Photography Gear Theft

Posted on: November 4th, 2013 1

It Can’t Happen To Me

Not to long ago all of my photo gear was stolen. All of it. Out of my car. In my driveway. $6000+ worth of gear that took me years to accumulate. Having been through that experience, and having found out the hard way that my homeowner’s policy only covered 1/3 of the replacement cost, I can make a few suggestions as to how you can protect yourself against theft.

What to Do

I’ll save you some time if you don’t wanna read this entire article:

OK, I’ll assume we’re all adults here and dispense with the painfully obvious stuff about never leaving your camera and lenses unattended; especially while traveling. I mean c’mon!! DUH! And I’ll stipulate up-front that I was dumb for leaving my camera case in my car UNLOCKED….even though it was in my driveway, and even though in the 18+ years we’ve lived here nothing like this had ever happened.

Insure Your Gear!!

Don’t assume you’re homeowner’s policy will cover your gear…..assume it WON’T!! I know I know……your friendly homerowner’s insurance rep painted a rosy picture of how you don’t have to worry about anything with this amazingly comprehensive policy that can give you peace-of-mind, blah blah blah. In reality, your insurance carrier will have on hand an amazing number of reasons why your incident doesn’t fall under the protection of this great policy. Trust me on this.

Please understand that your insurance company doesn’t want to pay you! They only pay when they have to, and the times that they have to are those times in which all of the fine-print stuff that you never read doesn’t protect THEM from paying. And if you DO need to file a claim, they will most-likely begin flagging you so if it happens again you may get dropped or see an increase in premiums. So yea, get a separate policy covering your gear. Expect to pay somewhere around $100-200/year.

Check Out These 2 Websites!


This is a great idea. The site is called ““. Lenstag is the creation of a Google engineer named Trevor Sehrer. The idea is as brilliant as it is simple; you create a list of gear including the serial numbers. That list gets entered into a database. You then must verify that you are the owner by taking a photograph of the serial number for each piece of gear. A human from Lenstag will view the photo and evaluate whether or not the gear is owned by you. Obviously you want to do this BEFORE your gear is stolen. If your gear does get stolen, you immediately login to Lenstag and flag the items as stolen. If a photographer is buying a lens off Craigslist or the police want to see if an item is stolen they can look it up on Lenstag. Additionally, the site attempts to make the stolen gear report show up in Internet searches. Each stolen piece of gear has its own public web page that lists it as a stolen item. This page is indexed by search engines such as Google. So a simple search on Google for a serial number and a keyword (e.g. “stolen,” “lenstag”) will return a page that reports this item as stolen. The whole idea is to make it easier to recover stolen gear, and/or more difficult for thieves to sell it. It’s not a guarantee by far, but I believe well worth the time to register your gear. BTW, it’s free!

Stolen Camera Finder

Did you know that your camera’s serial number has been recorded into the EXIF data of every image you’ve shot? I didn’t! While that may seem intrusive, it turns out that this info greatly increases your chances of recovering your gear, thanks to a website called You simply drag a photo that you’ve shot with the stolen camera onto the webpage of the site. It then reads your serial number and searches the web for images that were taken with a camera with this serial number. At that point, if an image appears that you know you didn’t take, you have a good starting point to tracking down the stolen camera! Here’s a screenshot:

The only downside is that it only supports JPEGs, so if you shoot RAW you’ll need to make a JPEG of it before you upload. No big deal as most modern image-editing software easily does this. I tried it with an image taken from my stolen Canon 5D and it worked great. Unfortunately it found images that I took, but that just means so far no one has uploaded an image shot with that camera onto the web.


None of the above are guaranteed to work. Taking out an insurance policy on your gear costs money, and the 2 websites mentioned are the BEGINNING of an attempt to get your gear back. Still, I think these 3 things will help…..probably a lot! In the end though, prevention rules the day, so be careful!!

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One Response

  1. Jeri Kenney says:

    So sorry to hear about your gear!

    Thank you for this information. Since I have been slowly adding better glass to my inventory (better camera will come last when I’m more confident), I should probably take some precautions for equipment theft!


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