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How to Protect Your Photography Equipment from Sticky-Fingered Thieves

The stuff of dreams, weddings are usually filled with great love and emotion, and many a photographer finds immense satisfaction capturing those special moments of smitten couples, proud parents, and weepy relatives and friends. Weddings create moments where the world seems right again, with everyone united under the same banner to celebrate the newlyweds. However, amidst all of the swoons and warm fuzzies, few wedding photographers know to expect thieves on the prowl waiting for opportunities to steal expensive photography gear left unattended—a lesson that the photographer in the video below learned the hard way.

At 5:30, this wedding video clearly captures a thief, dressed in a black baseball cap and backpack, a gray t-shirt, and plaid shorts lurking near the ceremony and then making off with a large Pelican case filled with the photographer’s equipment:

From 0:00 to 0:10, the thief moseys down to the lake, appearing to simply be curious about the ceremony as any passerby with a heart would—but he does walk oddly close, doesn’t he? At 1:15, we see the man again, this time circling back up the hill from the left farther away from the wedding, pacing up and down the hillside “aimlessly” within earshot of the ceremony. From 4:30 to 5:00, he stands in one place, angled oddly sideways to the ceremony while anticipating the perfect moment. When everyone’s eyes are fixated on the couple as they exchange rings at 5:30, the thief smoothly picks up the case and walks away.

Some speculate that the thief had an accomplice, which might explain why he waited facing the parking lot from 4:30 to 5:00 instead of facing the ceremony—he was waiting on a signal, rather than choosing the timing himself. We catch sight of this possible accomplice prominently at 4:55, when another under-dressed man wearing a white and gray t-shirt, a dark gray backpack, and khaki pants slowly joins the crowd near the middle aisle, takes a photo, and then hurries away to the right.

The thief (left) nonchalantly paces around the perimeter of the wedding ceremony.

The thief (left corner, just above flowers) waits for a signal from his accomplice (right corner, in front of white truck).

The accomplice (middle, right of guitarist) signals the thief (not pictured) by taking a photo.

The thief (middle, right of guitarist) steals the Pelican case and hurries away, just behind rows of wedding guests.

This video highlights the importance of several basic principles that will help wedding photographers and hobbyists to keep their expensive equipment safe:

  1. Keep an eye on your surroundings. Wedding crashers carrying backpacks probably didn’t come to see the wedding. This crime could have easily been prevented if one of the guests or even the videographer had kept an eye on their surroundings and noticed the suspicious, under-dressed man pacing around the perimeter of the wedding.
  2. Do not leave your extra photography equipment unattended, or lock it up and secure it to a substantial object with a cable lock. This theft could probably have been prevented if the photographer had secured his locked Pelican case to a fencepost, a tree, or a pole with a thick cable lock. Even if the thief had heavy duty cable cutters in his backpack, he probably wouldn’t have been able to cut the cable quickly enough to avoid being caught.
  3. Carry the equipment you plan to use and lock the rest up in your vehicle. Why lug a box of extra photography gear around with you if you won’t even have time to access it during the time crunch of the ceremony? If you think that you need more than two cameras and two lenses, wear a harness or carry a messenger bag or backpack so that you can carry more while keeping it safe on your person.
  4. Buy insurance for your gear and make sure the policy that you choose doesn’t leave room for loopholes. In this video, the photographer’s gear was insured, but the insurance company refused to cover it because the theft didn’t take place at the photographer’s office—ouch. It’s better to pay a few hundred dollars per year for a pricey but effective insurance plan, rather than shell out thousands of dollars to buy new equipment.

Whether you are a wedding photographer whose gear is your livelihood or a hobbyist whose photography interests take you out into public, applying these principles to your life can give you peace of mind that you gear is safe from thieves’ sticky fingers.

[via PictureCorrect Photography Tips]

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