Protecting Your Valuables

Keeping camera gear safe and sound when you're on the road is just one more challenge that every shooter must meet. Here are a few ways to help ensure you're never without the tools of your trade.

Lock it up – Unless you never are more than arm’s-length from your camera, a motorcycle cable lock is one of the best security investments you can make. Loop it under the camera handle and then through your vehicle’s spare tire, trunk hinge, hotel bathroom pipe, or even a cinder block to make it difficult for someone to run off with your camera. Securing your camera and tripod at a live location if you're going to leave them unattended while editing is another excellent use for this heavy-duty lock.

Out of sight – Leaving camera gear in plain view in the back of an SUV or hatchback is just asking for trouble. Throw an old blanket over your equipment if you drive a vehicle that doesn’t have an enclosed luggage compartment. And cover the side windows with black poster-board or tint the glass to make it difficult for passersby to see inside.

Leave no sign – Ix-nay on magnetic signs and vehicle paint jobs that call attention to your line of work. You're just as likely to attract the attention of a thief as that of a new client.

Lock and park – Thieves who patrol parking lots are certain to take special notice of someone loading camera gear into a vehicle. Never stash your gear in the car and then leave it unattended without taking the steps listed above AND driving to a new location. No sense giving someone who happened to see you load your car any big ideas.

Just in case – Travel with your camera in a case that offers no clue to its contents. Still photographers often travel with their entire kit in a specially fitted carry-on roller bag that looks like every other roller bag at the airport. Most small and medium-size video rigs can be packed this way as well.

Well labeled – Even the most stringent security precautions won't deter a professional thief. Once a camera has been stolen, your best hope is that someone – a police officer, repair technician, or future user – will identify it as stolen. Indelible labels – in plain view and hidden inside – can make this happen. (A Sony EFP camera stolen from between the legs of a Boston videographer curbside at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., was recovered in New York City and returned to its owner thanks to a label under the shoulder-pad.)