One of the handiest items to have in any photo studio is certainly Gaffer Tape. This strong, tough, cotton cloth pressure-sensitive tape holds incredible adhesive properties. Used in almost every type of theater, film and television production as well, it can be removed cleanly from surfaces due to its synthetic petroleum-based adhesive (versus duct tape’s natural rubber adhesive.)
Its other best quality is its non-reflective surface that allows it to go unseen under bright lights. But wait, there’s more! It tears straight, no matter how short the piece and does not stretch like other choices such as duct tape. Now available in a variety of colors, the uses are endless on set and location shoots. As filmmaker Danny Greer exalted, “It’s the Swiss Army knife of photography.”
Here’s ten great uses for Gaffer tape on your next job:
1. Secure Your Seamless Backdrop
Once you pull your seamless paper out to the proper length, make sure it stays wrinkle-free by placing several long pieces of Black Gaffer tape along the front. (Some photographers use extra, heavy-duty clips but these can easily be knocked around causing the paper to curl up, rip and/or dent.)
2. Create a Low-Cost View Finder Shield
Are you on location often or a nature and landscape photographer? Use a small, square piece of Gaffer tape to shield your viewfinder. Not only can it allow you to preview the shot better in bright sunlight and protect it from the elements, it also prevents light leaks during long exposures, especially at night.
(TIP: To ensure you never run out on a shoot, wrap abundant amounts of Gaffer tape around the legs of your tripod when you are on location.)
3. Secure Cords & Cables
Secure cords and cables that need to cross over walkways or around the studio. Use brighter colors so they really stand out and nobody trips.
4. Make a Quickie Tripod Plate
Who HASN’T lost their tripod plate? (I lose one at least once a month!) This is especially debilitating if you’re on location and cannot quickly run to a photo store. No worries if you’ve got your Gaffer tape on hand. It’s strong enough to adhere a camera to a tripod so you can finish your shoot.
5. Mark Your Lighting Set-Up
Are you always shooting similar products or set-ups and have a lighting schematic that works for you? Use Gaffer tape and create an “X” to marks the spot of your lights. Try Savage’s Gray Gaffer Tape and use a black Sharpie™ to write down head angles and lighting power on the tape. Even if it’s a one-time shoot of a product there’s always reshoots so best to mark off your set-up until final client approval.
6. Attach a Remote Control
Reduce the risk of losing your tethered remote by taping the excess cable to the tripod.
7. Identify Your Gear
Use pieces of Gaffer tape to label all your gear. This is especially good for outdoor location shoots since it’s waterproof. Even if you’re not a photographer, Gaffer tape is perfect for labeling camping gear, packing for a trip or marking school supplies and sports equipment for kids.
8. Prevent Shattering Glass
Heavy winds and rain during a storm in anytime of year can endanger windows, especially large paned ones that you may have in your daylight studio. Place a giant “X” of Gaffer tape across the window to prevent the glass from shattering in the worst possible way and push the glass out if it does break.
9. Repair A Bean Bag Weight
(Or any repair for that matter!) Indeed Gaffer tape is the MacGyver of any photo set. Got a tear in your beanbag weight? Stop the leak with a piece of Gaffer tape (use an “X” shape for best results).
10. Get Artistic
Bracelets, wallets, dresses and works of art…the possibilities are endless. Again the qualities of Gaffer tape are perfect for molding the shape of a funky piece of jewelry, a unique wallet or even a collage. And remember, if you don’t like the direction your piece is going you can easily pull it up and restart.