How This Photographer Recovered $US9000 Worth Of Stolen Gear

Professional photographer John Heller got $US9000 worth of gear stolen in Los Angeles. Here's how he got it all back.

Heller, a Getty Images photographer, was on assignment at the Egyptian theatre in Hollywood when his Nikon D3 and bag of lenses was stolen. Like most victims of gadget theft, Heller reported the crime to the police but resigned himself to the loss. In a last ditch, he entered his camera's serial number into GadgetTrak's Serial Search Service and turned up an exact match to several photos that had recently been posted to Flickr. These photos eventually led Heller and the police to a professional photographer who'd unwittingly bought the stolen gear. The Flickr account even lead them to the photographer's Facebook profile which had snapshots of the missing lenses.

So how does the GadgetTrak search work? Buried within each digital photo file are vast troves EXIF data which includes exposure settings, the type of camera that used to take the photo, and most importantly in this case, the camera's serial number. When you upload your photo to Flickr, or any other photo-sharing site, all of this data goes with it. Searching photos by this data is easy enough unless they're hidden behind a privacy setting. GadgetTrak claims that its search spiders have located and indexed more than 10 million camera serial numbers. It seems so simple that it's hard to believe Heller's the first person to recover their camera by searching for their serial number on Flickr.[GadgetTrak via BoingBoing]



    Didn't catch the thief though:( The buyer ends up being the victim - having paid for the equipment (and presumably not knowing it was stolen), he now loses it to the original owner with no compensation.

      It means that the buyer avoided normal purchasing channels and bought second hand.
      Quite probably from want-adds or even worse, those dodgy pawn brokers.
      A real professional photographer is hardly likely to be buying second hand gear in this manner.
      Sorry, but I tend to think along the lines of "Let the buyer beware"

        What? No way is that logical. The buyer could've bought straight off the thief thinking he was buying from the original owner. He could've bought it in a second hand shop, yeah, but that's not a crime. I hardly expect everything in those shops to be stolen, in fact it wouldn't even cross my mind during purchase.

        @Terry, I'm unsure how a photographers "real" or "unreal" status is defined by their bank balance.

        Of the couple of people I know who are/were making their living off professional photography, all of them had purchased items second hand at one stage or another.

        I deemed all of those individuals to be real photographers, especially when compared to unreal photographers...

    Don't both Nikon and Canon have a service to report stolen Camera serial numbers so that buyers (and those who had their gear stolen) can avoid being the victim in such circumstances?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now