The emotional pain of losing your photos hurts a lot more than losing a hundred bucks. Photos can’t be replaced. You can’t re-stage a wedding, you can’t repeat those wonderful moments on vacation and you certainly can’t dig up your deceased relatives for a photo op. (Well maybe you could…but you’re asking for trouble.)
Disaster experts suggest that you keep your photos in one box that you can grab in an emergency. But what do you do if you’re just as dumb as I was and leave your camera somewhere and walk away?
My wife and I were leaving Las Vegas after a week of fun for her and work for me. I was there to cover a convention and she was tagging along on my frequent flier miles.
As we loaded our luggage into the taxi I kept the bag with my still cameras, video gear and exposed MiniDV tapes next to me since it was the most valuable piece of luggage I had.
The cab driver was a great guy and the three of us enjoyed animated conversation. My wife and I learned that he was an Iranian expatriate who came to the United States for a better life. He was profoundly saddened by the changes in his country and admitted that he rarely told his passengers that he was from Iran. At the airport I tipped him adequately and he gave me a blank receipt.
Curbside I did a quick count of my bags. One was missing. A recount verified it. I asked my wife to count again. Of course, the camera bag with the videotapes from the shoot and my most expensive camera gear was missing. And the taxi was nowhere in sight. I fought my instinct to panic.
My wife checked our remaining luggage while I went to the taxi dispatcher. I couldn’t identify the cab because he was an independent. And the receipt he gave me was generic. No one in authority at the airport could offer help or suggestions. I cursed myself for losing the bag. I envisioned the cabbie selling my photo gear. I worried about how would I explain it to my client? My heart was beating faster. I started to panic.
The truth is that despite expecting the worst from our fellow humans most people will try to return a lost item of value to its rightful owner. But in order for it to be returned the finder needs to know whom it belongs.
I read a story in a London newspaper on just that topic. Some British scientists did a study of lost wallets. They left wallets around London to see how many would be returned and an interesting statistic arose. Wallets that had baby photos in them were returned at a higher rate than those without.
What does this have to do with losing your camera?
Its difficult to write your name and address on your camera and hang tags can be lost easily but the truth is that you’re probably ready to chalk the camera up as a loss but you’d sure like to get your photos back.
This is what you do:
1) Get a piece of poster board and a marker.
2) Make a sign with your email address on it and maybe your other contact information.
3) On the first frame of every memory card take a photo of your children (or as I did, someone else’s children) holding that card.
After you download your memory card and erase the images you can shoot another photo or if you use a card reader just upload the same picture to your card.
Some cameras allow you to choose the image to use on the start up screen. Choose the image with your information.
Whoever finds your camera will undoubtedly look through your photos and hopefully contact you.
What happened to the lost bag from my Vegas trip? As I nervously paced the loading zone at the airport I saw my bag coming toward me in the distance, above everyone’s head. It was the Iranian car driver running toward me holding my bag high in the air.
He told me that we were his last ride of the day and when he got home he noticed my bag tucked between the seat and the sliding door of his minivan cab so he immediately drove back to the airport to find me.
As I said, most people will try to return a lost item of value to its rightful owner.
For a humorous take on this same topic you might want to visit photographer Andrew McDonalds blog.
If you've already lost your camera you might want to look at the Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures site.
[UPDATE September 24, 2013: Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures website is no longer active. If anyone knows of a similar site please contact me.]
Thanks to my models who shall go nameless at the request of their mommy and thanks to Barry Koch for the wonderful artwork on the placard!