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Photography

The Photographer's Gear List

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

Keeping an itemised gear list is a must for any professional—or serious amateur—photographer. With a complete, itemised list of all your gear, along with their unique serial numbers and receipts, you’ll find it easier to claim tax write offs, apply for insurance and make claims if anything gets lost or damaged.

In this quick tip I'll show you how to get started keeping a good gear list and discuss a few of the many benefits to having one.

some gear
Some of my gear.

Keeping a Gear List

A good gear list needs to include a few different things. Every individual item should be listed by name along as well as its model number, serial number, cost at purchase and current value. You should also keep a digital copy of the purchase receipts—or some other proof of purchase if you bought it second hand—and a photo of each item.

I recommend you keep a spreadsheet listing all the written information in a folder that contains all the supporting images. An up-to-date copy of the folder should be emailed to a friend in a different location; that way, if the worst comes to the worst and your computer is stolen along with all your camera gear, you still have access to your gear list. I keep all my information in Dropbox for an extra layer of redundancy.

gear list folder
A peek inside my gear list folder.

Tip: If you are a professional photographer your gear list may also include supporting things like computers, graphics tablets and external hard drives.

Tax and Insurance

With a detailed, itemised gear list, dealing with tax and insurance forms becomes a lot easier. While tax systems obviously vary by location, there are certain principles that hold true in most jurisdictions; you should research the specifics of your local system before acting on any of the following.

If you are a professional photographer, most of your gear will be a business expense and so you won’t be liable for consumption taxes (such as the VAT in the United Kindom). You will also be able to use equipment expenses to reduce your overall tax liability.

In many tax systems it is also possible to write off the depreciation of professional assets against your tax liability. A camera that was worth $3000 dollars when you bought it may only be worth $2500 a year later. This $500 dollar difference can, depending on your country's tax laws, be used to reduce how much tax you owe.

In both instances, a detailed, up-to-date gear list will be crucial in keeping track of everything.

Similarly, when you are insuring your gear, you will need to provide the insurance company with a list of everything you want covered, all the serial numbers and, possibly, a proof of purchase. With a good gear list, all this information will already be to hand. Keeping updated valuations of your gear will also make putting in a claim easier.

In Conclusion

In this tutorial I’ve explained a few of the many benefits of keeping a good gear list. If you do not already have an up-to-date one you should go and make one as soon as possible. Keeping a gear list is not a time consuming or difficult process and so there is no reason not to have one.

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