$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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Previous comments
Tom Weis's picture

The pacsafe [DOT] com products feature anti-theft protection; steel cables, locks, etc. No, I don't work for them. I just think the steel mesh bags are sort of cool.

And yes, as everyone has said insurance is a must. I have equipment coverage through PPA. However, her biggest liability is the loss of the photographs. I hope the bride and groom don't sue her.

Tony Clark's picture

Firstly, I am sorry to hear about anyone losing their gear. If I shoot an event, I will carry two bodies with lenses, a couple extra memory cards and leave the rest in the car trunk or figure out how to carry a small bag with a lens in it. If you need to return to your vehicle do so quickly or hire an assistant to watch over your gear. It’s cheaper to pay an assistant than to pay the deductible to replace stolen items. My insurance is less than $400 a year and I build that into my rates. I’ve lived in big cities and never leave anything in plain sight because people are curious and they will look.

Scott Hussey's picture

My wedding contact states that I will have a table next to the dj as dedicated workspace. This ensures that there's another professional vendor standing next to my gear when I'm not near it.

If there's no table set up for me when I arrive, I pull a table out of my car and set it up - I don't pull a camera out of the bag until I've got a table to set the bag on.

My car was broken into and my bag full of videogear has been stolen. Worth of 25.000 €. On top of that, I had to inform the weddingcouple that I’ve lost their footage. Most difficult phone call I ever had to make. 😖

I keep my SD Card Holder in my pocket with my belt through the cord so it cannot fall out. I switch SD Cards after Getting Ready, Ceremony, and then after the Reception. My biggest concern is the SD cards. My equipment I can replace with insurance from the Hartford, but my client's photos I cannot. The SD Cards don't leave my pocket until I am home and have uploaded them all onto my computer where I have backblaze running to back up those!

I know this would raise the price of anyones business, and nobody enjoys rising costs no more than the next guy, but wouldnt it be cheaper just to hire an apprentice photographer to tag along with you? Plus, put the extra camera in their hands, so that while they are holding on to your extra equipment, they are snapping shots as well, getting OJT.
Who knows, maybe they can get a really good shot of something you may have missed.

Nick Viton's picture

I assist my friend for weddings and events. In addition to shooting second, hauling gear, holding reflectors, setting up and taking down lights, etc., having me stand around just to watch our stuff is part of the gig.

To me the priority is the images. Gear can be repurchased with insurance but I cannot redo an event. I had an important photo shoot yesterday and shot RAW to both cards on A9. I also downloaded images via USB C Prograde readers to Macbook and external Samsung SSD using Photomechanic 6 to write to both laptop and SSD during ingest. The laptop and SSD are stored in a secure area.

To be really safe I would suggest a trunk safe or steel plate in the car so intruders cannot go through the seats. You can also get a trunk chain that you can lock to prevent someone from popping the trunk open unless they cut through the chain and lock.

When I'm done with assignment I carry the SSD and one card in my pocket if I have to stop and eat after an event. I keep the other gear in a secure trunk.

Before getting home I make three right turns and onto random streets till there are no cars following me. If I have stuff in the trunk I stop somewhere and unload the roller case to the back seat. I do not ever open my trunk near my house or carry gear on my shoulder.

Once I get home I use Chronosync with error checking to duplicate the data on my laptop to two drives at home. I also sync all unprocessed images using Backblaze. Since some jobs require multiple days of processing I do not delete the data from my laptop and keep the SSD on me when I leave the house.

I like to have multiple copies of my data because it is way cheaper than losing a client.

Alex Kroke's picture

GoFundMe ! give me a break. put the cost of a camera on a CC and pay it over time.
Concentrate on getting some photos the the clients and get insurance if you are a professional.
In a positive note this should be a teaching moment for all of us.

I'm a musician and have played weddings almost every weekend for 30 years. We have a cordial relationship with most photographers (except when they eat all the food before we get to the green room ;-) ). A lot of times they grab a corner off the stage for their gear storage and I think we all have kind of an implicit trust that they're going to be careful and protective around our gear, while we theirs. We're all in the same trench.

A couple of years ago, there was a rash of theft at one particular Santa Monica hotel that opened right to the beach. Both instruments and photography gear. It was later solved by limiting access, but you feel bad when a fellow professional gets something stolen.

Re: insurance.... musicians have to insure our instruments through a 3rd party. Home insurance won't cover them if you use them professionally, not even as an add-on. Do photographers have the same issue?

Eric Mathiasen's picture

As note above, if you're not a pro, you can often insure your gear as a rider to your home insurance. If you are a pro, though, common consumer insurance companies won't insure your gear and you have to seek out professional policies.

A few people have said this but it deserves a top level post, not buried in a thread.

*Your homeowners insurance from State Farm, etc, will not cover camera equipment if you make any money from it.* If you are honest to god, just a hobbyist, great. But if you make money (aka have any semblance of a business, you need real insurance. Mine is through TCP and covers at replacement cost after a $500 deductible per incident. I have maybe $40,000 of equipment coverage, and it costs me about $1000 / year. It’s a cost of doing business, I couldn’t possibly afford to replace all my gear out of pocket if it got stolen / lost / broken.

I use TCP, too. I haven't had an incidents and have about $30k insured. Hope they come through if anything happens.