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Accidents Happen: Take Care of Your Equipment

When you go out taking pictures, you grab your camera or camera bag, you might set up a tripod, and start shooting. Often, that goes without any problems, but not always. Imagine what happens when your equipment takes an unexpected fall because something fails.

After a long day photographing, we ended on top of a dyke in the Netherlands, shooting an amazing sunset at the Wadden Sea. We each placed our camera on the tripod, chose the right lens, tweaked some settings, and added filters. Then it happened: there was a loud curse, a smack, and a splash. The expensive Nikon D610 from my friend fell from the tripod and the 16-35mm Nikkor lens broke off and disappeared into the mudflats down below the dyke. Fortunately, the camera did not disappear into the muddy water, thus saving the photos that were taken that day. But it was in ruins.

This is what was left after the Nikon D610 fell from the tripod. The lens broke off and disappeared into the mudflats, lost forever. This is something you never want to experience. Fortunately, the insurance covered the damage, replacing the camera and lens with a new one.

This happened back in 2014. The camera was placed on the tripod, but not secured in the proper way. Perhaps it was because we were too hasty, perhaps it was due to fatigue. The end result was a destroyed camera and a lost lens. Good camera insurance can make the difference when it comes to financial damage, but it is better this never happens. You may be careful with your equipment, but accidents happen. An inattentive moment or a blind trust in a strap or tripod can have big consequences.

If the tripod plate is not connected securely enough, it might ruin a long exposure. But in the worst case, your camera can fall off. I have almost seen it happen during one of my workshops

I have been lucky so far. Once I fell while holding my camera, damaging it in the process, and on another occasion, a laser burned a hole into my sensor. These are not the situations I want to address in this article. But I do want to talk about the blind trust we do have when it comes down to our equipment.

I had a few occasions it almost went wrong: a ball head that wasn’t secured enough, a camera strap that became loose over time, or a camera bag zipper that wasn’t closed. For all these things, there is only one solution to prevent unwanted accidents: check your equipment.

No matter what kind of strap you use, if you connect it this way, the chance of it loosening over time is at a minimum. Nevertheless, you should keep checking it.

Checking your equipment is something that is very easy to do, but something we neglect far too often. You should always inspect your equipment before you are going to use it, even if you checked it the day before already. You should inspect your camera, straps, lenses, tripods, lamps, and camera bag. You can make a checklist before going out to make sure your equipment is in good order.

  • Is the camera strap still connected properly and in good order?
  • Did carrying rings and D-rings not wear out and are they in good condition?
  • Are the zippers on your bag or backpack in good working order?
  • Is the tripod plate connected securely to your camera?
  • Is the tripod collar of your lens secured?
  • Is your lens connected in the proper way?
  • Is the flashgun placed correctly and secured onto your flash shoe?
  • Is the ballhead secured onto your tripod plate?
  • Is your tripod placed securely enough?
  • Is the camera connected correctly and secured onto your tripod?
  • Is the filter holder placed in the proper way?
  • Does rotating your polarization filters not unscrew the filter (rotate it the correct way)?
  • Are the strobe lights placed securely onto the lamp stands?
  • Is the lamp stand placed securely enough?
  • Is the camera bag or backpack closed before transport?

These things may seem very obvious, but I often hear about accidents due to one of these things: a tripod that tips over, a filter holder that falls from the lens, a ballhead that is very loose, or the carrying system of a rapid strap that breaks due to wear and tear. I even have heard about things falling out of a camera bag because the zipper failed or a strobe light that wasn’t placed in the proper way and takes a nasty drop.

Carrying your camera like this is not advisable. But if you do, like me in this picture, make sure everything is secured. (Photo by Hetwie:

A polarization filter can give many benefits. But make sure the filter does not get unscrewed when rotating it. Keep checking it to prevent the filter from falling from the lens. Also, make sure your filter holder system is connected securely.

It is easy to choose qualitative good materials that you can rely on, and I think it is important to do so, because if you photograph a lot, you will use your equipment intensively. But good materials also can wear down. That is why it is really important to keep on checking everything you use that might wear down or become loose over time: screws, shackles, straps, collar plates, holsters, and pins. Just look for bends, fraying, cracks, or breakage. And if you have doubt, replace it. Most of the time, it is cheaper to replace it than to lose your camera or lens due to a nasty fall into the mudflats of the Wadden Sea.

A backpack is a good way to carry your equipment on hikes, But make sure all zippers are closed and make sure they are in good working order. You don't want your expensive equipment to fall out when the bag opens unexpectedly. (Photo by Hetwie:

D-rings, clips, and other carrying rings may be subject to wear and tear. Always check these before use. You don't want these to break off.

This Spider Pro carrying system may be very convenient, but the metal parts can wear off over time. Keep checking these metal parts. Also, straps like the Blackrapid or the Money Holder can be subject to this wear and tear.

I think it is important to invest in good quality equipment. Don’t trust you expensive camera and lenses to cheap bags, straps, or flimsy tripods. But also remember expensive does not necessarily mean good quality. Just make sure you trust the things you bu, and keep checking on a regular basis. Better safe than sorry.

Do you check your equipment before use, or have you experienced faulty equipment due to wear and tear?  Please let me know in the comments below. I also would love to hear from you if you have another item that should be checked on a regular basis that is not mentioned in the article.

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Jon Judson's picture

All good points, but I think insurance should be emphasized, rather than a passing point. I recently read a post about someone who had their camera fall into salt water at the beach, rendering it an immediate paper weight (camera companies run quickly away from this kind of damage, even for paid repairs). It doesn't take much to have your expensive equipment rendered worthless. Camera equipment is an expensive investment, people should treat it as such and make sure it's insured -- either through homeowners insurance or otherwise.

Accidents do happen. Make sure it's not a costly misadventure.

Nando Harmsen's picture

True, insurance is important. But the first thing you should be aware of is prevention. Insurance can help you financial, but if you have a week photographing at Lofoten or Iceland, or Patagonia, or whatever once-in-a-lifetime location, and at the first day your camera is engulfed with salt water, your insurance won't help you shoot pictures for the rest of the phototour. ;)

C Fisher's picture

I need to know more about this laser 😅 that sounds crazy

Nando Harmsen's picture
M R's picture

As a hobbyist, is there a way to get an affordable insurance plan for my expensive photography stuff? I’ve never even thought about it until this article! But I would be willing to pay a little for coverage so that I don’t have to worry every time I take my camera somewhere more treacherous.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I only know about an insurance company in the Netherlands that is for photographers, so unfortunately I cannot help you with that. If you find one, you should check for the conditions, to make sure everything is covered.