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Documenting your equipment

Photography equipment is expensive. When a piece of gear gets lost or broken because of our own fault it can be depressing. In this situation there is no one to blame but our own stupidity. Specially a hard working photographer who's all over the place. If the loss is due to someone else's negligence it would be nice to get compensated for that piece of gear.

I love doing street photography. In those situation I try to travel as light as possible for comfort and to minimize risk of loss or theft. In these situations you need to report the loss or theft immediately in order to maximize the chance of recovery. Obviously the more information you can provide the appropriate officials the better.

That led me to think about how to make critical information about a piece of gear readily available when I was away from my home base. This is where today's technology is a boon.
Years ago I used to keep a hand written list in a safe place containing the make, model, serial number and cost of all my gear. In the case of loss or theft I at least had a record of the equipment information. In the case it was recovered I could reclaim it by confirming the serial numbers. The only problem was that I kept the list at home, uselessly in a drawer when I needed it most at the place of equipment loss. In one particular case on the subway in Washington D.C.

The most obvious solution is cloud technology. Google has a free service called Google Drive. It is part of their suite of free web based tools that include a simple words processor, spread sheet, presentation maker and more. The data is stored online for easy access from any computer anywhere in the world. The data is also available through most smart phones like the Android and iPhone.

Once you set up your free account simply create a new spreadsheet and enter your inventory. I created five columns; Description, Make, Model, Serial # and Value. Since creating it I realized I really don't need the Value column which I used to document my original cost. What really matters is the replacement cost, and that is available through other channels online. You can also create any additional columns you feel you need.

Should you be on location somewhere and find a piece of gear has been taken or lost you can pull up the serial number (or any other information you want to maintain) and present it to local officials. Since it is cloud based it can be accessed through your phone, a  local computer or tablet. Anything that can browse the internet.


  1. Hi Duck, like you I decided a few years ago to inventory my gear, in addition to serial numbers and details I actual added stock images of the respective item. Easy to build a sheet in word or excel, I also use it to remember some of the smaller, obscure stuff you have tucked in the bag of your bag (Batteries, chargers etc). I use an “app” called Evernote, here you add anything you like and can synch between PC’s, mobiles etc very easily so you can update, browse from any device at anytime and best of all its totally free also.

  2. In a larger studio it is easy to loose track of stuff. On several occasions I have bought something only to come across that same item I had previously purchased, put away and promptly forgot about. Nothing like wasting money.

    Good tip on the Evernote.


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