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Gear Reviews

Tag ‘Em and Bag ‘Em: How to Protect Your Gear from Theft

By Jules Ebe on June 27th 2013

Roger and Drew Cicala at came up with a great article on protecting your photography gear. As scary as it may be, cameras and lenses are prime targets and I remember the sinking feeling I got when a friend let me know that his new body was stolen, never to be recovered.

If you have a great deal of your income tied up in equipment, including your ability to make a living, these suggestions are worth their weight in gold.



Simply put – if you don’t already have it, get it. The cost is minimal in relation to the protection you will gain, especially if you find yourself without your trusted gear with an assignment around the corner.

“With most policies you not only get theft and loss coverage, but also damage insurance and even coverage of gear you’ve rented or borrowed.”

Keep in mind that insurance does not cover the challenges of being without equipment while the claim is settled, or recovery of images on your stolen memory cards.

Ownership Registration:

You almost always get an opportunity to register your purchase. It won’t hurt. It may help, especially if what your registering is an expensive piece of gear from a smaller company. Nikon and Canon – not so much. But still, just do it.

There are also resources for finding stolen property (or to find out if a purchase on Craiglist or eBay is really to good to be true). and are simple serial number databases that allow you to report your stolen gear, for potential buyers to check against. LensTag is a new website strictly for photo gear that will be launching soon. It may not help you get it back once stolen, but if it ever turns up, you have the ability to help prove ownership. If you choose not to register your gear, someone else can register it and make it appear to be their own.

Prevent Theft: Alarms & GPS

Okay – well, you cannot prevent theft completely but you can try and level the playing field. Wear your gear, always carry it on a plane, never walk away from it. All seems common sense, but sometimes things happen. Build good habits and they may save your gear one day.

There are also some niffy tools out there.

Motion Alarms such as a basic tilt or motion-detection alarm. Tool Guard (made for tool boxes) is an example of this type of alarm. You can also attach motion alarms made for bikes to anything with a tube-like arm, such as a tri-pod or C-Stand.

Proximity Smart Alarms utilize smartphone and proximity tech to take the movement alarm a little further. Smart phone and proximity alarms go a step further. hipKey for iPhone is an app and device that you can program to notify you in different events. You can set it to alarm if it the bag is moved or if the device in your bag and your iPhone become separated more than a specified distance, like 10 feet.


GPS Alarm / Locators may make you feel a little like James Bond, and there are a number of different GPS locating devices available. PocketFinder and the Garmin GTU 10 are two suggestions. They do what they say – track your stuff. Which is helpful if you need to tell the cops to go pick up your gear at the corner of Main and ThankGod.


There are several tags that you can place on your gear that acts as a secondary to your serial number if your gear is lost or stolen.

STOP is an excellent brand. Once applied they are very difficult to remove. If a thief does manage to chisel them off, they leave an indelible tattoo that says “Stolen Property” in bright red.


You can also purchase bar codes that may be missed by a thief scrapping off serial numbers.

Immobilize makes a line of microdot-sized bar codes in kits that include large, removable “all items in here are traceable” stickers (for the outside of gear bags), along with a web based registration system.”

RFID Tags are like small microchips that can be scanned from several feet away. “If you buy an expensive guitar or even surfboard, there’s a good chance it has an implanted security RFID chip (they simply drill a small hole, put the chip in, and glue the hole shut before they paint and finish the item). These are truly tiny devices and much less likely to be found by a thief than a barcode.” Some companies, like Snagg sell these chips to consumers.


If Its Stolen:

Report it. As painful as it may be, having a record on file will help. If there is surveillance, let the owner of the video know (maybe they will review for you) and also let the police. Their job is to catch the criminal, and video may spark interest.

Locate it. Troll eBay and Craiglist, as well as check the websites we listed under registration section. This is what they are for, after all.

“The best tip when trying to locate your stolen gear is: Be patient.”

Recovery. If it has been located, you may feel like James Bond, but remember that you are not. You’ll need to contact the police and tell them the situation. Notify eBay or Craiglist if the gear is yours, if it is a pawnshop, check your state laws.

All of this may be time consuming and cost a little money, but if it protects or recovers your gear, it may be worth it.

To read the full article, click here.

Let us know what you do to try and protect your gear.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules



is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff Morrison

    I will be lookng into this

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  2. The Six Most Stolen Photography Gear of 2013

    […] we mentioned in our article on how to protect your gear from theft, it is also a good idea to have either a motion alarm like the Tool Guard or a GPS tracking system […]

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