Rules and tips for working with rented gear on your shoot


Main image: Two camera lenses on photographs, representing rules and tips for working with rented gear on your shoot.

Let me tell you a short story.

When Quentin Tarantino was working on The Hateful Eight, they rented an extremely expensive 145-year-old guitar for the purpose of shooting a scene. In that particular scene, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character was supposed to play the guitar, when Kurt Russel’s character snatches it and breaks it on the floor. The idea was to cut the scene at the right moment, replace the guitar with a fake, and then break the fake guitar. However, that was not communicated properly to Kurt Russel, and the rest is history. As you can see, there are certain rules and tips for working with rented gear on your shoot. To prevent any similar mishaps, let’s see what are the best practices you should follow.

Know your gear

The first rule of working with rented gear on your shoot is to know the equipment and how much it is worth. If the people handling the equipment have no idea of its value, they will not handle it with care.

Second, make sure that all the people who handle the equipment are trained professionals who know what they are doing. That’s why hiring an experienced crew plays an important role.

Only professionals should have access to expensive rented equipment.

The goal is to minimize the risk by taking unskilled individuals out of the equation. Setting strict rules about who gets to touch the rented equipment is of utmost importance.

Know the location of the equipment

All people who are working with rented gear on your shoot should sign a sheet saying they took the equipment from the storage area, and then repeat the process when they return it.

This is a safe way to know who handles the equipment, and where all the gear is at any moment. Losing rented gear will be a huge seatback for your shoot since you will have to cover the costs of it.

Know how to pack and move the rented gear

If you are changing locations between shoots, it is essential to know how to pack and relocate the rented gear. Moving expensive equipment always poses a risk of damage in the process.

Every time you are working with rented equipment, you should have strict rules for anyone included in the shoot.

A person writing “Rules” with a marker.

With that in mind, always follow procedures to protect the equipment before moving it. Here are a couple of suggestions to follow:

  • Turn off the equipment before moving
  • Follow a proper packing guide
  • If moving parts need to be disassembled, do it with care
  • Pack everything in the original box
  • Do not cut corners in order to make the move quicker
  • When loading the equipment onto a vehicle, make sure it is secured so it does not tumble around the vehicle

Store the equipment when not in use

When a piece of rented gear is not in use, always store it properly in a safe place. If you have rented gear laying around, you are simply begging for it to be damaged.

Check all the electrical outlets before using the equipment

If you have a faulty outlet, it can damage the equipment or lead to a short circuit. With that in mind, make sure that all of the outlets are operational.

Furthermore, check the power set up on the location of the shooting. Depending on the lightbulbs and the equipment you use, you might need a higher amperage.

What to do if any piece of the rented gear gets damaged

No matter how careful you are, sometimes things just happen. Just like in my opening example story, you cannot oversee everything and control the actions of all people.

If anything damages, know what the right thing to do is.

A sign showing directions for right and wrong.

With that in mind, here is what you need to do if a piece of equipment gets damaged:

  • Prepare a thorough explanation of how and why the equipment got damaged. Have in mind that the equipment might be under insurance, so if it was not your fault you will not have to pay for it. Sometimes things just break down on its own.
  • If any piece of the equipment gets damaged or broken on the shoot, do not throw it away, as that is a huge mistake. For example, if a lightbulb explodes for any reason, collect the pieces and present them to support your story. If you don’t return the broken bulb the owner of the equipment has all the rights to assume that you stole it.
  • When an accident occurs, immediately try to contact the rental house. Do not postpone it; it is best to explain what happened right away.

The responsibility lies with the renter

Another important piece of information is that the responsibility always lies with the renter of the equipment. If you are just a photographer who handles a rented camera while working for a person who rented the equipment, you should know that they are responsible for what happens to the gear, even if you are the one who damaged it.

With that in mind, always be extra careful when handling the equipment, since their future lies in your hands.

Key takeaways for working with rented gear on your shoot

I hope that you now understand the importance of being careful when working with rented gear on your shoot. Sometimes things get damaged, but you should do everything you can to protect the pieces you are using. You should always act as if it was your equipment, and not someone else’s. Treat it with respect and care, since it is what earns you money. Treat it the way you want others to treat your belongings!


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