Five Strategies to Protect Yourself From Losing Camera Gear

Five Strategies to Protect Yourself From Losing Camera Gear

Photographers love gear, so we tend to get somewhat upset when gear goes missing. Not only is gear quite expensive, but it often worms its way into our hearts. Our gear often becomes a pride and joy. As a result we want to avoid losing gear as much as humanly possible. Here are some of my favorite strategies for making sure that all my gear comes home with me after every shoot.

1. Fill Your Bag

Photographers often have a ton of random bits in their bag, from cameras, to lenses, to triggers, and more. Keeping track of it all mentally becomes near impossible, you will always forget about something. One of the best ways to ensure that you never leave anything behind is by always having a completely filled camera bag or case. If you do then you can always tell if you have everything at a glance by simple asking yourself, "Is the bag full?" If there is any empty space in your bag, that means something is missing which you can then solve by figuring out what and by looking for it.

2. Organize Your Bag Consistently

Don't just stuff everything loosely into a bag. Instead, go with a bag/case that offers strict organization that allows for every single thing to have its own designated space. If your bag isn't full you can know exactly what is missing, making the search much faster. Consistency is key though. Design your organization once and keep it that way for years with minimal change. If you are rebuilding your layout between each shoot you will never manage to keep track of where everything belongs.

3. Never Rush

At the end of a shoot, your first instinct will usually be to pack up as quickly as possible so people aren't waiting on you. Rushing is always a bad idea as it puts you in the mindset to forget gear. It also tends to make your packing less organized which means the first two strategies become less effective. Take your time and carefully pack your treasured gear away before leaving the site.

4. Pack Your Own Gear

Often others will offer to help you pack. I almost always so no (graciously). I don't mind letting people help me collapse stands or soft boxes and such, but the actual placing of gear in the cases is something that I always do myself. Only you know where everything goes. The moment you allow people to start putting items away for you is the moment items start to become misplaced. The only exception to this rule, in my experience, is when you have a reliable assistant who is just as knowledgeable in your gear organization as you are.

5. Insure Your Gear

No matter what you do, eventually something will go missing. Make sure you are protected when it does. Most photographers think that insurance is wildly expensive and only for the true pros. Even if you are just a hobbyist I very strongly suggest making sure your gear is insured. Most home insurance providers actually will cover your gear outside of the home which is quite nice. The only caveat is that standard home insurance policies tend not to cover much more than the value of a computer or so for electronics. Talk to your insurance broker to make sure you are covered up to the value of your gear and if not ask them for additional coverage. Personally, I pay a measly extra $15.00 per month or so to cover up to $30,000 in gear on top of my normal home insurance plan. The additional insurance is defined for use as a home business so it covers me for commercial work.

Note: Home insurance policies will not cover liability outside the home in most cases however, so for doing commercial work you might often need supplemental liability insurance when going out on location.


Agency is your best friend when looking to protect your gear from loss. Always think about what your plan is and stick to it. Disorganization is one of, if not the most common, cause for gear loss. Don't be that photographer who ends up spending an excruciating amount of money on repurchasing lost gear. Instead, always be prepared to make sure you have everything before leaving a location.

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gabe s's picture

My issue isn't loosing gear on set. Mine is forgetting to take it in the first place. Like my recent shoot where I forgot to bring any storage cards.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Make a checklist.

gabe s's picture

Thats what I did the second I got home from the shoot. I was able to get the shoot done with my phone though.

Jeff Morris's picture

Take a picture of your packed case, label what's in each section, and print it out or save it to your phone/tablet/laptop/pc/cloud/yougettheidea.

Jay Jay's picture

Excellent points. The single most important way to not lose any gear (to me), is to double, triple, even quadruple check to make sure all your gear is accounted for. When everything is packed and loaded in the car, etc, go back to where you shot and do a final once over, walk around where you shot and check the floors, tabletops, couches, everything in the area to make sure you didn't miss anything like a trigger, a cable, a filter, memory card, lens, etc etc. Being overly cautious gives you the edge in making sure you leave with every piece of gear you brought out.

Rock solid way to prevent leaving anything: create a checklist on your phone (there are plenty of organizational/packing apps for this) where you can add what you bring and check off what you pack before you leave.

stacy curry's picture

other then home insurance, what companies offer insurance. im more worried about accidental insurance then theft.

Ryan Cooper's picture

My home insurance covers accidental

Jay Jay's picture

You might also look into upping your liability as well, in the event that something you do injures your client, requiring a large hospital bill, etc.

Trevor Warr's picture

My strategy is to always pack gear myself when I've finished. I never accept offers of help to dismantle lighting etc. no matter how well intentioned. I then do a final "sweep" of all the areas I have worked in trying to have a mental picture of what I used where. So far its worked apart for one time when I left a reflector behind and had to make a 50 mile round trip to recover it!

Agreed - have a place for everything & pack/strike your own gear every time. QUESTION: Where can I find dividers, customization foam inserts, etc. to modify an existing case to a new purpose? Thanks for the insight.

Ryan Cooper's picture

if its a well known case like a pelican you can often find inserts on Amazon by just typing in the case's model number.

Anonymous's picture

I pay a whole lot more than that (2.45% of insured value in annual premiums), but my insurance (through Rand/Chubb) covers commercial work. It's called an inland marine policy - as moronic as that sounds.

For those considering insurance, as someone who has worked in the industry, keep the following in mind:
- Most homeowner's policies don't cover "commercial use" or won't when you go to make a claim - even having a website advertising your work can be used against you to deny a claim by some insurers.
- Make sure it covers "mysterious disappearance" which is really important in case you can't prove it was stolen or lost. How you truly prove either one is a little strange, but it's another little snag insurers like to use to deny your claim.
- Commercial policies like mine often have the option to cover rental gear, which can save you a lot of money in the long run
- Finally, make sure it covers full replacement cost, not depreciated value.

There are other things, too, but those are the ones that people tend to get screwed on the most.

I came across this recently, might help with forgetting to pack items...