$4000 Worth of Camera Gear Allegedly Stolen From a Photographer During Wedding

$4000 Worth of Camera Gear Allegedly Stolen From a Photographer During Wedding

Photographer Aubrey Peebles of Macon, Georgia and her newlywed clients were devastated to catch a stranger fleeing the scene after allegedly stealing camera equipment during their wedding reception. The camera's memory card was full of images from their special day, and the thief got away with those photos as well as the photographer's gear.

A breaking news article briefly described how a burglar snuck in through a back door and made off with over $4,000 in a camera, lenses, and accessories. A friend of Peebles has started a GoFundMe to help recover her losses.

Due to the high price point and relative portability of cameras and lenses, photographers are commonly targeted for robberies. Below is a list of tips to keep you and your gear safe. Much of this is based on actual events by fellow photographers I've worked with.

  • Don't operate your photography business without insurance. Property and liability insurance are both crucial for protection against the common calamities of running a business. Their costs are relatively low.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. This goes especially to travel photographers, who are frequently targeted. Don't let strangers distract you, and never leave equipment out of sight while you're sight-seeing or shooting. Thieves can be cunning. Some will sneakily take your camera out of its bag or case, and replace it with a brick while you're distracted. An experienced pickpocket or thief will rob you of gear and you won't even know it until it's too late.
  • Be alert when loading and unloading gear. Try to conceal what equipment you can, ideally with unmarked bags and cases. A determined thief might observe you loading or unloading your equipment, then follow you to your next stop/home to rob your vehicle after you've exited it. This has happened to two photographers I know personally.
  • When on a shoot, make sure to stow your backup camera gear in a safe location while you're away shooting. Out of sight is good, a locked or occupied room is even better.
  • If you photograph vacant houses or find yourself often shooting alone at night, consider self defense or even weapons training (if legal in your territory). Learn the proper laws on how and when to defend yourself, should the need arise. Pepper spray is a viable option for those who are uncomfortable with defensive firearms, but be sure to educate yourself on and follow all local laws before carrying or purchasing any items of this nature.

On the subject of on-site image backup, senior Fstoppers writer Ryan Cooper tells us:

Simple — shoot to two cards, and one of those goes into a card wallet that never leaves your person. Prioritize shooting on many small cards (~8gb) rather than fewer large ones (64gb+) to ensure your risk is spread out.

What other tips do you have for gear protection? Please share them in the comments section below.

Lead Image by Steffen Salow from Pixabay

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43 Comments

Tom Weis's picture

The GoFundMe page isn't working: "This fundraiser is no longer accepting donations. If you are the organizer, beneficiary, team member, or donor, sign in to see additional information."

William Semeraro's picture

Sucks.
Recently a lot of my gear got stolen from my checked-in luggage, on a flight from NYC to Oslo.
The insurance companies are giving me a hard time; in fact, if any of you have any suggestions on how to fight for my rights, please send me a message!

Jarrett Porst's picture

It was suggested at one time, to put a gun in the luggage. You'll need to lock the luggage with Non-TSA locks and check it in. TSA doesn't usually take the locks off, their policy is to contact you before. They have special handling procedures for this type of luggage. Even a starter pistol is considered a firearm to the TSA.

Logan Cressler's picture

Correction. The TSA CANNOT take the lock off of a firearm case. That would be an instant felony. They dont even get the keys to the lock. If they want it opened, they have to call you down so you can unlock it and they can inspect it in front of you and usually a supervisor under cameras.

However it is rare that any airline or TSA employee actually knows their own policies and federal firearm laws, so you usually have to fight with them about it anyway. However, in this specific case, having that firearm in NY, even if just connecting flight, will get you arrested for a felony. NY State is well known for doing this to travelers making connecting flights in NY state.

Dan Marchant's picture

That works for US internal flights but may not for international; depending on the law in the destination country. In many places it would be illegal and you would be arrested.

Ted Mercede's picture

A couple of years ago I traveled to Venice, and before going, I did some research and read that there was some high theft of cameras.
I took black electrical tape and covered up all brand markings, and the red on the Canon lens's. No issues, can't say that helped any more than being constantly aware of what's going on, but better safe than sorry.

Scott Mason's picture

There are various YouTube videos on common tourist scams/pickpocket techniques for nearly all travel hot spots. I also recommend the show named Scam City, which I believe is available on Netflix!

Just me's picture

Do not use electric tape but "Masking tape " or "Camera tape"
It will leave no mark even few years, even with the heat.

Ted Mercede's picture

Thanks for the tip!
Fortunately for me I didn't leave it on too long, and no mess. But I hear ya, months of electrical tape on something can get messing in some cases...

Dylan Zoebelein's picture

I highly recommend getting insurance for your camera gear. I bought mine through Statefarm ($9,000 worth of gear) and it only costs $8 per month.

Robert Nurse's picture

Is that for 24/7 coverage? How do they cover claims: i.e., replace equipment via reimburse? Whenever I look for insurance, the prices are always astronomical.

Chad Andreo's picture

State Farm will only cover camera equipment if you don’t make a a certain percentage of your income from your photo/video related business.

Joe Schmitt's picture

In Pennsylvania, State Farm doesn’t provide coverage if using your gear professionally. Because of that, I dropped State Farm and have The Hartford through Hill & Usher. Great service and a damage claim I filed earlier this year went through very fast. Plenty of gear coverage that covers replacement value versus depreciated value and includes liability.

Dylan Zoebelein's picture

I never investigated the income side of it. I guess that would be a good side note, I don't make any money from my photography.

interesting; I have my business liability insurance through state farm and it covers $30000k of equipment loss.

JetCity Ninja's picture

i believe you may be comparing apples to oranges; he's likely describing homeowners/renters/property insurance while you have business liability.

instead of trusting anecdotes on FS, people should be contacting their insurance agents for details that are specific and pertinent to them.

Eric Mathiasen's picture

I assume you meant "$30,000" of coverage, not "$30000k" of coverage - "$30000k" is $30 million - that would be a LOT of camera equipment! :-)

Daniel Haußmann's picture

Those tips are not very useful for the scenario in which this happened. I film a lot of weddings and honestly I am surprised that nothing has been stolen yet. The thing is, no one knows everyone at most weddings. So people can sneak into the church or the venue and no one will know whether they are guests, suppliers or thieves.

You typically arrive at a certain location and throw your camera bag somewhere in a corner where it is not a hazard and does not block the view and look ugly. Sometimes you have a room for the suppliers - photographers, DJs etc. But at e.g. the first dance, no one will be there. But you also cannot put your camera back near the dance floor. So what do you do? Sure, you can hire an assistant who acts as a security guy. Other than that, there is no good option.

In fact if I would become a criminal - I would target weddings. Suit up and steal whatever comes your way. Presents with money, cameras and whatever else you can get ;)

Scott Mason's picture

You're right, weddings are a soft target. I think Ryan's advice (see article) is the best protection in a wedding scenario.

Mark Alameel's picture

My go to place is to store my gear near the DJ booth. I don't trust him, he doesn't know anybody either, etc. but it "might" be safer.

Some venues will have a room for vendors that tends to be busy and that's good but you still have to always use locks.

That said, thieves could roll my entire gear case away and break the locks later so really all we're left with is to be super light or try to make sure a getaway is super slow in hope that we can catch a thief.

Nick Viton's picture

I hide my gear somewhere (under a table, DJ booth, etc.), and then use a cable bike combo lock to lock my camera case to anything - a table, chair, post. You could also drape a coat over it. A thief would need significantly more time to rifle through that setup in the dark to find something valuable than to simply pick up the entire bag/case and walk away with it. A cable bike lock might not stop a thief altogether, but at the very least, it's a deterrent and helps to keep an honest man honest.

Daniel Haußmann's picture

That is a great idea. Will definitively check for something like this for next season.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

If you're running a business you NEED insurance. GoFundMe is NOT an alternative to being a responsible business owner. Venues ask me for my insurance certificate all the time. Not even sure how you're operating without one.

Totally agree. If you want to play as a professional do it all the way, get insurance, including Errors and Omissions, and Liability coverage as offered through The Hartford.

$4000 isn’t really that big of a loss in equipment, one camera and a good lens...

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

Yep, I use the Hartford through USAA.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Insure and write down all serial numbers.

An option is to have your camera wifi low res jpeg images to your phone which is uploading to the cloud in the background. Do I do this myself? No, but I should.

Mark Alameel's picture

If I could do hi-res jpgs, then this is worth it but low quality jpgs is adding insult to injury. Then I wonder if a phone could last an entire wedding (receiving and uploading for an entire wedding live seems to be a daunting task). If you bring a computer, then its more stuff to steal. Hard option. I think having an assistant is the best solution.

Mirza Hasanefendic's picture

Actually, Canon EOS R transfers full-res JPG's to a phone instantly, and your phone can also upload to the cloud at the same time providing a double backup. Tried it few times with my iPhone, it works seamlessly and takes around 1 sec for each image to show up on your phone's screen.

C Fisher's picture

I can transfer full 24mp w the A7II, maybe you could set up the phone so it dumps to a HDD via OTG...

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