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.