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Loaning and borrowing photographic gear has always been a delicate subject, especially among photographers who are also good friends. It involves a lot of trust on one side and responsibility on the other. The value of the tools is fairly high most of the times and that makes things even more delicate. I’m not in any position to judge whether it is right or wrong to loan cameras, but I would like to shine a light on some of the risks that come with putting your camera in strange hands. These are real risks you have to acknowledge and they should have you carefully consider who it is you decide to help.
Saying goodbye to your custom settings
If you’re the kind of photographer who likes to customize his camera, and you should be because it makes it easier to operate, you probably have your own settings and custom functions. When you loan the camera, chances are the person using it doesn’t have the same working method you do and they’ll probably restore everything or tweak it to meet their needs. All that is fine, but the problem is most people never bother to remember what the previous settings were, not to mention restoring them.
It doesn’t really matter if you lend your camera to a best friend or an acquaintance. They could be a long time pro, or a beginner. Either way, accidents happen and this time I am talking about the real, honest, unwanted ones. A lot of things can occur and it’s not even worth counting possible scenarios. Getting back a broken camera can be very frustrating and all that can be amplified if it’s your main camera and you have a shoot coming up in the next couple of days. The best way to protect yourself from these events, besides not loaning the camera, is insurance or making sure the person you lend it to is fully capable of covering the costs.
Missing deadlines and damaging friendships
If you do loan cameras, it would probably be a good idea to do so only to trusted, close people. What’s very important is to make sure there is a clear date for the return of the equipment and only under special circumstances should it be missed. Even so, there are cases when the camera is not returned in due time and the owner himself has to borrow from someone else, provided the loaned camera is the main one and the backup isn’t good enough for the job. All that leads to tension that could ultimately damage the friendship. I’m not saying don’t help a friend in need; just make sure to help the friend that is aware of the return time.
It might get stolen
Don’t doubt it. I’ve heard of a recent case in the photography community of a small town from Europe that made me raise both my eyebrows. There was this event photographer who kept borrowing stuff from other shooters, motivating that his own gear was in service or had broken down the day before an event. He would usually get back-up cameras or other gear the others weren’t using so much anymore, so nobody thought there was any reason to panic. All that until one of the other photographers started to suspect something was wrong. This apparently friendly fellow didn’t show up with his camera on time. It turned out the guy was borrowing equipment and selling it on EBay, and since he was so busy, no one could find him. Until the Police did of course, but it goes to show that, sadly, even some people you think you know can turn out to be entirely different. Regardless of goods, if loaning is necessary, you should be extra careful who you trust with your possessions.
It might come back in one piece, but check out all those black dots!
Not everyone is careful with cameras. Some people have a natural way of ignoring proper handling and can easily get a camera filled with dust. It’s not that they mean it or have anything against your camera, they probably do the same with theirs and you know what they say, you can’t teach old dog new tricks.
The person you lend it to might not have the material ability to replace it
This is also a dreaded situation. Something bad happens, more or less avoidable, and the camera is totally damaged beyond repair. The person you gave it to might not have the financial resources to replace the camera, especially if we’re talking about a pro model. Needless to say, nobody expected something like this to happen, and you both probably thought in the back of your mind that the worst thing that could happen would be a repair and that would be no problem. Situations like this are very delicate and there isn’t a standard way of dealing with them, Insurance is probably the only safety measure.
You might build an unwanted reputation
This also depends on who you lend to. Helping out someone out of good will is a great thing, but if you do it for the wrong people you might build an unwanted reputation as the go to guy who lends stuff and is flexible on the return date. You probably don’t want your phone to ring with photographers asking for something every time.
Image credit: alexan66 / 123RF Stock Photo