Stolen Camera Gear: Are You Protecting Yourself?

Stolen Camera Gear: Are You Protecting Yourself?

Kimberly Gauthier from Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier

A-Group-of-Lenses-600x399.jpegThis has been the craziest week in my mad mad world, hence the adapted movie quote. One of the biggest things that we as photographers fear has happened to me. Our home was burglarized and the thieves nabbed my camera gear.

It was 7:50 in the morning when I got the call from our security service calmly telling me that someone had accessed our garage door and then a second door that leads to the home’s interior. Well, that’s not supposed to happen, “please dispatch the police,” I responded; it hadn’t hit me yet. I then called my boyfriend, a Detective with Snohomish County, to share the news. His response was a stretch of silence, then a loud “WHAT!!!!” I wasn’t sure if he needed me to repeat myself so I chose to remain quiet and he said, “I’m on my way.”

When I got the news that there was indeed a burglary, I asked if the animals were harmed (they were fine) and then I asked if they got my Kelly Moore. Yes, they did. DAMMIT! Here’s a short list of what those B$%*#^@ got:

  • Kelly Moore B-Hobo camera bag, green (with a handy cross body strap for easy thievery)
  • ?

  • Canon camera backpack (great for storing more stuff, like jewelry)
  • Sony Alpha 550 Camera Body
  • Sigma 50mm f/2.8 lens
  • Sigma 28-105mm f/2.8 lens
  • Sony 75-300mm zoom lens
  • 2 external hard drives
  • 5 memory cards
  • 2 camera batteries
  • Lens cleaning kit


I headed home to deal with the fall out, trying to think of everything that I needed to do (file a police report, file an insurance claim) and not think of the 2 years worth of images that were gone and the fact that I had just spent a Sunday taking pictures that I hadn’t downloaded yet.


When I pulled into our driveway, I was happy to see that Snohomish County turned out for the event and the thieves were caught, everything would be returned, I could now exhale. I experienced a slight twinge of disappointment (and guilt), because I had started soothing the sting of loosing thousands of images with the shopping spree I’d be on the following week at B&H Photo and Video.

Have you taken inventory?

In our area, 90% of people don’t get their things back. If the police do find a cache of stolen goods, they’re rarely returned to the owners, because memories fade. Are you certain that’s YOUR Nikon camera? That’s YOUR Canon lens? It’s a best guess sometimes.

Apparently taking your stolen goods to the local pawnshop is old school now; they sale everything on Craigslist.

I’ve taken pictures of everything, noting the serial numbers where possible as well as a detailed description.

Do you have insurance?

Home owners insurance will cover a home burglary, but when I was working to Go Pro, I learned that home owners insurance won’t cover camera gear and studio equipment if a business is being run out of your home. I’m an aspiring professional blogger, not photographer, but I’m insured. I sent a detailed list of everything to my insurance agent. She now also has pictures and serial numbers.

My insurance is less than $30 a month and bundled with my State Farm auto policy.

Are you backing up your work?

I was backing up my images to two external hard drives (yep, the two that were taken) and using the online back up service, Carbonite. Like most serious amateurs, I’m taking pictures all the time and the RAW images were devouring my computer’s memory so I moved everything to the two external hard drives.

We now have a safe (bolted to the floor) where the back ups are stored along with valuable items that I don’t use regularly (lenses, memory cards, extra batteries).

The safe may be over kill for some of you; a fellow photographer shared that he keeps one back up off site: you can store your external hard drive at a friend’s place, at your parent’s pad, or in a safety deposit box.

Having my camera gear stolen has been something that has been in the back of my mind since I purchased my first Sony DSLR camera. It was the excuse I used to invest in a Kelly Moore camera bag when I started to explore Street Photography – it looks like a purse, it’s inconspicuous. But I was never prepared to go through it in real life.

I’m certain that professional photographers have safeguards for such an event and amateur photographers can learn something, because our gear and work is valuable no matter what level we are as photographers. My partner is a cop and he created the necessary safeguards while I was off taking pictures of flowers; so we recovered quickly. Hopefully these few, simple tips, will help you.

Hopefully you’ll never experience a burglary but what steps do you take to protect your gear?

Kimberly Gauthier is an aspiring professional blogger and amateur photographer who blogs on Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier sharing what she learns about digital photographer with other amateur photographers.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Yola June 1, 2013 02:34 am

    I would keep my camera under padlock and key inside my camera bag; I don't know if this helps.

  • Steve Olive October 23, 2011 10:16 pm

    Having had all of my Mamiya 35mm camera gear, along with all of my negatives, stolen back in the mid 80s I can sympathise with those that have lost their gear. I think I've become paranoid about security. My photos are moved to a portable hard drive when I've finished editing and then every week I copy the contents of that drive (and all of the other documents from my laptop) to another external hard drive that is kept at work. I always unload my camera gear first when traveling and I lock the car and motel room when I'm moving between the two. In the room my gear is put into cupboards, usually beside the bed and back into the car before room service cleans the room.

    This post has also made me start looking at insurance for my camera gear - it is starting to mount up in price if I had to replace it now and I couldn't wait 15 years to get back into photography again.

  • Todd Michael Katke October 23, 2011 03:15 am

    It's unfortunate these days one can not even go into a state parks. The theives are there too! We live in Alaska. All of these posting should be an alert to anyone who carrys a camera what ever level you are at. Buy a camera get insurnace. Dont know what I would do I if I lost my big lens. It's like my second wife to me. Reading all these posting makes me go back and recheck my pictures with serial numbers of all of my equipment. Though we were broken into the theives were after drugs of any sorts and nothing else. Still that feeling remains that these people were in your house just kinda makes you sick. We live in a mad mad world these days were everywhere you go you have to look over your shoulder to see who is watching and lurking about, I am just trying to take some pictures of the wildlife we so love to watch and take some pretty nice pictures while being watched and followed waiting for the right moment to strike. Pretty sad - my how the world has changed. Your stuff is my stuff and I will make a buck off you.

  • Uncle Gare October 21, 2011 11:11 pm

    Ugggh, I felt sick to my stomach after reading this because theft/loss is a constant worry for me. Great tips here from everyone (I'll be buying a safe to bolt to my floor), but I need to suggest one more layer of security... ENCRYPTION. The last thing you want after losing all of your gear is for some dirt bag to be watching slide shows of your personal life. Not to mention the potential for any type of glamour or artistic nudes to end up posted on the internet. There are lots of programs to chose from, I personally use True Crypt because it's very well rated and completely free. Use a strong password (lots of numbers, letter and special characters) and even if your drive is stolen it becomes nothing more than a paperweight for the thief!

  • Ed October 21, 2011 03:45 pm

    Sometimes crap happens, and there is no way to prevent it. BUT, there are always common sense things you should practice.

    1. DON'T ADVERTISE. A thief wont steal something he doesn't know is there. I never carry an expensive bag! If the bag alone is worth stealing, I must have expensive taste, so there is probably expensive stuff inside the bag as well. Generic bags are a good choice.

    2. SECURE. Leave nothing out, especially unattended. Putting stuff in your trunk is a great idea. Otherwise on the floorboard under something inconspicious. Or under the seat. ( I took the strap off the bag so nothing could be seen from under my seat.) When I'm at a hotel, I bring in the expensive stuff (not everything), and I leave the car alarm on always, and park the car as close as possible to my room's window. Not the motel lobby, and not the stairwell, but my room where I am. I also back my car in so that I'm seen less carrying in my stuff.

    3. INSURANCE. Check it out. Is the cost worth it? And ask the agent specifically if it is covered under a policy, and under what cercumstances it wouldn't be. Too often we think it is covered, only to find out its not.

    4. BACK UP. No matter what, always back up your photos. With digital images, it is too easy. I offload the pictures immediately to my home computer. Inside my computer I have 2 hard drives. (One is for use, the other is for backing up. What if I get a HDD crash, or a virus? Always back up your important everythings.) Also, I back up to DVD disks every so often. Backing up once a month or quarter. Whatever works for you. You can also back up to on-line services. They are becoming more popular, and are a very reasonable option. I would recommend it. For highest safety and security, you want a copy "off site". It will protect from fire or water damage, and can't be stolen at the same time.

    5. DESCRIPTION. Have a photo or video of your important/expensive hardware. Store in a safe location. And make a backup copy of that info.

  • Marco October 21, 2011 01:48 pm

    One tip to consider when buying coverage; check prices for "full replacement value" versus "depreciated value" coverage. And also consider covering laptops and home PCs that you do your editing on. Also be sure what you are required to do if it is a vehicle (ie. In trunk or doors locked at all times).

  • El_Fez October 21, 2011 06:40 am

    Photos that I WILL NEVER get back.

    Damn Melinda, that's a shame, and one of the big reasons I preach Backup, backup, backup! Redundant and external hard drives and gold master DVDs stored in different locations. The only way that ALL my photos will be lost is if there's a much bigger disaster that wipes out the Northwest. If that happens, I'll have more important things on my mind than photos from my childhood.

    At the very least, print your photos. Aside from giving you a hard copy forever, it's cool to thumb through old shoeboxes full of shots!

  • Elma October 19, 2011 09:52 am

    Oh I've been looking on,, ebay and craigslist everyday, but no luck so far...

  • Elma October 19, 2011 09:51 am

    Just last month for my friend's wedding, I had two bodies, L lenses, and lighting equipment stolen from the car and the total came out to over $20k in equipment. We were unloading a photobooth and within 2 minutes, someone went into the truck, took three cases containing all the equipment and took off. Groom saw it happen, fiance took off chasing them in the truck, but lost them. We think it was an inside job at the venue since it was a secluded parking lot and no one was there.

    Luckily I have State Farm and had a $20k personal property insurance so claims just told me that all my camera equipment will be covered, just not my fiance's laptop. Luckily I'm retired from shooting paid jobs and I was just helping my friend that weekend. State Farm mentioned that if you are getting paid, personal property insurance DOES NOT cover your camera equipment.

    FYI, I LOVE State Farm! They were very easy to work with on this.

  • Fuzzypiggy October 18, 2011 10:32 pm

    Superb article! Photography is not all creative and artistic, sometimes the harsh realities of life have to come back in.

    Whenever I upgrade my kit I always check my coverage with my insurance company and make sure the lot is covered, including the other bits you forget like laptops and mobile phones which often travel too.

    Some home insurance companies offer really good rates. When my wife bought a new iPhone the phone company offered her full replacement insurance for theft and damage at £10/month. She called our home contents insurance company and got a better deal , full replacement, for only £1.50/month on top of our home contents premium. For us non-Pro's we can get some seriously good coverage for thousands of pounds/dollars on your precious kit.

    Don't think it will never happen, it will sooner or later! I managed to get seawater in my Canon 450D body two years ago. I called the insurance company and the quote was £175 for new circuit boards as opposed to £475 for a new body, insurance company never even quibbled, just agreed the costs for repair over the phone and paid up after getting the Canon repair centre receipt.

    It's better safe than sorry!

  • ccting October 18, 2011 08:42 pm

    Hmm, your gears are just too attractive... :)....

  • sigfried baterina October 18, 2011 01:30 pm

    that's a shocker. good thing you got your stuffs back.

  • Darryl October 18, 2011 11:07 am

    Camera gear may be covered by your home insurance but there could be limitations. I'm a hobbyist in Canada.

    My Canon 7D and 70-300mm L series lens were stolen from my vehicle. My home insurance company will cover the loss but there's a catch. I had a claim for storm/hail damage to our house a year prior to the camera theft. If I file a claim for the camera, that will be 2 claims in 12 months. If I have a 3rd claim within 3 years of the first one the insurance company can "choose to not renew my policy". Basically 3 strikes and you're out. And since all insurance companies work by the same standard ("we wouldn't do it if everyone else didn't do it") if you're out of one company you're effectively out of them all. So if I file the claim and then have a 3rd loss I'll be out of home insurance. So the question now is: is this loss big enough to file a claim and hope nothing big happens in the next 2 years? Is it worth potentially risking the home insurance over?

    I would recommend to read the fine print but it turns out this information isn't even in the fine print. The only way to find out is to start filing claims. Then you really start to find out what you get for sending a steady stream of cheques every month to your insurance company.

  • Dan S. October 18, 2011 05:40 am

    I'm a hobbyist in California who occasionally picks up some extra money shooting real estate. One day my gear was stolen from my car. Farmer's Insurance denied my claim because I was using it for "business". Even though my gear was covered by my home insurance it didn't cover the "professional" use of the cameras. Secondly, the coverage for the gear was automatically reduced by 75% if the loss was away from home, like in my car. For example: if $100 worth of gear was stolen from my house I would be reimbursed for $100 less the deductible. If the theft happened in my car I'd be reimbursed $25 less the deductible. If I was getting paid for shooting, at or away from home, no coverage. If you make money from shooting, even if you intend to make money but have not yet, your insurance may not cover you. Please check, even though you may have insurance for your equipment it may not be the right insurance.

  • Perry Lentine October 18, 2011 04:13 am

    Great advice, I need to stop procrastinating and build a higher level of security for my equipment and images. Thanks!

  • Roy Davis October 18, 2011 02:41 am

    I live in Mexico and normally I would say that it is safe. Having said that I have had 6 camera's, 1 computer, 1 external HD stolen from my house. 3 of the camera's were stolen by a cleaning lady and the others were stolen at night while I was sleeping. I did not have insurance, but am looking at getting some that will cover Mexico. I sure wish that I had it before.

  • Larry Hullum.Jr October 18, 2011 02:38 am

    Stuff like this is why I stay paranoid about my a100 almost anywere I go. It may be old and might cost that much anymore, but my a100 is my partner and can still take fantastic photos! I dont have money to spend on anything too expensive, being unemployed, so I must keep watchful eye.

    Sony alpha dslr bag
    Sony alpha a100 body
    Sony 18-70mm f3.5-f5.6
    Minolta 50mm f1.7
    2 memory cards
    2 batteries
    Card reader

  • Dave October 18, 2011 02:36 am

    Good advice about not covering gear if it's a business. I will take to my Nationwide agent to see if there's rider I can get.

    This article reminds me of a newspaper story a year or two ago. A photographer had just shot a wedding and put all her equipment in the trunk of her car, while she spent the night in a hotel. The car was broken into and all the gear stolen, along with the pictures she'd just taken at the wedding. My reply to the article was that a truly professional photographer would take the equipment into the hotel room, even before taking suitcases, etc. I know it's the first thing I unload from the car when I'm travelling. Also, every night while travelling I copy the pictures to at least one backup, sometimes two.

  • Andy Mills October 18, 2011 02:20 am

    If you're an amateur, then your home contents insurance can give you some cover away from home (you can often ask for a certain amount's worth of stuff to be insured away from home). But you need to read the small print - your gear may not be covered if it's stolen from an unattended car for example, so if you need to pop off to relieve yourself...

    But you need to consider how much gear you have, how much it's worth, if you take much of it out with you and if you make money from it. It could be well worth you having proper camera gear insurance which will pay for damaged equipment as well as stolen (a side effect is that as most people who have it also earn money from their gear, so they can pay up quicker!) Photography insurance often also comes with liability insurance bundled as well, so if someone was clumsy enough to trip over your camera bag or something and they're injured, you will be covered if they decide to sue you.

    As Kimberly pointed out, you also need to consider your files and backups, and also remember that with digital, your computer is also part of your photography equipment.

  • William Bullimore October 18, 2011 01:33 am

    Some good advice there. In my experience, I've found that regular home or travel insurance in Australia doesn't provide adequate protection for high-end photography gear.

    I've insured my equipment with an agency that specifically insures camera equipment and the associated technology. The upside to this is that if my gear gets stolen, say out of the car or on a train etc, it's covered - something that normal insurance doesn't normally cover.

    Also, that's a great reminder about back-ups... I'm off to investigate some online backup alternatives ... :)

  • timgray October 17, 2011 09:47 pm

    Two things.

    1 - dont leave your cameras all over the place and in plain sight. I put the gear in the bags and then into the hall closet in the back bottom. I then LOCK that closet. How do I lock the closet? I went to Home depot and bought a lock for it. Thieves want and in and out, they will not hand around for 20 minutes trying to get into a closet that they probably will not even look at anyways.

    2 - buy a 4 camera Security video recorder and get a house alarm installed. I had my thieves caught because I had video evidence, and the idiots set off the alarm so the cops were alerted right away. they were nabbed as they were leaving and my video evidence sealed it so tight that my insurance company waived the deductible. ZERO cost out of my pocket. Plus if they stole your gear, it does not mean you dont need to replace it. Drop ONE lens from 5 feet and tell me it's perfectly fine.

    Backups, I burn all images to DVD twice and store one set in the filing cabinet and another at my office for my day job. in between weekend backups I back up to a external hard drive.

  • PaoloC October 17, 2011 09:42 pm

    Glad you got everything back. As an amateur on a no-budget, I keep a sync'ed backup on two external hard-disk drives (cheap 2TB USB2). One is at home, the other one in my office's drawer (locked).
    Recently I have also started keeping a copy on an online storage service of those pictures I have decided to print. They are low-res, but good enough to revive memories in a few years' time. The online backup might come handy when the HDD will fail too...

  • Jeet October 17, 2011 07:18 pm

    Lucky you, Kim!

  • Ryan SB October 17, 2011 07:15 pm

    Good to hear you got your stuff back. The problem I am finding with insuring my kitis that it is not covered by my home insurance (I live in France) and I have not found a policy that will cover it. I buy holiday insurance a few times a year to cover any trips I take.

  • Ann October 17, 2011 06:51 pm

    We were robbed too - all they grabbed was my camera gear. There was about $5K worth - and I learnt the hard way that home insurance wouldn't cover anything used for a small business (long story, but I got a lot of it replaced). Police flatly told me they didn't think I'd get anything back - and they were right... eBay is apparently the place to sell stolen gear, btw. Was a nasty experience and I wouldn't wish it on anyone!

  • Mike October 17, 2011 06:49 pm

    Lost my Canon 5D Mk2 last week. I'd left it in the trunk of my car while in a restaurant, and somebody broke in and took it. I carry it in a run of mill rucksack, it was out of site. I'd only bought it 3 weeks before.

  • Sue Barker October 17, 2011 03:54 pm

    I am a home renter, and have just purchased a Nikon D300 body, 18-135mm lens and sb600 speed light along with the additional batteries, chargers, flash extension rack and cord, external hard drive, etc. I need to see about insuring everything, but wondering how to go about it. I know I need to call my (auto) insurance agent to get ideas and quotes, but does anyone have any great tips and ideas further beyond what I've read above? Would my gear be covered in my car? What if I drop it accidentally while out on a photo venture? How does insurance work for camera and gear?

  • Melinda October 17, 2011 02:51 pm

    I had something along the same lines happen to me. My hubby was working near New Orleans so we moved down for the summer with him. So I had my camera, external drives, and memory card case with about 8 memory cards in it. Well we went to Walmart in Belle Chase and was in there for a while. But before we entered we decided to leave MY GUN (1911 Plantium Elite Custom carry Sig .45) in our truck along with my purse which had my external drive and memory card case in. We got back loaded the truck with everything, drove about 5 miles when my hubby went looking for the gun. Thats when my heart stopped that some idiot stole a gun, some poor bystard could be shot with my gun, and then it sank in that every photo that I have ever took, 7+yrs of my daughters life was gone. And then the water works really started. Photos that I WILL NEVER get back. So if u are ever in Belle Chase/New Orleans area watch out! Sadly my husband wil be returning in a few weeks.... :( But Im not going! Glad they caught your guy and nothing was lost!!

  • Tina October 17, 2011 02:45 pm

    Sorry to hear that happened to you. I am so glad you got everything back. Canon have an online service where you can put an inventory of your gear and serial numbers, even giving you the option of uploading your receipts in case Insurance companies ask for proof of purchase.

  • Graham October 17, 2011 08:50 am

    Glad to hear you got everything back. I was in London recently and a very kind gentleman warned me to be weary of people asking me for directions when I have my camera on my shoulder... One person asks directions whilst the other simply unclips the lens and makes a run for it. I hear that's quite common around the world.

  • Norris October 17, 2011 08:47 am