6 Photographers' Thoughts on Why Gaffers Tape is Awesome


We've previously written about Gaffers Tape being an unsung hero of photographers and videographers. Taping down cords, pulling clothing back for fashion photography, and solving light-leak issues are only some of the uses we discussed.

We decided to talk to a number of photographers about how they used Gaffers Tape.

Photo by Rick Joy via the B&H Photo Flickr Group

David Cardinal

It is pretty common to use Gaffers Tape to secure cables that need to run across walkways, but in Botswana we had a unique problem. The local hyenas are known to want to chew on anything they can reach. So when we needed to run an extension cord for our projector across an exposed space, we fashioned makeshift “strap hangers” out of Gaffers Tape, and used them to suspend the cord in the air between the generator and our open-air classroom.

You can check out David's website here.

Dan Carr

Gaffers Tape it a must-have accessory for any photog's bag. There's one thing that I always find myself using it for, and that is to make snoots or flags for my flashes, to prevent lens flaring in the background. These are very simple to make; you basically just need a piece of cardboard or plastic, and more often than not, when I need it I find what I'm looking for in the trunk of my car. Just recently, I used a plastic container that I'd had Sushi in for lunch that day. The black bottom of the sushi box made a great flag, and I simply wrapped Gaffers Tape around my strobe and the plastic box, to stick it to the side. Worked perfectly!

Dan's website and blog have lots of useful info for you.

Dan Bailey

I must confess, I'm more of a duct tape guy than a Gaffers Tape guy, as can be seen by the numerous silver strips that are stuck to my lens hoods, my ski poles, a couple of torn jackets, and on the front of my airplane in the wintertime.

However, Gaffers Tape does have its place in my photography. Where many rock climbers use little strips of colored tape to mark their climbing gear, I use Gaffers Tape to label mine. The cloth tape is easy to differentiate when seen next to regular thin, black electrical tape, which is what many people seem to use.

What's this got to do with photography? After going pro, I fed myself for the first few years primarily with my climbing photography. During that time, I never mixed up my gear with anyone else's gear. I owe it all to Gaffers Tape.

You can follow Dan's blog for more reviews and tips.

David H Wells

Before digital, and before entrepreneurial companies made actual boxes just for the purpose of holding rolls of film OUTSIDE the plastic film cans that the film originally was sold in, we would use the plastic boxes that processed slide film would be in when it came back from the labs, and use them to hold four or even six rolls of film. For many reasons, we used to cover those boxes with Gaffers Tape. One reason was to create the hinges that opened and closed the box while keeping the 'lid' handy. Also, the hard plastic boxes were rough bouncing around in camera bags, jackets, pockets, etc. Lastly, the silver of the Gaffers Tape was very visible, so we were less likely to lose them. This predated colored duct tape.

David contributes to BHInsights, and also has a great blog.

Joey L

I once had a careless intern whom we gaff-taped up, and left in an equipment truck for days! It worked great!

Joey is an extremely successful young photographer, and you can see more of his work on his website.

John Paul Caponigro

Wherever I go, duct tape goes with me. It holds all kinds of things together. I consider it a creative challenge to think of how many different ways I can use it—it’s a tool and a toy. Cap or shade a lens. Flag a light. Hold a curtain or screen. Fashion a lanyard. Fix a shoe, coat, or sunglasses. Shut a box. Secure a bag. Protect a paint brush. Create sculptures. Make a ball. Shut someone’s mouth—or my own. I’m still counting the ways to use it.

John has lots more to talk about at his creativity workshop and on his creativity resources page.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Photo Video Pro Audio


PLEASE stop confusing and swapping "duct tape" for "gaff tape"! They are VERY different things, different compositions, different applications, and different price points. I have used hundreds (probably thousands) of yards of both in my career. I would not use gaff tape to seal my ducts or repair my tarps, and I would not use duct tape to repair, hack, modify, secure, or otherwise affix to or near my photo gear!

The difference between gaffer tape and duct tape is that the former is incredibly useful and the latter is worthless. Especially for sealing ducts. It dries out quickly and disintegrates. The uses of gaffer tape are endless.

I use a small strip of gaffers tape to hold down the pop-up flash on my camera while shooting a concert from the pit. it's very easy to accidentally bump the release button for the flash while moving around in a pit full of photographers.

One of the worst things you can do is to pop a flash while shooting a live concert. It's annoying to the artist as well as the crowd, and can get you removed by security...

Once upon a time, back in the early 70`s, duct tape was actually made for what the name implies, sealing HVAC duct work and came into favor with auto racers for impromptu repairs, frequently for securing damaged body work to prevent kiting, and became known as "racers tape", "100 MPH tape" and later, "200 MPH tape". Somewhere along the line the utility of duct tape was learned and became appreciated by many in everyday life and it became a favorite of those in the military. My own belief is that the demand in general, as well as the demand by DOD for duct tape resulted in the multiple off brand, crap quality products that are on the market as duct tape. Gaffer tape has seemed to have remained a high quality product, as I think it's limited application, use, and fairly high price, hasn't created a market demand that resulted in lowering of product quality.

Since I started using gaffer tape instead of duct tape, I've been able to eliminate the brush & touch up paint from my kit

They just said what they used it for and left out WHY it's awesome.  For those that have never used it and are wondering whats the difference from duct tape.

Gaffer tape is made out of a cloth-like material that is easier to tear, but at the same time is just as strong if not stronger than duct tape. The adhesive is also superior. It comes off cleanly instead of leaving a sticky residue and it can be re-stuck several times with almost just as strong a bond as the first time.

I am not a fan of the pop up flash on cameras. I do a lot of outdoor charity event photography, and the events go on, rain or shine. The last thing I need is to have the pop up flash pop up in a rain storm. First thing I do when upacking a new camera is to use gaffer tape and tape shut the pop up flash, plus those miscellaneous doors on the camera.

I have Gaffer tape and Duck® brand tape, not duct tape. Compared to DUCK BRAND tape duct tape is crap. Photographers should know the difference.

Once again, it seems that people - even pros - do mix gaffer tape and duct tape ...

I've used gaffer tape for hundreds of situations while shooting for 60 Minutes but the best was when I was shooting on boat in the middle of the ocean and the engine blew a hole in one of the hoses.  With no spare we repaired the hose With gaffer tape and finished the shoot and returned home safely......

thanks Mr. Gaffer wherever you are!