Gaffers Tape: The Photo and Video Pro's Unsung Hero


Gaffers Tape—like duct tape—can resolve many of the world's problems. Photographers constantly use gaffers tape as a quick fix to get around many of the obstacles that they face every day, due to the fact that it is tough, heat resistant, and it doesn't leave nasty residue. I spoke to many of my photographer friends here at B&H about how they've used gaffers tape. Here are some of the ways that they've used the sticky lifesaver. 



- Taping down wires in a studio—which, among other things, can prevent the need  to replace expensive gear or to pay someone's lawsuit for tripping.

- Covering up camera brand names for extra stealth

- Reinforcing superclamps

- Sealing a Holga or other film camera to prevent light leaks. This can be done around the lens or around the back of the camera to seal it shut.

- Propping up a product for studio product photography. We often do this in our videos.

- Holding neutral-density filters in place on a lens that doesn't have a matching thread

- Holding a microphone in place when filming an interview with an HDSLR. If the person is wearing black, it can help to camoflauge the microphone even better.

- Impromptu sunshades for an LCD screen. Gaffers tape can help to make the LCD screen much more visible in harsh sunlight.

- Holding cloth backgrounds in place for a portrait session

- Holding cue cards in place for an interview

- Place markers: These are best done with the brighter-colored versions of the tape. If you color code them with tape, which you also place on lights, your assistants will easily be able to know where to place lightstands.

- Marking a CF card on a shoot to indicate that specific images are on it

- Using gaffers tape to label things, and then writing on the tape

- Putting gaffers tape on the bottom of brand new shoes that you're photographing, because you don't want to scuff them

- When shooting long exposures, a photographer's cable release once broke. Keeping some gaffers tape wrapped around a pen that he had, he found a small pebble and gaffers taped the shutter release down using the pebble and delay shooting mode on his camera. It did the job perfectly.

- At trade shows, many of our team members have used gaffers tape to hold signs in place.

- You can turn a window into a giant source of soft light by gaffers taping a white sheet in front of it.

- To get clothes to fit a model better, you can often gaffers tape the clothing into place better.

- If you happen to need rope on a shoot, you can twist lots of gaffers tape together to form rope.

- One photographer split his pants open while bending down at a wedding. He gaffers taped them back together.

- To mark your gear. I did this when I was a paparazzo and photojournalist.

- To protect your lenses from bumps. You don't want to be replacing your professional-grade gear often.

- To prevent your settings dial from moving. I've shot events where my camera took some bumps, and as a result the settings dial switched from M mode to P mode—throwing off all of my settings.

Canon S90

Photo by Steve Lyon

- Putting gaffers tape on a point-and-shoot to add a textured surface for better grip

- Making barn doors for lighting

- Making an impromptu gobo of some sort to modify the light

- Reinforcing equipment to the joint of a loose lightstand

- Large format film backs can be put back together with gaffers tape.

- Lightproofing a room by putting gaffers tape around the door

- One photographer I know covered up a part of the ExpoImaging Ray Flash that I own, for a more even light output.

- Dried out camera bellows in need of repair sometimes crack. Gaffers tape is often used to fix light-leaking issues.

In what ways have you used gaffers tape? Please let us know in the comments below.

1 Comment

(long story made short) While tending an I-mag screen in the middle of a huge outdoor concert, my co-worker falls and severely gashes his head open. The response from my radio call for medical aid is that paramedics are previously occupied & it will take more than a few minutes for them to get through the crowd to provide assistance at our location.

Three feet of 2" black gaff tape and one pack of white Zig Zag rolling papers (don't use drugs, kids!) later, the formerly gushing forehead wound has been dressed, the profuse bleeding has been staunched, and the woozy vid tech is now being treated by Chicago Fire Dept. EMT's, whose comments ricochet between amused and amazed.

Think - big black band-aid.

The good news was, the "wounded warrior" didn't die from loss of blood.

The bad news was, big chunks of his long blonde hair were indelicately removed from their rightful place as the EMT removed the gaff tape hastily wrapped around his sweaty head.

Real gaff tape ~  don't do a gig without it & accept no substitutes!