It's important to keep safety in mind whilst taking photos, whether you’re travelling or in a day-to-day environment, there’s always the chance of encountering an unscrupulous character who wants to nick your camera gear...
One important note is that you should never put your personal safety at risk to protect your equipment! Just accept the loss and move on (hopefully you have camera insurance). The purpose of this article is to minimise the risk of having your camera stolen & won’t guarantee safety.
A great tip from the blogosphere: use a safety pin to secure your bag’s zippers (via a blog called Eight Minutes Old). Using a safety pin keeps prying hands out, without drawing as much attention as a padlock. This is an effective technique for backpack users because your equipment is out of sight and vulnerable in crowded areas.
Use a Discreet Camera Bag
A subtle bag that doesn’t scream “I’m a camera bag – steal me” is a great first step. Many bag manufacturers are beginning to offer discreet camera bags which feature a muted colour scheme and an embossed logo (or none at all).
Discreet camera bags that
spring to mind are forgettable include the Lowepro Classified AW series, Domke F2 Original and Hadley Pro Original.
Lowepro Classified AW Bags
The Lowepro Classified range is available in black or sepia colours, in a range of capacities from one digital SLR + 2 short lenses (140AW) up to a full-size messenger bag (250AW) for 1-2 professional digital SLRs with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens attached, 2-3 extra lenses and a 15.4” widescreen laptop.
Domke F-2 Original
A favourite with hard working professionals, the Domke F-2 takes a lot of gear and can take a serious beating. The odd thing about Domke bags, as a customer’s review mentions, is they “will last a lifetime and look better as they’re used and abused”. Can’t say that about many camera bags!
Billingham Hadley Pro Original
The Hadley Pro Original is a good-looking bag and although it doesn’t meet the requirements of looking like a scruffy bag with your laundry in, the Hadley range isn’t immediately recognisable as a walking camera depository. The logo & style are less widely known – unless you encounter particularly discerning camera thief...
If you want to stick with your existing camera bag then cover the logos & badges with duct tape to disguise your bag. Add enough tape and eventually the bag will look distressed & old, concealing the valuable contents, simultaneously providing ‘evidence’ for wannabe photojournalists & nature photographers stories about a close encounter with shrapnel / bear’s claws. Ahem.
Leave a Calling Card
Sounds obvious – but are your contact details in each of your camera bags? It’s always possible that you’ll leave the bag somewhere & a Good Samaritan will try to return it to its flustered owner! Make sure the contact details aren’t visible on the outside of the bag and avoid a full address – just a mobile phone number or email address should suffice.
Use a Hand Strap
Aside from the huge manufacturer logo emblazoned along your camera’s standard neck strap, it also affects the visibility of your camera whilst walking about. With your camera hanging across your chest it’s easy to see – switching to a wrist strap allows you to carry the camera at your side, at hip-height.
Nikon’s AH-4 handstrap works with most digital SLR combinations without an integrated vertical grip (check compatibility here in the AH-4 further details). For Canon photographers there is the popular E1 hand strap which is compatible with any EOS digital SLR with a battery grip fitted or an additional strap point at the base.
Mark & Record
Use a UV pen to mark your cameras & lenses with your postcode, followed by the house number or name (convention advised by the Met Police). Make sure you record the serial number of all your valuable equipment – this can assist the police in tracing stolen goods – and your insurer may insist on these details.
In June a camera dealer had the misfortune of having £24,000 of Nikon equipment stolen which was recovered by the police after a positive match of the serial numbers. You can read about the recovery of the stolen Nikon cameras on Amateur Photographer’s website.