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Photographer Robbed at Gunpoint for His Camera Gear

A terrifying ordeal is recalled as one photographer is followed back to his home and held at gunpoint for his camera equipment. An important reminder to be safe and alert when out shooting.

Photography is an expensive craft, particularly for professionals. It's easy to forget that the equipment you take with you can wrack up to extremely high total values — amounts that if it were anything else, you might be hesitant to take the places you take your camera. There have been times, usually whilst I review or preview equipment, where I have had a house deposit worth of gear in my bags at one time. When I was in Japan to preview the Fujifilm GFX 100 for instance, I was wandering around Tokyo, at night, with over $30,000 worth of cameras and lenses alone.

I do take a lot of steps to ensure that should I find myself in a situation where I have had my gear stolen, I am well prepared and I would urge any photographer to do the same. Firstly, I have insurance to cover the equipment I own (you can't insure review equipment, at least in the UK, so I make sure the lender has it covered). Secondly, I have a secure document with every serial number and receipt for all the gear that I own. Thirdly, I generally avoid carrying too much equipment at one time. However, there are lots more measures you can take. For example, there are tracking stickers and apps that can help locate your stolen or lost items.

The most important takeaway from these sorts of stories is that you should be as safe as possible. Furthermore, if you are held up with a weapon, just hand everything over; no piece of equipment is worth losing your life over.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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12 Comments

He didn't see the gun until after he chased them and crashed their car. If you are referring to the video footage where the shooter initially pulled out the gun before the chase, that's just one of the video angles. He said on his left side periphery, he saw them running. He didn't say anything about a gun at that point.

This is really more a reminder to not display expensive items while out in public in a big city. I guess maybe photographers forget the value of all their gear, but to a thief, it's all the same--Rolex, gold necklace, nice camera, whatever. Just because your camera isn't a Leica doesn't mean you don't have an expensive luxury item worth stealing. But SF seems to have a particular problem with property theft from cars. It is out of control at the moment, with the DA's office not caring too much.

While I agree with you, the problem is this happened across the GG bridge in Marin County. True it was just across the bay, but still you'd think the crime would end outside the city limits. Unfortunately, it's spreading outside the city as criminals are getting wise to the fact that photographers are hesitant to shoot in SF as the targeting of photographers has been pretty persistent in the last 5 years.

Trust me, I live in Marin and work in SF and will only take jobs in the city if subterranean parking is provided. I'm sure I'm just being paranoid, and even with insurance for my gear, ehh... it's just bad.

I very much think manufactures could secure their hardware so it could be bricked if stolen. My Phase One back requires a pin to unlock it, without it, its useless.

I didn't know this was a feature on Phase One backs. I guess mine is too old. What model do you have that sports this ?

IQ4 150, older ones don't have this feature.

I doubt a lot of crooks are going to know this.

pawn shops and second hand buyers would find out quickly enough

Exactly, once the word got out that mobile phones could be blocked once stolen, thieves generally stopped stealing them.

"For example, there are tracking stickers and apps that can help locate your stolen or lost items."

Would like to read an article on these tracking stickers and how well they perform outside of Bluetooth range?

It's funny that pro-power tools that cost significantly less than camera equipment have tracking features built into them.

No need for all the complicated and expensive cellular stuff talked about here.Biometrics is all you need. For most cameras It could be in the thumb seat on the back or on the front grip. Protecting or locking the lens is probably a bit harder and where a lot of value is in the theft to resale cycle. Hardware pairing between bodies and lenses could be a neat option. Could have a fairly quick unlock menu in the body once the fingerprint has been read. We have to be able to share our gear!

This would probably end most theft about a year after implementation. The worry then is how easy would it be to flash a camera and unlock everything?

Buy a Pentax 67. Crush their skulls.