How to Pack & Ship Digital Cameras

Cameras are delicate instruments that can easily be damaged in shipping. These steps will help you securely package the camera.

1. Use the Original Packaging

Whenever possible, use the original packaging. Most photography equipment (especially high-end gear) is sold in thick blocks of styrofoam that have been cut to fit the specific item. These should hold the item firmly in place, cushion it against blows and protect it from being crushed. Always ask your customer if they have the original box and styrofoam inserts; if they do and the inserts are in good shape, use them.

If the inserts are in poor condition, don't use them. Instead, wrap each item with bubble wrap. You may want to use several layers, especially for camera bodies and lenses. Make sure that the item is completely covered with bubble wrap in order to prevent packing peanuts from getting inside the item.

2. Detach Lenses, Straps and Other Accessories

Detach the lens from the camera body and wrap each piece separately. Lenses are sold with two screw-on or snap-on caps, one to cover the glass at each end; put them both on before wrapping the lens in bubble wrap. If the lens caps are missing, cover the lens glass with a soft, clean cloth; don't use facial tissues or paper towels, because these can scratch the glass. Cut the cloth large enough so that covers the edge completely, lay it over the lens, then wrap with bubble wrap and secure with tape.

Place straps, batteries, manuals and other accessories inside sealed Ziplock bags.

If the camera came with a bag you might be able to fit the bubble wrapped items inside it. Don't force them, though-it's better to leave some items out of the bag than squeeze them into a tight fit.

3. Cushion the Shipping Bag

Cushion the bag and all loose items with packing peanuts on all sides (including in between items-even though they're wrapped in bubble wrap, items placed next to each other in a box may be damaged in transit). Some people prefer to use air pillows instead of peanuts, since these don't hold static charges and are too large to get stuck inside delicate electronics. Whichever packing materials you choose, make sure the box is big enough to hold a sufficient amount of them. (Don't use crumpled newspapers or other items that can be easily compressed.)

4. Protect the Shipment from Moisture

Moisture protection is very important when shipping cameras and lenses. You can add a few small packages of desiccant (moisture-absorbing silica gel) to the box, or place each item in a large Ziplock bag. Cameras should not be stored in plastic bags, but it's fine to use them for shipping.

5. Insure the Shipment

Like other delicate equipment, cameras and lenses should be insured during shipping.

Tips

  • Bulky jackets and snowsuits can be hard to fold, so lay the item out flat, then roll it up like a sleeping bag, compressing it as you go. Place inside a clean plastic bag and kneel on it to squeeze out as much air as possible, then seal the bag. Place the bag into the smallest box it will fit into. You shouldn't need to add any padding, since the item isn't breakable, but you do want to make sure the box is sturdy and can't be torn or crushed easily.
  • Boots and skates should be shipped in their original box (if you have it and it's still in good condition). If the skates came with the plastic blade guards, use them. Cushion each boot with crumpled tissue paper or bubble wrap, place in the box and then put that box in a larger cardboard box lined with packing peanuts on all sides.

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