Whose Fault When Camera Gear Gets Stolen When Travelling?


Travel and photography go hand in hand. Who doesn't dream of taking incredible shots to wow your friends and colleagues with when you return from some exotic destination? Unfortunately, there are a few down sides to travel photography that you probably need to be aware of before you go, especially when it comes to traveling in poorer areas.


Photo by Tranuf

Depending on where you are going, security is going to be an issue. Sure, you are probably (but not always) reasonably safe in your own country or places like New Zealand or Europe. But in a lot of other places, especially in third world countries, the cost of your photography gear is equivalent to a year's wages (or more) for the locals.

Discretion is Your Friend

It is quite staggering to see so many people whip out a $1500 camera setup to take snaps in some tourist hell in the third world. Pull your Canon DSLR with a 300mm lens out of your Lowepro backpack and you are going to attract attention! And yes, the thieves will have an opinion on Canon vs. Nikon.


Photo by Yan Boechat

Now, I am not saying don't take these things, but lets think of a few ways you can be a little more discreet.

Mess Up Your Camera – A little imagination and your camera can be made to look like a very un-tempting target for thieves. This doesn't do any damage to your camera whatsoever, but it will make your camera less appealing than the next photographer's gear to a potential thief. A bit of gaffer tape and some artists paper can make it look really bad!

Mess Up Yourself – If you're wearing Armani jeans and an Omega watch in the third world, then you are already a target. Dress down. Be discreet.

Choose a Pack Wisely – I know that there are some fantastic packs out there, but a lot of them aren't exactly shy about splashing their logos all over (and thieves know which ones to look for). Your options here are to get a less obtrusive pack or disguise your existing one (cutting off logos or blackening them with shoe polish is one way to do this. Even some gaffer tape will mess up the shiny, clean look well enough). When choosing a camera bag, choose one for a specific job.

Twist Ties – Remember those pieces of wire wrapped in plastic that used to be used for tying bread bags? They are fantastic for wrapping around zips and ensuring that things are difficult for prying hands. Take a few and make sure that your pack zips are always difficult to prize open in a hurry.

Be Aware of Your Environment
– Take a look around and see who is looking at you before you bring out the camera. If you can move to a more unobtrusive spot to take a shot then do so. If you are in an isolated area, don't bring out the camera gear until you are more sure of your environment.

Beware Hotels – Just because your gear is back in your hotel room doesn't mean it is safe. Utilise the hotel safe or the safe in your room. If they don't have one then take your gear with you.

Joe, see if you can get the book from her

Photo by Siim Teller

You are never going to eliminate the potential of being robbed. In many places, even a poor westerner is still considered a prime target. But personal security is not about eliminating the possibility of being targeted. It's about making yourself less of a target than the next tourist. A bit of common sense and awareness of your environment will put you ahead of most people.

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Regardless of how organized you may be, if you don’t have each and every one of your essential travel documents, you’re not goingphuket travel docs 300×225 Gap Year Guide Part 4: Pack anywhere!

Here’s a list of the items that you cannot leave without:

* Passport
* Photo ID
* Flight Tickets/Details
* Insurance Documents/Medical Cards
* Money

This is not an exhaustive list. Other extras that you may need to remember include receipts for accommodation, visas, travel guides and bank account information.

Top Tip: Keep all your travel essentials in a single file stored in your hand luggage rather than a main backpack.

Josefina Argüello – Mexico Tours

Good article thanks. Wearing your backpack-style bag on your chest sends a message about finding an easier target. Lose those logos too!

Documents and emergency cash kept next to your skin in a slim flat waterproof body belt will get you home if disaster strikes. Why waterproof? Because Sweat-soaked paper does not travel well.

I ditch the specialized camera backpack all together and carry my camera in a regular backpackers day pack. I just look like a regular starving student backpacker.

There is a neck strap that’s reinforced with wire so people can’t just cut your camera from the strap and run. (https://www.sun-sniper.de/index.php?id=sun_sniper_steel&L=1)

I think the best advice from this article is to be aware of your surroundings. Having a friend who doesn’t have a camera glued to their face makes this a lot easier.

Good points Kat, (I do the same with the backpack), but I would remember that if you get a camera snatcher on a motorbike grab an unbreakable strap around your neck, it’s going to end badly. 😉

I do agree about dressing down, and leaving all the fancy rubbish at home or in the hotel.

I travelled through india a few times, Thailand,Java , Sumatra, Malaysia, Bali, Nepal to name but a few.Plus a few euro countries.

Having done all of that i felt most scared while walking my Home Town Of Dublin City iRELAND.

after walking through the streets of Dharavi ( One of the biggest slums in Asis Located In Mumbai ) i was never threatened only welcomed with a smile.
I did have a lens taken from me In a touristy area in Thailand – My Fault – left in under my bed in a lodge. went back there 4 hours later when i remembered it ” the staff never knew about it or claimed not to have seen it.?????.

My advice is to not use the Lowe Pro bags ( Lowe Pro = Camera = Theft )
Have a raggy Bag if you can get one that will take your 400MM lens lol.

Enjoy the travelling.

Dont depend on your travel insurance to cover your 5000 eu camera



When traveling you’re basically striking a balance between taking the equipment you need with the requirement of portability, and for some, the art of blending in.

A 5d with a single L series zoom is my usual travel equipment, along with a back of cheap strobes and accessories. Most of what I want to accomplish is done with this equipment, and along with my dress and attitude, allows me to blend in almost anywhere.

Great article. I have traveled extensively through the third world countries of SE asia and this sort of thing is always on my mind. I have never had a problem though because I take some basic precautions. Like you suggested, I dumped the fancy camera bag. I used a ratty backpack from my college days. I took it to a seamstress and had her sew some compartment liners in it to hold my gear safely and separately. It did the trick.

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