Photographer's Camera Gear Stolen At Wedding: What Can We Learn?

Photographer's Camera Gear Stolen At Wedding: What Can We Learn?

Martin Gregorian from Butterfly Photography was shooting a wedding ceremony in an outdoor park in Vancouver B.C. last weekend and became the victim of an increasingly common crime. His camera bag was stolen by a thief posing as a tourist right in the middle of the ceremony! Now, don't just brush this off as something that could never happen to you; let's learn something from this so we don't find ourselves scrambling during a wedding as well.

The thief was caught on camera lifting the bag from a back aisle, but has not been identified as of yet. If you recognize the thief in this video, please contact the Vancouver Police and offer your assistance.

I have a great awareness of what Martin is going through right now, because about 5 years ago my studio was broken into and all of my camera gear was stolen. Just as I learned a lot about storing gear, backup equipment, and safe image carrying and backup, I'm sure Martin is going to be ultra aware of bystanders in the future and will be adjusting his equipment setup to make sure that this won't happen again.

So, what can we learn from all of this that can move us forward and away from the risks of theft and loss or damage? Again I stress, this CAN happen to you, and you need to be prepared to prevent it from happening.

Prevent Theft And Damage Of Your Gear

The reason a thief was able to take off with Martin's gear was because it was in a pelican case at the back of the ceremony seating area and nobody was paying particular attention to it at the time. Hands up if you ever leave your camera case or bag somewhere during a ceremony so you're not carrying the full weight of it the whole day. I'm sure we have all done it at one point, and I'm as guilty as most, so let's hold off on the throwing of stones here for a bit.

This was an outdoor wedding in a public park, so there were onlookers all around and nobody really suspected anything of them. Indoor ceremonies are much more secluded from the public than outdoor ceremonies, so special attention should be placed on your gear when there is a chance of bystanders approaching it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are shooting a wedding at a public location.

Tip #1 - Carry your equipment whenever possible and travel light

I carry my 2 cameras and my UNDFIND One bag almost all day and I have the massage bills to prove it. I have everything I need for the day in that bag, and any extra items that I may want to use at the reception are left in my travel case locked in the trunk of my car or on location in a safe spot. My backup gear is also with that case, ready to go in the case of an emergency like my camera ceasing to function, or if Uncle bob's battery runs out and he needs to use mine so he can continue to cover the ceremony for them (I have seriously been asked this).

Tip #2 - Have your second shooter or assistant carry your bag

It's music to my ears when my second shooter says "Here, let me carry that." For those that have a second shooter or assistant that is willing and able to carry their gear, this will free you up to move about more easily and keep your gear protected.

Tip #3 - If you have to put down your bag, ask a friendly guest if you can put it next to them

This is actually a really good way to build rapport with guests at the wedding, and to show that you are a real person that could actually be their friend. I often move around the perimeter of the seating area of ceremonies while shooting, and when I feel like I don't need to have my camera bag on me for changing lenses, I will often find someone sitting in the aisle seat near the back or the 3rd row on the outside near the front. These two spots are very likely spots that I will be standing at a few points during the ceremony, so I am confident that I'll be able to have quick access to my gear if I need it. It is very important to not disturb the ceremony while talking to the guest, so discreetly ask if it's OK and then thank them later, they'll be happy to have helped.

Tip #4 - Prevent damage of your gear by switching and storing it properly

The whole idea of protecting your gear from theft or damage is so your day is not effected by the loss. Whether someone walks off with your gear, or if your gear all of the sudden stops working because of user error, the same result happens, your clients will think their images will not be as good as they could have been. In some cases they're right, but it's your job to make sure this day is the best day of their lives and that you do nothing to detract from that. It's important to instill confidence in them so they are free to be themselves in their photos and not worrying about you.

In order to prevent your gear from being damaged you need to be very aware of your tools and all of their functions. Here are a few of the ways that camera gear most often gets damaged, and therefore are things that you need to be very comfortable with.

1 - Changing lenses

Learn how to quickly and safely change your lenses so that you're not running the risk of your lenses dropping or jamming because of improper connection to the camera. Keep your camera body facing down and away from wind whenever possible to avoid anything from getting inside of the camera while it's not covered by a lens. Learn how to use your lens bag efficiently so you can quickly access what you need and move on with shooting.

2 - Attaching speedlights to light stands (especially when umbrella's are used)

Always ensure that you've securely fastened your trigger or speedlight to the stand before letting go of it. When screwing a trigger to a light stand, hold the trigger in one hand and turn the light stand pole to screw it in rather than rotating the trigger and risking dropping it. When wind is a factor, use sand bags or other weight to keep the light stand from tipping over. If at all possible, have someone stand by your stand so they can catch it if it starts to tip.

3 - Loose camera straps

At the beginning of the day and throughout, double check that your straps are connected securely to the camera. Rapid Straps and other strap systems that connect to the tripod mount of the camera can often start coming loose if you're not paying attention and your camera can simply drop right from your hip to the ground.

4 - Storing lenses without rear covers in bags

There are a few important things at the rear end of your lenses like the connection pins and the aperture ring lever. These can easily be bent or damaged if you're too rough on them in your bags. If you know you're not going to use your lens for a while and you have time, put the rear cover on it so you're not worried about damaging your lens while it's in the bag. Also, never stack lenses and other items in your bag as the hard surfaces of one item can damage the other item.

There are definitely more ways than these that a camera can get damaged, but I bring these up as they are very common for wedding photographers. I want to also stress the importance of backup gear and quality gear at that. We are professionals, hired to do a job, so we need to make every attempt possible at ensuring that we can fulfill our duties.

What other ways do you protect your gear to get piece of mind during a wedding? Please leave your helpful comments below so we can all learn and grow from this to protect ourselves from similar happenings.

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Most importantly, never store your memory cards in the same bag as your equipment. Keep them on your person at all times. So, even if the gear is jacked, you still have the images.

Totally agree w/ this point. Nothing like getting your crap jacked and also not having the images to get paid by the client.

Great point, Brian!

100% agreed. I use the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket and all cards stayed clipped to my belt until I am home and the photos are backed up. This includes the drive home, gas station stops, EVERYTHING.

Yeah, that's the way to do it!

Judging by the photos, that might be a good thing!...lots of overcooked images, things growing out of their heads...and a horrible website.

Rory Gallagher's picture

That's all you have to say? I know we're all technically competitors but bad mouthing others like that is just plain weak. It looks like he's doing pretty well for himself and I applaud him for that. People like you on the other hand can go fly a kite as far as I'm concerned,

No, I could say you want me to?
You should watch The GRID sometime, or just this episode:

Judging by your logo, I'd stay clear of any services "A.G. Photography" has to sell. You simply come off as a "douche" when you say that his gear getting stolen is a good thing, simply because you don't like his photo style.
The website is something else entirely, not even in the scope of this post - so for you to bag on it makes you even more of a douche.
Just sayin'.

What's your website?

I was being sarcastic!
But, obviously you can no longer distinguish good wedding photography:

I know, I know, God forbid someone doesn't have all "Likes" to offer to feed the delusionalism epidemic that is upon us!

BTW Where, and who leaves their equipment unattended? I shot several weddings too, and the equipment never left my side.
This is how pro's do it:

Ugh... A.G. Photography, aka....DOUCHE BAG.

You bought a Black Rapid strap that holds two you're a wedding photographer.

No sir, you sound like more of a douche-ographer that wishes ill to people that get their gear stolen.

I hope your two little Canon XTi bodies and nifty 50 get stollen as well.

Douche Bag.

You sound really "professional"!
I don't own "Rebels"...sorry to disappoint! Kids camera toys are not my style.

I never said I was "glad" they stole his equipment, and I hope he finds it... don't we have cops for that? I don't "wish" that on anyone...but after looking at his site, my sarcastic comment was well deserved.

For your information there isn't enough time during a wedding for you to change lenses ten times! It is almost mandatory to wear one of those straps, and a vest with lots of pockets for accessories so you can have all your equipment ready to go and not miss moments while you're changing lenses....but an amateur would never get this! Shoot a few real weddings, as a real wedding photographer then talk.

Save your insults for those who care!

News flash: a "real" wedding photographer often has more gear than will fit on one dinky BR strap and shoulder bag, so they can't always have everything on them or immediately by their side. Try lugging around a Think Tank Airport rolling bag sometime due to 3 bodies, 7 lenses, 3 flashes, and mountains of other gear and maybe you will change your tune. And if you actually practice enough, you CAN change lenses 10 times during a wedding (or even more.) Sounds like it is YOU who is the amateur.

5DMKIII+Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS on one side, and 1DX + Canon 24-70mm 2.8 on the other side. The details are not shot during ceremony....No need to change lenses during ceremony...the details+ venue all shot before hand...go study efficiency...I rather not miss any moments....
It's not a competition of who can change lenses during the ceremony faster missing monents that won't be repeated's about just being there to photograph it...and capturing every moment that won't be repeated again!

I will fill you in on a secret: there is more than one way to shoot a wedding. Just because you believe it's best to be more "efficient" (or whatever you like to call it) doesn't mean it's the only way or the "best" way to shoot a wedding. There are plenty of professional wedding photogs that handle things just fine without a BR strap, or a vest, or whatever else you seem to think that all professionals must use. ~smh~

Sure you can! But I shot beach having sand on my sensor wasn't one of my goals!

Jeff McCollough's picture

Changing lenses a thousand times won't make you a "pro". There are "pros" that just use a couple of lenses during the whole event....

I never said that it did. I am responding to AG Photography who is claiming that only pros use BR straps and vests at weddings, and use only two lenses to shoot weddings, and other ridiculous claims, as if her way is the only way that pros operate, then follows up her claims with "but an amateur would never get this! Shoot a few real weddings, as a real wedding photographer then talk." I am merely pointing out that there is more than one way to shoot a wedding!

I didn't say that! I said that at a wedding it is optimal to lock your back pack in the car, after you're done with the "before" shots, and take with you what you need, and has enough range to cover the ceremony. Obviously you can't be watching your backpack, AND shoot the wedding at the same time! I see your "paying attentions" skills are not available. Obviously you are an amateur, and have no clue what those two lenses DO! Those two lenses I mentioned ARE precisely what pro's use. There are fauxtographers who "buy" those lenses too, (not with money they make out of photography though), and who have no clue how to use them, so no worries there. But pro's use those two lenses for their range of covering anything they would need during the ceremony. Maybe you might want to read a book or two, or subscribe to and watch Chris Orwig's classes.

Just cause you shoot a wedding or two, that hardly makes you a pro.

Yes, you did say that, just read your comments above. And no, you never mentioned to lock half your gear in the car after you are done with it (as if a thief would never break into a car once they saw you put it in there lol.) And I am very familiar with these lenses thanks, as I own them too, but just because I don't strap them on me with a BR or vest at all times does not mean I don't know what I'm doing. You seem to have a need to criticize other photogs as not being "pro" enough for you if they don't do things your way, but perhaps you need to look in the mirror at why you are so hypercritical.

Glad you think "Photography" is about the gear!

You clearly suffer from GAS! (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

That just means you can't figure out which lens triggers the "talent gene" in your head! Good Luck with that.
"If I practice enough I can change lenses 10 times"? WOW! OK...and while you do that, the couple is on a plane on their way to their honeymoon!

What is your issue here? I don't like this guy' stuff, and I said so! More people should try not to "Like" everything they see! It's a FREE country FYI! Ever heard of the 1st Amendment?

The issue here is your really rude comment: "Judging by the photos, that might be a good thing (that his gear was stolen.)" Didn't your mother ever tell you if you can't say something nice, don't say it at all? It sounds as if that's all that ever comes out of you, so I guess not...

I see you grew up suppressing your opinions, or being taught how to do so by your parents!!! My parents taught me to call things for what they are and not lie to people's faces to make them feel better about their incompetence! I grew up in a free country! You are obviously part of the American Idol crowd! Do you ride Unicorns to work too? Excuse me, but I am not one to follow the "LIKE" everything crowd!

YES: judging by the photos, which are shot in plain sun, with no diffusers, no open shade, with things sticking out of the people's heads (lacks attention to detail), and in one of the photos the bride has bathing suit marks all over her, he has a few good shots mixed in with crappy ones...that looks like he bought stock (as many do today) to make himself look better...the work is not consistent, and he doesn't know how to shoot in the sun to address harsh lighting. He knows how to pose them, unlike others, but he doesn't understand lighting...or backgrounds...and the website as a whole is abysmal. We have Square Space for $8 a month...that looks and can be customized to look excellent for this type of work. You seem to not understand that when shooting weddings, and call yourself a "wedding photographer" no less, you have to present yourself professionally to people you expect to spend 4 figures on you. It's a business. Do you like the way the Apple store looks like? same thing...

Go have fun FAUXtographing! I am done talking to you, since you sound like the furtherest thing from being a pro.

Seriously looks like a set of suspenders.

Jeff McCollough's picture

So I just was now looking at your photos...

Sorry to say this but they really seem to be lacking any WOW. Kind of dull...not that you don't take good photos or anything...

BTW anyone who has auto-play music on their site is STUPID!

Thanks! Appreciate that; will work on it. I don't mind criticism, and I know what needs to change at my end; unlike other people!

Jeff McCollough's picture

Ok so I was looking at your site:

Those photos are blah but then the other site....impressive...good work keep it up...

Vadim's website needs changing too.....everyone should know by now how annoying music is...actually THIS is what I wrote about it here:

Nobody asked your opinion.

Defensive much?

Wait your joking right? Cause I looked at your website/portfolio and you've got me laughing. There's 13 total photos in your portfolio and, even worse, you refer to yourself as a "Jackie of all trades." That alone nullifies your credibility to lash out against another photographer's work, so quit with that bitter negativity and go raise your kid(s).