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Bringing Gear into China?

Anyone with experience, tips, warnings etc. about potential issues/pitfalls related to an upcoming gig we have in China that will require my full digital still kit and my partner’s digital video gear to come with us? Any insight would be most helpful and welcomed.

Multiple city project: Shanghai, Gauangzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Tianjin…



by Bobbi Henderson at 2007-02-20 17:19:50 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Honolulu , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Flying in on a tourist visa – you should be fine. I have been in and out several times with full kit and never a question. My only tip is if you need a gonzo tripod for the video shoot put it in a golf bag, not a bag that screams pro video gear inside. For some reason the big black tripod kit sends a red flag and attracts undo attention. I bought a garrish goofy golf bag in bright green and red and now I always gets a sweet smile as I pass.

by richard sobol | 20 Feb 2007 19:02 | boston, United States | | Report spam→
being china, i wouldn’t guarantee anything; but if it’s any help, i’ve been in and out a few times in the past couple of years [with 35mm kit] and not had any problems. my only advice would be, if you’re planning to point your camera in the `wrong’ direction, don’t get caught.

by Amos Aikman | 22 Feb 2007 05:02 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
And the all-time-greatest trick: Do not write “Photgrapher” on the little paper at customs. “Consultant” seems to be the most neutral…

by Ty Stange | 22 Feb 2007 08:02 | Copenhagen, Denmark | | Report spam→
This posted by ‘Bob’ in Hong Kong, who never does any photography in China:

- As Richard and Ty say the most important thing is to adopt the mentality that you are not a photographer by profession when you go to China. You are there on a leisure outing so apply for a tourist visa. If you say you’re a photographer, as many press people are obliged to, then (at best) you go through a different department who can and may require you to provide copies of letter of commission/contract, disclose your sponsor/client/purpose, detail where and everything you plan to shoot, and possibly even want to see images before they are published/printed. At worst you may be denied outright. And as is often the case, being up front invariably makes the whole process last longer and might even end up limiting your access more than if you’d just played the random tourist card. At immigration itself they tend to be more concerned about whether they can read your hand-writing on the form than the boxes you’ve ticked.

- Further to the above, don’t take business cards from home with you saying what it is you do. If you want to give people your contact details when there just tell them or write it down.

- No problem taking any camera kit in. Bob usually doesn’t go in with 2-3 bodies and 4 or more lenses, plus a tripod/monopod etc. If you take a laptop, probably just best to only transfer images in your own private space and time rather than publicly. Otherwise take a portable hard-drive to transfer files to and pack that in with your clothes etc.

- You can also take in lights….again, Bob just didn’t. If you get stopped in customs you have to declare a value for the lights and pay a 20% deposit of the value of the kit which customs hold until you exit with the same equipment…once you’re in they tend to be more worried about whether you plan to resell the kit rather than what you’re bringing and using it for. That said, it’s obviously easier to rent lights from film equipment companies within China.

- They scan baggage on arrival in China airports/train stations…..Bob often just walks past these playing either the purposeful or bemused foreigner. Or stick your baggage on when there are a stack of people and baggage there and they don’t have time to really look at anything properly. Even if you’re the only person passing through, they barely even give things a cursory glance. Guangzhou and Shenzhen are continually busy entry points for traders from all over the world coming in with bags of all shapes and sizes so they rarely seem to check anyone. In a contrary way, making Tianjin the entry point might work well….they’ll be unlikely to even stop and question a foreigner because of the language barrier.

- Finally, split your team up. No brainer; attracts far less attention if you are hand carrying a fair amount of kit.

Basically it’s usually a lot of worry about nothing. Even if they did stop you they’d be more likely to be fascinated by the equipment than wondering why you’re bringing it in.

Have fun.

by Chris Lusher | 23 Feb 2007 10:02 (ed. Feb 24 2007) | Guangzhou, China | | Report spam→
Thanks for the great tips and info! We’re really looking forward to this project/trip.

by Bobbi Henderson | 23 Feb 2007 20:02 | Plano, Texas, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Bobbi, I came into China about a mont ago and all of my equipment was impounded by customs for two weeks. As casual as I was my equipment cases screamed photographer. I have lights cameras stand etc in six photo air cargo cases. I was asked to put 45percent of the value which is thousands US and commit to bringing the equipment out in six months. I’m on a tourist visa so that was also part of the problem. If you want more details of this pain in ass please feel free to get in touch. My only word of advice is to make sure your equipment doesn’t look like equipment. Good luck . Jim

by James Wasserman | 26 Feb 2007 19:02 | beijing, China | | Report spam→
My mate told me about some issues with lens bigger than 200mm. Probably it’s just a gossip but be aware of it.
I visited Shanghai last year with digital 35mm set, three regular lens (below 200mm), no problems at all.
Take care!

by Jacek WiciÅ„ski | 22 Mar 2007 11:03 | Yokohama, Japan | | Report spam→
Been in and out of Chengdu, Shanghai, Xi’an, and others.

Bag I carried was a courier/messenger bag and a duffel.

One DVX100 video Camera

80 miniDV tapes

Shotgun Mic w/ softie and hard rycote

two wirless Lavs

various cables.

1 SLR body

80-200mm lens

50mm, 35mm, 28 mm

1 M body

50mm, 35mm, 28mm

100 rolls hp5+

50 rolls Provia

fiters, light meter, etc.

No tripod, purchased in Shanghai, sold in Shanghai.

I arrived via LAX in Shanghai w/ tourist visa.

NO PROBLEMS…this is however a different story in Beijing, as Wasserman has described.

I shot for almost two months in Tibet. Only issues were a few curious “little green men”, nothing whiskey and cigarettes cannot solve; occasional 100rmb.

The key is to act stupid, encourage the language barrier, and hand carry you gear. Checking it only causes problems.

On the visa form, I always state “Banker” it helps explains the superfluous amount of gear; “banker”=Wealth.

Hope all goes well, BTW staggering the arrival of the players is a great idea, break up the gear with each player.



by [former member] | 22 Mar 2007 18:03 (ed. Mar 22 2007) | Austin, Texas, United States | | Report spam→

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Bobbi Henderson, Joint Owner ~ Photographe Bobbi Henderson
Joint Owner ~ Photographe
( Strategic Content for your Di)
Chicago , United States ( ORD )
richard sobol, photojournalist, author richard sobol
photojournalist, author
[undisclosed location].
Amos Aikman, Amos Aikman
Sydney , Australia
Ty Stange, Photographer Ty Stange
Copenhagen , Denmark
Chris Lusher, Photographer Chris Lusher
Hong Kong , China
James Wasserman, photographer James Wasserman
Beijing , China ( PEK )
Jacek Wiciński, Jacek Wiciński
Warszawa , Poland ( WAW )


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