhere and while it’s had a few close calls, it’s survived intact. Lots of people aren’t so lucky; follow this advice and make sure you’re not one of them!

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Ben Evans is a best-selling photography author of Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know *click here to get your copy now* and English photographer based between London and Barcelona. He specialises in fine art portraits, fashion and commercial photography. He teaches photography courses in Barcelona and Holistic Photography workshops in London and worldwide. He shoots Hasselblad, Nikon, Apple ;-P and those little waterproof film cameras with the plastic lenses.

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    I only thought of the subject after falling with my camera on the sea shore and as you said the camera went kaput but the memory card was fine! But I have given my camera (SLR too) far too many times without a thought to strangers to click a picture of mine! New food for thought for me!

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/10/what-is-your-travel-blogging-niche.html

  • http://www.sukro.net Susanne

    On point number 6, if I have to give my camera to somebody to snap a photo of me, I allways look around for someone with a camera at least the same value of mine (1) they might be able to take a good picture of me, and 2) they are less inclined to run with mine if they have one themselves…:)

  • timgray

    Unless you are being paid, Dont take your 1DS and $45,000 lens to Bosnia… Use a $400.00 used throwaway that you dont care get’s stolen.

  • Barry E. Warren

    I trend to stay away from big city’s where crime is high. But you never know ,even in a National Park there is the chance of theft. This was a helpful lesson.

  • http://www.carcaptures.com Neal Goggins

    The personal space thing is very good. no need to be rude, just stay out of “condition white” and be alert of everyone near you. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. you have no idea how many times I have seen someone nearly get run over because they are preoccupied with their iphone or just simply oblivious to whats going on around them.
    Good rules to live life by.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathyspix/ Kathy Wesserling

    Re: Insurance. A year ago, I added a replacement rider to my renter’s insurance to cover up to $5000 worth of photo-gear. It cost $29. 4 months ago, I tripped and my Canon 50D with a 70-300 mm lens went flying head over tail into concretes chunks on the river bank. The insurance company completely covered the cost of buying both items new (no deductible.) That $29 was approximately 20% of what the same kind of extended warranty/insurance would have cost at the original time of purchase. You bet your boots that insurance is worth your time, trouble, and money! (and, don’t count on your homeowners to cover the same kind of loss – with no deductible – as the rider does.)

  • http://www.portraitinspiration.com Jai Catalano

    YES YES YES. So true. Salt from water also ruins cameras and don’t lend ANYTHING to your friends unless you don’t ever want to see it again. Ok that was a bit too Judge Judy(ish) but you get the point.

    Also rent equipment. I am going to do that right now.

  • Mei Teng

    In certain parts of the world (eg. Malaysia), insurance companies do not provide insurance coverage for cameras (for hobbyists) unless you’re into photography business. So, I can’t insure my camera equipment as I am just a hobbyist.

  • David

    9. I keep your camera in a fireproof safe.

  • http://500px.com/baneling John Velocci

    Hi, what about protecting your camera when taking it outside in the winter? Winters where I live can be anywhere from 0 degrees to -30 degrees celcius.

    thanks

    John

  • Cheezman

    The comment suggesting that Bosnia is a place for likely theft is clearly made by someone who’s never been there. You’re much more likely to have your gear stolen in Paris or Rome or Chicago or any other top tourist destination. Bosnia is an incredibly photogenic country, top to bottom, with people proud to show off their country to tourists.

  • http://www.BarcelonaPhotographyCourses.com Ben

    Thanks Cheezman, I agree. Actually I took the last photograph in Sarajevo and travelled down to Mostar. My preconceptions were quickly quashed and I found the Bosnian people very friendly. Yes, I think there’s a lot more petty theft on places like Rome, Paris and Barcelona. That said, there are risks everywhere so it doesn’t pay to be trusting, especially when you’re carrying a relative fortune’s worth of camera gear.

    Ben

  • http://www.BarcelonaPhotographyCourses.com Ben

    Hi John,

    While I’ve photographed in blizzards and at high altitudes I can’t even imagine photographing in -30c! Therefore I’m sure you already know the main advice like using two pairs of gloves and being careful taking the camera into a warm environment by keeping it in the camera bag for about an hour.

    Photographically, I’d be careful with plastic, especially on tripods; it can snap. Most importantly is battery life which is dramatically shorter in the cold. I regularly remove the battery to warm it under my arm and also bring spares. Also the camera may underexpose if it’s snowy, and I’d recommend setting a custom white balance to ensure colours are accurate.

    Sounds great, let’s see some winter photos!

    Ben

  • Tom

    Don’t buy an expensive camera bag, and don’t use any bag with a Nikon (or whatever) logo on it.

    Mine is a totally nondescript thing that looks like it’s got no more than my lunch in it. The camera stays in there until I’ve actually thought the shot through; it goes straight back inside when the shooting is done.

    No one on a busy street in Barcelona thinks I’m a tourist: I don’t look like one.

  • Manel

    Nice advices, although presenting Barcelona as a city with high chances of being robbed.. I don’t agree with that. I am from Barcelona, and I can safely say it’s a very safe city where I’ve never been mugged or robbed. There are some spots where you do have to be careful after all Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in the world. Just keep an eye on your valuables on crowded locations and try not to dress as a rich gullible tourist and you’ll be alright! Barcelona and Catalunya are very beautiful and safe.

  • http://martybugs.net/blog Martin

    Another option for getting your contact details on the camera (as per your point 8) is to attach a pet tag with your details to the camera, as described here:
    http://martybugs.net/blog/blog.cgi/gear/hacks/TagYourCamera.html

  • http://www.englishphotographer.com Ben

    Excellent tip Martin!

  • http://www.marcusdavisphotography.com Marcus Davis

    Great article and something everyone should think about on a regular basis. I like #6. I agree that if you do give your camera to someone to get a picture of you, make sure you can outrun them. In addition, look for someone with a comparable or better camera than you. A. They would be less prone to stealing it and B. They probably know how to use a camera and would be more likely to get a nice shot of you.

    My wife, sister and I went to England last year. Throughout the trip, I would use my sister’s Canon to get pictures of her and vice versa. At Stonehenge, we wanted a photo of the three of us. I gave my camera to another dslr user. When I looked at the photo afterward, he had done us the favor of cropping out those “pesky rocks”…… It goes to show that not every rule is foolproof…. lol

  • http://www.tiffanyogcosmykker.com Tiffany Smykker

    My spouse and i have been very peaceful that Louis could conclude his research from the ideas he discovered out of your blog. It’s not at all simplistic to just be giving freely steps which the rest may have been selling. So we discover we’ve got the blog owner to be grateful to because of that. The type of explanations you made, the straightforward blog menu, the friendships you can make it easier to foster – it’s got all impressive, and it is helping our son and our family recognize that this content is pleasurable, and that is very serious. Thank you for the whole thing!

  • Ron

    Great article. Does anyone have recommendations on reliable U.S. insurance companies that offer reasonable camera replacement riders. Without really thinking about it, I guess I assumed my home owners insurance would cover loss or damage. However, my deductible is 1% of my home value, which means I’d be out most of the equipment replacement cost.

  • http://www.l5.com.pl reklamy

    Having read this I believed it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this information together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both
    reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

Some older comments

  • reklamy

    June 19, 2013 08:38 am

    Having read this I believed it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this information together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both
    reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  • Ron

    November 4, 2012 05:18 am

    Great article. Does anyone have recommendations on reliable U.S. insurance companies that offer reasonable camera replacement riders. Without really thinking about it, I guess I assumed my home owners insurance would cover loss or damage. However, my deductible is 1% of my home value, which means I'd be out most of the equipment replacement cost.

  • Tiffany Smykker

    November 2, 2012 06:29 am

    My spouse and i have been very peaceful that Louis could conclude his research from the ideas he discovered out of your blog. It's not at all simplistic to just be giving freely steps which the rest may have been selling. So we discover we've got the blog owner to be grateful to because of that. The type of explanations you made, the straightforward blog menu, the friendships you can make it easier to foster - it's got all impressive, and it is helping our son and our family recognize that this content is pleasurable, and that is very serious. Thank you for the whole thing!

  • Marcus Davis

    October 31, 2012 07:21 am

    Great article and something everyone should think about on a regular basis. I like #6. I agree that if you do give your camera to someone to get a picture of you, make sure you can outrun them. In addition, look for someone with a comparable or better camera than you. A. They would be less prone to stealing it and B. They probably know how to use a camera and would be more likely to get a nice shot of you.

    My wife, sister and I went to England last year. Throughout the trip, I would use my sister's Canon to get pictures of her and vice versa. At Stonehenge, we wanted a photo of the three of us. I gave my camera to another dslr user. When I looked at the photo afterward, he had done us the favor of cropping out those "pesky rocks"...... It goes to show that not every rule is foolproof.... lol

  • Ben

    October 25, 2012 07:28 am

    Excellent tip Martin!

  • Martin

    October 24, 2012 09:57 pm

    Another option for getting your contact details on the camera (as per your point 8) is to attach a pet tag with your details to the camera, as described here:
    http://martybugs.net/blog/blog.cgi/gear/hacks/TagYourCamera.html

  • Manel

    October 21, 2012 07:31 am

    Nice advices, although presenting Barcelona as a city with high chances of being robbed.. I don't agree with that. I am from Barcelona, and I can safely say it's a very safe city where I've never been mugged or robbed. There are some spots where you do have to be careful after all Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in the world. Just keep an eye on your valuables on crowded locations and try not to dress as a rich gullible tourist and you'll be alright! Barcelona and Catalunya are very beautiful and safe.

  • Tom

    October 20, 2012 10:16 pm

    Don't buy an expensive camera bag, and don't use any bag with a Nikon (or whatever) logo on it.

    Mine is a totally nondescript thing that looks like it's got no more than my lunch in it. The camera stays in there until I've actually thought the shot through; it goes straight back inside when the shooting is done.

    No one on a busy street in Barcelona thinks I'm a tourist: I don't look like one.

  • Ben

    October 20, 2012 07:10 pm

    Hi John,

    While I've photographed in blizzards and at high altitudes I can't even imagine photographing in -30c! Therefore I'm sure you already know the main advice like using two pairs of gloves and being careful taking the camera into a warm environment by keeping it in the camera bag for about an hour.

    Photographically, I'd be careful with plastic, especially on tripods; it can snap. Most importantly is battery life which is dramatically shorter in the cold. I regularly remove the battery to warm it under my arm and also bring spares. Also the camera may underexpose if it's snowy, and I'd recommend setting a custom white balance to ensure colours are accurate.

    Sounds great, let's see some winter photos!

    Ben

  • Ben

    October 20, 2012 06:41 pm

    Thanks Cheezman, I agree. Actually I took the last photograph in Sarajevo and travelled down to Mostar. My preconceptions were quickly quashed and I found the Bosnian people very friendly. Yes, I think there's a lot more petty theft on places like Rome, Paris and Barcelona. That said, there are risks everywhere so it doesn't pay to be trusting, especially when you're carrying a relative fortune's worth of camera gear.

    Ben

  • Cheezman

    October 20, 2012 03:02 pm

    The comment suggesting that Bosnia is a place for likely theft is clearly made by someone who's never been there. You're much more likely to have your gear stolen in Paris or Rome or Chicago or any other top tourist destination. Bosnia is an incredibly photogenic country, top to bottom, with people proud to show off their country to tourists.

  • John Velocci

    October 20, 2012 03:17 am

    Hi, what about protecting your camera when taking it outside in the winter? Winters where I live can be anywhere from 0 degrees to -30 degrees celcius.

    thanks

    John

  • David

    October 19, 2012 06:10 pm

    9. I keep your camera in a fireproof safe.

  • Mei Teng

    October 19, 2012 11:18 am

    In certain parts of the world (eg. Malaysia), insurance companies do not provide insurance coverage for cameras (for hobbyists) unless you're into photography business. So, I can't insure my camera equipment as I am just a hobbyist.

  • Jai Catalano

    October 19, 2012 07:30 am

    YES YES YES. So true. Salt from water also ruins cameras and don't lend ANYTHING to your friends unless you don't ever want to see it again. Ok that was a bit too Judge Judy(ish) but you get the point.

    Also rent equipment. I am going to do that right now.

  • Kathy Wesserling

    October 19, 2012 04:28 am

    Re: Insurance. A year ago, I added a replacement rider to my renter's insurance to cover up to $5000 worth of photo-gear. It cost $29. 4 months ago, I tripped and my Canon 50D with a 70-300 mm lens went flying head over tail into concretes chunks on the river bank. The insurance company completely covered the cost of buying both items new (no deductible.) That $29 was approximately 20% of what the same kind of extended warranty/insurance would have cost at the original time of purchase. You bet your boots that insurance is worth your time, trouble, and money! (and, don't count on your homeowners to cover the same kind of loss - with no deductible - as the rider does.)

  • Neal Goggins

    October 19, 2012 01:59 am

    The personal space thing is very good. no need to be rude, just stay out of "condition white" and be alert of everyone near you. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. you have no idea how many times I have seen someone nearly get run over because they are preoccupied with their iphone or just simply oblivious to whats going on around them.
    Good rules to live life by.

  • Barry E. Warren

    October 19, 2012 01:42 am

    I trend to stay away from big city's where crime is high. But you never know ,even in a National Park there is the chance of theft. This was a helpful lesson.

  • timgray

    October 19, 2012 12:38 am

    Unless you are being paid, Dont take your 1DS and $45,000 lens to Bosnia... Use a $400.00 used throwaway that you dont care get's stolen.

  • Susanne

    October 18, 2012 06:55 pm

    On point number 6, if I have to give my camera to somebody to snap a photo of me, I allways look around for someone with a camera at least the same value of mine (1) they might be able to take a good picture of me, and 2) they are less inclined to run with mine if they have one themselves...:)

  • Mridula

    October 18, 2012 05:35 pm

    I only thought of the subject after falling with my camera on the sea shore and as you said the camera went kaput but the memory card was fine! But I have given my camera (SLR too) far too many times without a thought to strangers to click a picture of mine! New food for thought for me!

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/10/what-is-your-travel-blogging-niche.html

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